Speaking proficiency development of adult English language learners : a multiple case study
de Biaggi, Silvana de la Rosa
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Many adult language learners are less motivated to learn a new language because they think it is too late, and they are not capable of doing it successfully. Nevertheless, there are cases of adults who were able to attain a high level of speaking proficiency. Their lived experiences have not always been explored in order to expand the current knowledge on the Critical Period Theory. This multiple case study endeavored to analyze the elements that have influenced the speaking proficiency development of successful adult English learners. Three participants with 33, 35, and 37 years of age from South America, Europe, and Africa were purposively selected according to specific criteria. The instruments for data collection included semi-structured individual interviews, Hashimoto’s survey questionnaire, and the Strategy Inventory for Language Learning. The study focused on five specific elements: context, exposure to English in different settings, the use of learning strategies, personality and affective characteristics, and motivation. The major findings from the cross-case analysis revealed that adult learners can develop a high English speaking proficiency level when they have high intrinsic motivation and high self-confidence, are aware of their learning process, and make exposure to the target language intense. The study finishes with other conclusions and recommendations for adult English learners, English teachers, and other researchers.