How Does Learning L2-English in an Immersion Context Compare to Learning in a Majority-Language Context? Comparing Adolescent L1- Mandarin Speakers in Taiwan to Peers in Western Canada

  • Author / Creator
    Rusk, Brian V.
  • This dissertation reports three independent studies undertaken to better understand the second language (L2) English abilities that speakers of first-language (L1) Mandarin develop in language immersion classrooms. Children learning an L2 as the majority language of their community and schooling often attain L2 proficiency that closely parallels that of L1 speakers of the target L2. In contrast, children who learn a non-community L2 through an immersion education program are noted for having non-target L2 abilities for both morphosyntax and vocabulary. Though the L2 abilities of young learners in the immersion and community-L2 contexts have been compared to an L1-based target language standard, little is known about how the L2 abilities these learners compare directly to each other. In addition, it is unclear how differences in these learners’ out-of-school L2 environments may impact resulting L2 abilities. In order to address this under-researched area, this dissertation examined the L2 morphosyntactic and receptive vocabulary abilities of 37 adolescent L1-Mandarin participants in an English immersion program in Taiwan. Across the three studies, the immersion learners were compared to a group of adolescent L1-English speakers and a group of L1-Mandarin community-L2 learners, both comprised of participants living in western Canada. Individual studies also compared the L2 groups’ out-of-school L2 environments and examined whether variations in their L2 input and experience were associated with individual differences in L2 ability.
    The first two studies assessed ability with L2 morphosyntax. The three participant groups’ receptive ability with a range of grammatical morphemes was compared using a grammaticality judgment task, and a task combining eye-tracking with a picture-decision task compared the immersion learners’ ability to comprehend plural-singular marking to the L1-English group. In each case, differences in English ability were found between the immersion learners and the comparison groups. In the third study, receptive vocabulary was gauged using an age-standardized assessment task for monolingual English speakers, finding the immersion learners had significantly smaller L2 vocabularies than the community-L2 participants. The third study also compared the out-of-school L2 environments of the immersion learners to their community-L2 peers, showing the groups had similar access to L2 input, but differed in opportunities for interactional L2 use. In the first and third studies, differences in L2 input and experience were found to impact L2 morphosyntactic ability and receptive vocabulary ability, but that these factors appeared to have a much greater impact on vocabulary as opposed to morphosyntactic ability. Findings suggest that while development of L2 receptive vocabulary is ongoing for these L2 learners, L2 development for the studied grammatical morphemes has likely plateaued. Results indicate there are substantial differences between the L2 abilities of learners in the immersion or community-L2 context and that out-of-school L2 input and experience can have an impact on abilities in either context.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2021
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.