Going it alone : self-instruction in adult foreign-language learning
This project looks at foreign-language self-instruction by adult native speakers of English. A literature review surveys the self-instruction field, plus more general literature on second language acquisition, learner characteristics and strategies, and course design. An initial pre-study presents a taxonomy of published teach-yourself package features, based on a survey of over 40 courses. The second pre-study presents a learner-diary study of 11 months' self-instruction of Hungarian from post-beginner level by the researcher. Lexis and listening are revealed as the main challenges, and the importance of real-message practice is highlighted. A threshold is identified - corresponding to the ability to cope with authentic language - at which strategies change from coursebook-centred to real text- and interaction-centred. In the main study, telephone interviews of 70 learners with self-instructed experience supplied reported-achievement profiles for all their languages, plus open-ended reports on their self-instructed learning processes. Multivariate statistics plus qualitative analysis of the interview protocols were used to identify patterns in the data. Mixedmeans outperforms both self-instruction alone and classwork alone in terms of command, dropout and sense of success, with classworkself-instruction as the best sequence. Higher proficiency in mixed/self-instruction-only mode is linked to better listening and speaking experiences, and to good management of learning. Learners with more self-instructed experience worry about initial listening and speaking problems less, and are more aware of writing. Learning style is the chief process factor seen as affecting self-instructed learning; others are general strategic skill, ability to tackle the lexico-grammar through writing, full-speed listening, "package-wiseness", exploitation of external motivational/affective factors, intensive reading/cassette-work skills, aptitude/discipline, and the ability to combine different learning resources. The conclusion presents implications for second language acquisition, followed by recommendations for materials designers, self-instructed learners, language centres and learner training programmes.