Individual differences in early instructed language learning: The role of language aptitude, cognition, and motivation

Raphael Berthele (ed), Isabelle Udry (ed)


Variability in predispositions for language learning has attracted scholarly curiosity for over 100 years. Despite major changes in theoretical explanations and foreign/second language teaching paradigms, some patterns of associations between predispositions and learning outcomes seem timelessly robust. This book discusses evidence from a research project investigating individual differences in a wide variety of domains, ranging from language aptitude over general cognitive abilities to motivational and other affective and social constructs. The focus lies on young learners aged 10 to 12, a less frequently investigated age in aptitude research. The data stem from two samples of multilingual learners in German-speaking Switzerland. The target languages are French and English. The chapters of the book offer two complementary perspectives on the topic: On the one hand, cross-sectional investigations of the underlying structure of these individual differences and their association with the target languages are discussed. Drawing on factor analytical and multivariable analyses, the different components are scrutinized with respect to their mutual dependence and their relative impact on target language skills. The analyses also take into account contextual factors such as the learners’ family background and differences across the two contexts investigated. On the other hand, the potential to predict learner’s skills in the target language over time based on the many different indicators is investigated using machine learning algorithms. The results provide new insights into the stability of the individual dispositions, on the impact of contextual variables, and on empirically robust dimensions within the array of variables tested.


  • Introduction to the volume
    Isabelle Udry, Raphael Berthele
  • Language Aptitude at Primary School (LAPS): Theoretical framework of the project
    Isabelle Udry, Raphael Berthele, Carina Steiner
  • Language Aptitude at Primary School (LAPS): Research design
    Carina Steiner, Raphael Berthele, Isabelle Udry
  • The smart, the motivated and the self-confident
    The role of language aptitude, cognition, and affective variables in early instructed foreign language learning
    Isabelle Udry, Raphael Berthele
  • Predicting L2 achievement
    Results from a test battery measuring language aptitude, general learning ability, and affective factors
    Raphael Berthele, Jan Vanhove, Carina Steiner, Isabelle Udry, Hansjakob Schneider
  • Dispositions for language learning and social differences
    Raphael Berthele
  • Creative thinking as an individual difference in task-based language teaching
    Isabelle Udry
  • The closer the better? Investigating L2 motivation of young learners in different contexts
    Carina Steiner
  • The dynamics of young learners’ L2 motivation: A longitudinal perspective
    Carina Steiner
  • Language aptitude in German as a school language and English as a foreign language in primary school
    Hansjakob Schneider
  • The stability of language aptitude
    Insights from a longitudinal study on young learners’ language analytic abilities
    Isabelle Udry, Jan Vanhove
  • Summing up
    Individual differences in primary school foreign language learning
    Raphael Berthele, Isabelle Udry




Raphael Berthele, University of Fribourg

Raphael Berthele is Professor in multilingualism at the University of Fribourg. He studied and worked at the Universities of Fribourg, Tübingen, Berkeley, and Berne. He co-founded the Fribourg Institute of Multilingualism in 2008. Currently he directs the MA programmes in Multilingualism studies and in foreign language pedagogy. His research interests cover different areas from cognitive to social aspects of multilingualism. During the last years, he has focused on the empirical investigation of receptive  multilingualism, on the acquisition of literacy skills in multilinguals, on spatial reference in bi- and multilinguals, and on individual differences in language learning.

Isabelle Udry, University of Fribourg, Zurich University of Teacher Education

Isabelle Udry is a researcher and lecturer at the Institute of
Multilingualism at the University of Fribourg and the Zurich University
of Teacher Education. She is interested in cognitive processes that
underlie multilingualism and foreign language learning and how they can
contribute to the development of teaching methodology. Her research
focuses on individual differences in language learning, creativity and
multilingualism, language aptitude, and the role of digital technology
in the foreign language classroom.



May 3, 2021
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Berthele, Raphael & Udry, Isabelle (eds.). 2021. Individual differences in early instructed language learning: The role of language aptitude, cognition, and motivation. (EuroSLA Studies 5). Berlin: Language Science Press. DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.5378471


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ISBN-13 (15)