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The cognitive contribution to the development of proficiency in a foreign language

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The present paper reports results of a longitudinal research project studying the contribution of cognitive skills and other factors to proficiency in a foreign language (L2) in the Hungarian educational context. The larger project aims to describe
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  The cognitive contribution to the development of pro 󿬁 ciency in a foreign language Ben ő  Csapó a , Marianne Nikolov b, ⁎ a Institute of Education, University of Szeged, 6722 Szeged, Pet  ő  󿬁  sgt. 30 –  34, Hungary b Department of English Applied Linguistics, University of Pécs, 7624 Pécs, Ifjúság u. 6., Hungary a b s t r a c ta r t i c l e i n f o  Article history: Received 4 October 2006Received in revised form 29 November 2008Accepted 1 January 2009 Keywords: Cognitive skillsLanguage pro 󿬁 ciency in English and GermanLongitudinal study The present paper reports results of a longitudinal research project studying the contribution of cognitiveskills and other factors to pro 󿬁 ciency in a foreign language (L2) in the Hungarian educational context. Thelarger project aims to describe the levels of L2 pro 󿬁 ciency of school-aged populations in order to explore theconditions and factors contributing to processes and outcomes in foreign language education in publicschools. For this purpose, paper and pencil tests were administered in English and German as a foreignlanguage to nationally representative student samples. The project also aims to  󿬁 nd answers to sometheoretical questions; therefore, a questionnaire and other assessment instruments complemented L2 teststo provide insights into howparticipants' cognitive, affective and 󿬁 rst language (L1) variables, as well as theirsocial and school variables interact with one another over time. Students' general thinking and learningabilities were assessed with an inductive reasoning test.In the present paper we focus on the relationship between students' pro 󿬁 ciency in English or German andinductive reasoning skills to show how general cognitive abilities interact with levels of L2 pro 󿬁 ciency. Weuse a multivariate context to explore complex relationships between L2 levels in English and German andinductive reasoning skills if in 󿬂 uences of other variables are controlled. We present results of multipleregression analyses on L2 listening, reading, and writing tasks in the two target languages. In the presentpaper we use both cross-sectional and longitudinal data to examine the relationships between students' L2pro 󿬁 ciency in the  󿬁 rst phase (2000) and two years later (2002). Thus, a longitudinal research design wasimplemented by repeating cross-sectional assessment at a two-year interval.© 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. 1. Background to study  A number of studies have been conducted into the assessment of skills and competencies over the last two decades. The mostintensively studied skills and abilities are related to learning skillsdetermining success in learning tasks in the long run. Inductivereasoning is one of these skills often considered the main componentof basic learning abilities (Pellegrino & Glaser,1982; Ropo,1987) and an indicator of learning potential (Resing, 1993). The role andimportance of inductive reasoning in educational contexts has beenstudied in a number of empirical projects (see e.g., Csapó, 1997;Klauer,1999), with several training experiments carried out with theassumption that its development contributes to the success of learning in a wide range of domains (e.g., Klauer, 1997; Klauer,Willmes, & Phye, 2002; Klauer & Phye, 2008).A similar trend has characterized research into cognitive variablescontributing to second language acquisition (SLA), as the relationshipbetween pro 󿬁 ciency in L2 and general thinking skills has been of interest to researchers for a long time. Language learning aptitude hasbeen hypothesized to be the best predictor of L2 attainment, andrecently discussions of its role have re-emerged (e.g., Carroll, 1990,1993; Ellis, 1994; Gardner & MacIntyre, 1992, 1993; Grigorienko, Sternberg, & Ehrman, 2000; Harley & Hart, 1997; McDonough, 1999;Oxford & Ehrman, 1993; Parry & Stans 󿬁 eld, 1990; Robinson, 2002;Skehan, 1991, 2002; Sparks & Ganschow, 2001; Sternberg, 2002; Spolsky, 2000). As Sparks and Ganschow (2001, p. 100) suggest, aptitudetestsshouldbeupdatedandnewnormsdeveloped.However,no large-scale study is available on how aptitude contributes to L2pro 󿬁 ciency.Language learning aptitude is traditionally conceptualized as afour-component construct and can be measured by the ModernLanguageAptitudeTest(MLAT,Carroll,1990).Formally,thesubtestsof MLAT tap into four speci 󿬁 c abilities: (1) phonetic coding ability;(2)grammaticalsensitivity;(3)inductiveability;and(4)rotelearningability. Components (2) and (3) require learners to apply theirinductive reasoning skills, whereas (1) and (4) test short-termmemory as well as other areas. A different construct of languagelearningaptitudewasproposedbyCummins(1991)andCumminsand Swain (1986), who distinguish between basic interpersonal commu-nicationskills(context-embeddedandrelativelyundemandingcogni-tively) and cognitive academic skills (related to context-reduced,cognitivelydemandingcommunication)basedon 󿬁 ndingsinbilingual Learning and Individual Differences 19 (2009) 209 – 218 ⁎  Corresponding author. E-mail addresses:  csapo@edpsy.u-szeged.hu (B. Csapó), nikolov@nostromo.pte.hu(M. Nikolov).1041-6080/$  –  see front matter © 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.doi:10.1016/j.lindif.2009.01.002 Contents lists available at ScienceDirect Learning and Individual Differences  journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/lindif  education research. Despite the wide acceptance of this distinction(e.g., Ellis,1994), this line of reasoning has not resulted in a validatedaptitude measure.Recent cognitive approaches emphasize a different distinctionbetween processes interacting in SLA. As Skehan (1998) claims, twosystems contribute to language development: a rule-based analyticsystem and a formulaic system based on examples. This proposed SLAmodel is in line with a dual declarative/procedural model widelyaccepted in neurolinguistics and cognitive science (Ullman, 2001). Approaching the issue from a different perspective, Dörnyei andSkehan (2002, p. 619) suggest that the construct of language learningaptitude should relate to stages in information processing. Despitethese new approaches, so far no new validated instrument has beendesigned to tap into these proposed constructs of aptitude.As aptitude tests are always constructed and administered inlearners'  󿬁 rst language, such tests need to be validated for eachlanguage. Two such instruments, both based on the MLAT, have beenvalidatedforHungarianlearnersinrecentyears.MENYÉT(Ottó,1996),the Hungarianversion of MLAT, was designed and validated for adults(Ottó&Nikolov,2003),whereasKissandNikolov(2005)validatedone for young learners. The administration of both aptitude tests requires60 min, thus their use was not feasible in our large-scale project.In summary, all conceptualizations of aptitude include inductivereasoning and this is how we chose to assess aptitude, since anassessment instrument of inductive reasoning validated on represen-tativesamples of Hungarian learners was available(Csapó,1997,1998,2001). The test is easy to administer in 30 min and it has provedchallenging enough for students between the ages of 10 and 18. Itsthree subtests (verbal analogies, number series, and number analo-gies) tap into verbal and numeric contents of inductive processes.Besides cognitive variables, affective factors have also beenexplored in the Hungarian context. Dörnyei, Csizér, and Németh(2006) inquired into 8th graders' language learning motivation,language choice and learning effort in large-scale surveys in 1993,1999, and 2004. The most important  󿬁 ndings revealed that themajority of Hungarian learners were highly motivated to studymodern languages, their attitudes were favorable towards speakersof thelanguageof theirchoice,andtheywerewillingtoexertaneffortto study languages. As for their choices, the majority voted for Englishand German in the  󿬁 rst place, but a major shift towards English wasobserved over the years. In a different large-scale study, Nikolov(2003) analyzed questionnaire data collected from representativesamples of Hungarian learners in 6th, 8th, 10th and 12th grade(participantsof the presentstudy).The 󿬁 ndingsaresimilartothoseof previous surveys, but as classroom processes were also inquired into,some data became available on what happens in English and Germanclasses and how classroom activities interact with students' motiva-tion.Someof theseresultswillbereferredtointhediscussionsection.As has been shown, cognitive and affective variables have beenexaminedintheHungariancontext.Thenextstepforwardinvolvesanexamination of how cognitive, affective, and other variables con-tribute to L2 pro 󿬁 ciency over time. In the present paper we exploretwo aspects related to the above discussions: how cognitive variablescontribute to (1) learners' performances on language tests (cross-sectionaldesign)and(2)theirdevelopmentoveraperiodoftwoyears(longitudinal design).The present paper focuses on a particular socio-educationalcontext  –  a member state of the European Union  –  and as such thestudy needs to be placed in a wider historical perspective. Recently,the learning of modern foreign languages, and levels of attainment inthem, have moved to the fore in Europe (Council of Europe, 2001), asthe aim is to encourage students to become plurilingual, culturallyaware,andtolerantcitizensofamultiethnicEurope.Theknowledgeof modern foreign languages is especially important in Hungary, wherethe  󿬁 rst language is not widely spoken in other countries. For severalsocial and historical reasons, L2 education has lagged behind otherEuropean countries (Fekete, Major, & Nikolov, 1999; Medgyes & Miklósy, 2000). Although Russian was a mandatory foreign languagefor decades, the majority of the population failed to achieve a usefullevel in it. Since the change of regime in 1989, foreign languages haveplayed an exceptional role in Hungarian education. Perceived asextremely important, they enjoy a prestigious status: for example,pro 󿬁 ciencyexam certi 󿬁 cateholders get special bonuses atentrance touniversities, workplaces pay them special top-ups, and a decisivecriterion in parents' choice of school for their offspring is the foreignlanguage program of the institution. Recently, the demand for Englishas a lingua franca has consistently increased, but schools can hardlyful 󿬁 ll students' requests (Andor, 2000; Vágó, 2007), as teachers aretenured in their jobs and German classes also need to be  󿬁 lled. As aresult of these processes, schools stream students in differentlanguage groups; thus, differences have emerged between studentsstudying English and German. The cognitive and academic abilities of the latter group are signi 󿬁 cantly lower than those of the former(Csapó & Nikolov, 2002). Therefore, it is necessary to examine theconditions of L2 learning in the two most widely taught foreignlanguages. As for the language testing background to this study, theconceptualization and assessment of language pro 󿬁 ciency is based ontaxonomies of communicative competences and language ability(Bachman, 1990; Canale, 1983; Canale & Swain, 1980; Council of  Europe, 2001), in which learners' performances are assessed in theirlanguage skills. In the choice of task and text types, piloting andvalidating tests, and evaluating results, we followed the principles of communicative language testing (Alderson, Clapham, & Wall, 1995;Bachman & Palmer, 1996). 2. The study  Hungarian students' level of pro 󿬁 ciency was assessed in Englishand German in 2000 and 2002 (Csapó & Nikolov, 2001, 2002; Nikolov& Csapó, 2002) in line with major Hungarian educational researchprojects monitoring other school subjects (Csapó, 1998, 2002). Thepresent study looks into the relationships between cognitive factorsand language pro 󿬁 ciency to answer the following research questions:(1) How do cognitive skills and reading in the  󿬁 rst language (L1)correlatewithlearners'performancesinEnglishandGermanin6th, 8th,10th and 12th grade (ages 12,14,16, and 18)?(2) What is the relationship between cognitive skills, prior knowl-edge, affective factors, school and family characteristics, read-ing in L1 and success in learning English and German over aperiodoftwoyearsin6thand8th,andin10thand12thgrades? 3. Methods  3.1. Participants Representative samples of Hungarian students were chosen fromprimary and secondary schools in the spring of 2000. The units forsampling and data collection were school classes from all types of schools (mostly 8-year primary and 4-year secondary schools, butrepresentativesamplesofotherinstitutionswerealsoinvolved).Sinceprevious small-scale studies indicated considerable regional differ-ences in levels of pro 󿬁 ciency, relatively large samples were necessaryto allow us to examine variations; thus, approximately 300 schoolsparticipated.At the  󿬁 rst measurement point in May, 2000 altogether 29,126students were assessed in grades 6, 8, and 10 (ages of 12,14, and 16).In the second phase (May, 2002) 41,055 students were involved ingrades 6, 8,10, and 12 (age 18) from the same schools. This samplingallowed a longitudinal design for students assessed in the  󿬁 rst phaseintheir6thand10thgrade,as theyattendedthe 8thand12thgradeof the same schools in the second phase, two years later. In the 8 plus 4 210  B. Csapó, M. Nikolov / Learning and Individual Differences 19 (2009) 209 –  218  systemstudentschangeschoolsafterthe8thgrade,thus,nolinkcouldbe established between the 8th and 10th graders. Also, students whochanged schools between the two phases were not followed.This research design resulted in two sets of cross-sectional data(2000 and 2002) and two sets of longitudinal data (see Fig. 1), as anumber of students in the 6th and 10th grades in 2000 were assesseda second time as 8th and 12th graders in 2002. From the participantsof the year 2000 samples 4958 6th graders and 4999 10th graderswere assessed two years later.As the sub-samples consisting of those participants who wereassessed twice (see arrows in Fig. 1) did not result from directsampling, these samples are not strictly representative for the wholecorresponding cohorts. Therefore, in test analyses and other detailedexaminations we use data of the largest available (representative)samples, whereas longitudinal analyses are performed on the data of students assessed twice. Some students changed schools or droppedout between the two measurementsand were not retested; therefore,the performances of the longitudinal sub-samples may differ slightlyfrom the corresponding whole cohort of the  󿬁 rst and the secondassessment.The differences between the statistical characteristics of the wholesamples and the sub-samples tested twice (both in 2000 and 2002)werecarefullyexaminedandtheyturnedouttobesomarginalthattheydonot affectthegeneralizabilityof theresultsfor thewhole cohort. Forexample,thedifferenceofresultsontheinductivereasoningtestforthewhole 6th grader sample in 2000 and the  󿬁 rst measurement of thelongitudinal sub-sample was very small (whole 6th grader sample:mean=34.287, sd=16.979; longitudinal sub-sample: mean=34.695,sd=16.377). In a similar way, we may compare the second measure-mentofthelongitudinalsub-samplewiththeentiresampleofthe20028th graders. The differences (longitudinal sub-sample: mean=50.040,sd=18.060;whole8thgradersample:mean=49.110,sd=18.280)aresimilarly small. This fact allows us to exploit the bene 󿬁 ts of both cross-sectional and longitudinal design.  3.2. Instruments Three types of instruments were used for data collection in 2000:(1) L2 pro 󿬁 ciency tests in English and German, (2) a questionnaire onlearners' school achievements, attitudes toward L2 learning, theirlanguage learning plans and self concept, and their parents' level of education (to indicate socio-economic status), and (3) a standardizedinductive reasoning skills test. In addition to these, in 2002 a readingcomprehension test was also administered in the  󿬁 rst language (L1,Hungarian).All participants' pro 󿬁 ciency was assessed in three L2 skills(listening and reading comprehension, and writing) by paper andpencil tests in regular classroom settings at the end of the school year.The English and German tests were based on the prescribedachievement targets of the national core curriculum; they wereidentical in their construct, structure, type of texts and tasks andlength (number of items) for the two target languages. Table 1illustrates the structure of the booklets, the text and the task types forgrade 8.The construct, the task and text types were the same in 2000 and2002, but the actual texts were different. The task types were familiarto the vast majority of the participants, as they were similar to theones used in published course materials used in schools. All tasksfocused on meaning (and not form) and were in harmony withcurricular achievement targets for the four age groups. The texts wereauthentic, except for the listening tasks in grades 6, 8 and 10, inwhichscripted materials were used, as listening comprehension (the mostneglected skill in schools) was expected to be problematic accordingto classroom observation studies (Nikolov, 1999). In grade 6 writingtasks integrated reading, as in the pilot phase the majority of thestudents failed to produce meaningful sentences in a short writingtask. Therefore, tasks required learners to choose and copy words intoagappedinvitationtoapartyandto 󿬁 ll inaformbasedonashorttextwith personal data. In grade 8 students were asked to write a shortletter based on diary entries, whereas 10th and 12th graders wrote aguided composition on whom they would nominate to win acompetition and why. Booklets were produced in two versions: thesequence of the tasks was different, but the actual tasks wereidentical. The reliability (Cronbach alpha) of these tests variedbetween 0.94 and 0.96 for both English and German.Besides the language tests, in both assessment phases a ques-tionnaire was administered to all students on their school marks (inall subjects and in L2), language learning attitudes, motivation, plansand self concept, and family background (to indicate socio-economicstatus).Thequestionnairecomprised multiple-choiceandLikert-scaleitems.The inductive reasoning test included verbal analogies, numberanalogies, and number series tasks in Hungarian to assess thestudents' general cognitive abilities (Cronbach alpha=0.94). It hadbeen piloted and validated in previous studies and served as a validandreliableindicatorofHungarianlearners'inductivereasoningskills(Csapó,1997,1998, 2001, 2002). The same test was administered both times to all participants.In 2002, a reading comprehension test in L1 was also administeredto 6th, 8th and 10th graders. It comprised two tasks; each text was anauthentic narrative of about 300 words and each task included 15items: nine items were closed (true-false, multiple choice, andsequencing), four were open cloze items, and two required shortanswers. The same test was administered to each cohort. The L1 Fig. 1.  The design of the entire project (sample sizes in parentheses).  Table 1 The structure and content of booklets for grade 8.Skills Task Input No of itemsReading 1 Match texts with meanings Public notices and their meanings 10Reading 2 Match questions with answers Quiz questions and answers 8Reading 3 Match words with de 󿬁 nitions De 󿬁 nitions 10Reading 4 Match titles with texts Titles and blurbs 8Reading 5 Match ads with missing words/expressions Advertisements 9Listening 1 Multiple choice on videos Conversation (scripted) 7Listening 2 MC on planning a holiday Conversation (scripted) 8Writing Short informal letter Diary entries for seven days marking scheme211 B. Csapó, M. Nikolov / Learning and Individual Differences 19 (2009) 209 –  218  reading comprehension test was not administered to 12th gradersbecause of an expected ceiling effect and time constraints. With theexception of the L2 tests, all instruments were administered in L1.  3.3. Procedures Data collection was implemented in the same way in both phases.The paper and pencil tests were administered locally with the help of trained external assessors in learners' classes in May 2000 and 2002.The reading booklets including  󿬁 ve reading tasks (Table 1) werecompleted in a 45-minute class session, and the listening and writingtasks were done in another session of the same length. A third sessionwas devoted to  󿬁 lling in the inductive reasoning test and thequestionnaire. Writing tasks were evaluated centrally by two teamsof trained assessors (English and German) after standard-settingsessions; data were entered into  󿬁 les during the summer. Schools gottheir coded feedback during the fall. In the present paper we use dataon questionnaire items, inductive reasoning skills, and L2 pro 󿬁 ciencytests from the longitudinal samples. When focusing on predictors of L2 pro 󿬁 ciency in some analyses the language pro 󿬁 ciency measured in2002 will be represented by a single variable. For this purpose, theequally weighted reading, writing and listening test results weretransformedintoaZ-scaleandZ-scoresof thethreeskillsweretotaled(Tables 6 – 9).As was mentioned in the section on participants' samples, weanalyze students' data providing the largest possible representativesamples. Tables indicate the samples used for the computations. 4. Results 4.1. Relationships between L2 pro  󿬁 ciency and cognitive skills The  󿬁 rst research question concerns the relationships betweenparticipants' levels of pro 󿬁 ciency in L2 (English and German) andcognitive skills, and other variables by analyzing within-age correla-tions. As besides L2 pro 󿬁 ciency, inductive reasoning skills and otherdata were also collected on a number of student characteristics, theseanalyses are placed in the context of these relationships. Therefore, inorder to increase the validity of the results, some other variables areadded to the analyses. Relationships are examined with two variablesindicating students' developmental level of cognitive skills: readingcomprehension in L1 and general intellectual development (repre-sented by inductive reasoning).The four age groups (grades 6, 8, 10, and 12) and two targetlanguages allow us to studyeight separate sets of relationships on thedata collected in 2002. As three skills were assessed in English andGerman, we can examine correlation coef  󿬁 cients of a large number of variables.TheresultsarepresentedinTable2forEnglishandinTable3 for German. First, we analyze data for the two target languagesseparately; then, we compare  󿬁 gures for English and German in thefour age groups. In our comparisons of correlation coef  󿬁 cients wediscuss differences if theyare larger than 0.1. (Taking the sample sizesinto account, thesedifferences arestatisticallysigni 󿬁 cantat  p b 0.001). 4.2. Relationships between English, inductive reasoning, and L1 reading  The correlation coef  󿬁 cients computed from data of the secondassessment (2002) are summarized for the three English skills, L1reading, and inductive reasoning in Table 2. The highest correlations were found between the L2 reading and L2 writing skills in each agegroup (0.715, 0.662, 0.609 and 0.455). However, in the case of 8th and12th graders the differences are minimal between these  󿬁 gures andcorrelations between reading, listening, and writing in grade 8,reading and listening in grade 12. Beyond the similarities of theunderlying cognitive and linguistic processes of reading and writing,these high correlations may be attributed to several factors. In grade 6the strong relationship must be due to the type of tasks used fortesting learners' writing skills. For the youngest age group, writingtasks integrated writing with reading: students were expected tochoose words from a list to  󿬁 ll in a gapped invitation and a form withinformation provided in a short text. In other words, writing wasactually minimal, it involved copying appropriate words in context,re 󿬂 ecting achievement targets in the curriculum and a low level of interlanguage in L2 writing. In grade 8 reading and writing skills werealso interrelated, as students wrote a short personal letter based onshort entries in a diary, and they needed to use the given words andexpressions in meaningful sentences.Thecorrelationsbetweenreadingandwritingskillsin8thand10thgrade are similar, but lower in grade 12, indicating weaker relation-ships. This is interesting, as in 10th and 12th grades, writing taskswere guided compositions tapping into learners' productive skillswith minimal prompt. Students were required to write about 150words, and their writings were assessed along four criteria: taskachievement, vocabulary, grammar/accuracy, and text cohesion.Correlations between listening comprehension, reading compre-hension, and writing in English are fairly high in 6th and 8th grades,indicating that although the booklets did tap into different L2 skills,they are strongly interrelated. In 10th and 12th grades, however,relationshipsareweaker,especiallyinthecaseoflisteningandwritingin the oldest group. Decreasing correlations over the years in thecross-sectional datasets show that pro 󿬁 ciency in the three skills  Table 2 Correlationsbetweenpro 󿬁 ciencyinEnglishskills,readingcomprehensioninHungarian,and inductive reasoning skills (based on 2002 assessment of whole samples).Year Test English reading English writing English listening6th grade English writing 0.715English listening 0.574 0.577Hungarian reading 0.487 0.493 0.300Inductive reasoning 0.527 0.519 0.3298th grade English writing 0.662English listening 0.569 0.505Hungarian reading 0.375 0.372 0.303Inductive reasoning 0.505 0.467 0.44110th grade English writing 0.609English listening 0.494 0.407Hungarian reading 0.275 0.276 0.220Inductive reasoning 0.430 0.381 0.31012th grade English writing 0.455English listening 0.422 0.277Inductive reasoning 0.335 0.269 0.149 n N 3000,  p b 0.001 for all coef  󿬁 cients.  Table 3 Correlations between pro 󿬁 ciency in German skills, reading comprehension in Hungarian,and inductive reasoning skills (based on 2002 assessment of whole samples).Year Test GermanreadingGermanwritingGermanlistening6th grade German writing 0.635German listening 0.545 0.488Hungarian reading 0.390 0.459 0.223Inductive reasoning 0.453 0.464 0.2918th grade German writing 0.605German listening 0.502 0.394Hungarian reading 0.278 0.357 0.213Inductive reasoning 0.427 0.422 0.32010th grade German writing 0.606German listening 0.547 0.444Hungarian reading 0.263 0.317 0.186Inductive reasoning 0.385 0.419 0.31512th grade German writing 0.566German listening 0.432 0.318Inductive reasoning 0.381 0.282 0.174 n N 3000,  p b 0.001 for all coef  󿬁 cients.212  B. Csapó, M. Nikolov / Learning and Individual Differences 19 (2009) 209 –  218  becomes gradually less dependent on one another, most importantlybetween 6th and 12th grades.As for the relationship between reading comprehension in L1 andL2,thecorrelationsarehighest(0.487)fortheyoungestagegroupanddecrease gradually (0.375; 0.275) for 8th and 10th graders, respec-tively. Also, these correlations are lower than correlations amongEnglish skills.Correlations between inductive reasoning and the three skills inEnglish indicate similarly strong relationships (0.527; 0.505; 0.430;0.335) to those found for between-skills. In line with other correla-tions inTable 2, they decrease overthe grades. As for the relationshipsbetween inductive reasoning and English skills, they are consistentlysomewhat stronger for reading comprehension than for the otherskills in each grade (see Table 2). 4.3. Relationships between German, inductive reasoning, and L1 reading  Let us now analyze data on learners of German presented inTable 3. Similarly to English, the highest correlations were foundbetween the L2 reading and L2 writing skills in the four age groups(0.635, 0.605, 0.606 and 0.566), although these correlations are verysimilar to those characterizing relationships between listening andreading in 8th and 10th grades. The weakest relationships are foundbetween German listening and writing in 8th, 10th, and 12th grades.Correlations weaken over the years, especially between 6th and 12thgrades.AstotherelationshipsbetweenreadingcomprehensioninGermanand L1, correlations are highest (0.390) in grade 6, and a slightdecrease characterizes results in 8th and 10th grade, though  󿬁 guresare similar in the older groups (0.278; 0.263). Correlations betweenGerman learners'inductive reasoning skills and their pro 󿬁 ciency in L2reading comprehension indicate moderately strong relationships(0.453; 0.427; 0.385; 0.381), similarly to correlations with L2 writingand L2 listening; theyare, however, similar in all four years. As for therelationships between inductive reasoning and the three skills inGerman, they are stronger for reading comprehension and writing,and weaker for listening in the two younger grades, whereas therelationships are less clear in the older years. A slight decreasecharacterizes relationships over time (see Table 3). 4.4. Comparing learners of English and German A comparison of data for learners of English (Table 2) and German(Table 3) indicates similarities. (1) Overall, relationships betweenvariables weaken over time, especially between 6th and 12th grades.(2)Inallfouryearsthehighestcorrelationsarefoundbetweenreadingcomprehensionandwritingin bothEnglishandGerman,althoughtheother  󿬁 gures across skills are fairly similar in the younger groups.Relationships are almost identical in 8th and 10th grades, despite themajor difference in the cognitive and linguistic demand in the writingtasksinthesetwogrades.(3)L1andL2readingcomprehensionscoresare less strongly related than the three L2 skills. (4) The relationshipsbetween inductive reasoning skills and L2 skills are consistentlystronger for reading and in some cases writing than for listeningcomprehension in 6th and 12th grades. (5) Correlations betweeninductivereasoningandL2skillsinbothlanguagesaregenerallylargerthanthecorrelationsbetweenL1andL2skillsandinmanycasesthesedifferences tend to be greater than 0.1.Systematic differences are also found in the two sets of data:(1) Some correlations in 6th and 8th grades are higher for learners of English indicating somewhat stronger relationships in their case;(2)thepictureismoremixedinthedatasetsfor10thand12thgrades:relationships areeitherfairlysimilarorevenabit strongerforGermanthan in the case of English. 4.5. Relationships between pro  󿬁 ciency levels in L2 and inductivereasoning skills over time In this section we seek an answer to the second research questioninvolving the same participants tested in 2000 and 2002. We analyzethe relationship between cognitive skills and L2 pro 󿬁 ciency in grades6 and 10 and two years later in the levels of performances in Englishand German in grades 8 and 12. On the basis of the relationshipsbetween the data collected in 2000 and 2002, we can estimate thefactors in 󿬂 uencing the success of language learning. For theseanalyses,  󿬁 rst we explore inter-age relationships between languageskills and inductive reasoning; then, we apply multiple regressionmodels to involve more variables and determine the main in 󿬂 uencingfactors. 4.6. Relationships for English Inter-age correlations for the three skills in English presented inTable 4 show how the earlier (6th and 10th grade) pro 󿬁 ciency level ina skill relates to the level of the same skill two years later (in 8th and12th grade). Thus, the correlations indicate the stability of skilldevelopment. The between-skill correlations show how the level of pro 󿬁 ciency in an L2 skill is related to the development of another L2skill.Thesedataallowustoanalyze therelationshipsbetweenskillsinprior L2 knowledge and L2 pro 󿬁 ciency two years later in the samelearners.As for the inter-age relationships for learners of English (Table 4),reading proved to be the most stable skill with correlations of 0.570between 6th and 8th grade, and 0.623 between 10th and 12th grade.Correlations between reading and writing and writing two years lateraresimilarlyhigh.Englishwritingperformancesingrades6and10arethe second best predictors of success in all three skills, but thecorrelations are lower than for reading in the older age group. Thecorrelations for listening show the weakest relationships with allskills, including listening skills two years later, especially in thetransition between 10th and 12th year. Correlations between  Table 4 Correlations between pro 󿬁 ciency in three skills in English in 6th and 10th grade, andtwo years later in 8th and 12th grade, respectively.First assessment(2000)Test Second assessment(2002; 8th and 12th grade)Reading Writing Listening6th grade Reading 0.570 0.529 0.407Writing 0.528 0.519 0.433Listening 0.418 0.388 0.398Inductive reasoning 0.446 0.475 0.35910th grade Reading 0.623 0.408 0.302Writing 0.485 0.449 0.249Listening 0.428 0.310 0.238Inductive reasoning 0.390 0.260 0.177 n N 2300,  p b 0.001 for all coef  󿬁 cients.  Table 5 Correlations between pro 󿬁 ciency in three skills in German in 6th and 10th grade, andtwo years later in 8th and 12th grade, respectively.First assessment(2000)Test Second assessment(2002; 8th and 12th grade)Reading Writing Listening6th grade Reading 0.469 0.436 0.355Writing 0.334 0.369 0.246Listening 0.180 0.160 0.135Inductive reasoning 0.345 0.391 0.25210th grade Reading 0.590 0.475 0.352Writing 0.553 0.603 0.329Listening 0.356 0.279 0.259Inductive reasoning 0.370 0.269 0.118 n N 2300,  p b 0.001 for all coef  󿬁 cients.213 B. Csapó, M. Nikolov / Learning and Individual Differences 19 (2009) 209 –  218
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