The Impact of Social Bonding and Socioemotionality in Adult Language Learning: Blending Applied Linguistics and Neuroscience

Vidrine-Isbell, Bonnie. The Impact of Social Bonding and Socioemotionality in Adult Language Learning: Blending Applied Linguistics and Neuroscience. 2017. University of Washington, PhD dissertation.

This mixed methods study examined the perceptions and socio-emotional experiences of L2 adult language learners through survey, autobiographies, poetry, and interviews. The focus of the study was on gaining more understanding of L2 learners' socio-emotional relationship with the English language and the L1 and L2 experiences that shaped that relationship. The participants of the survey were international/multilingual adult students placed in advanced English courses, either at the college level or just below the college level (level 5 in the International & Academic English programs) in a public university in the Northwest United States. Findings suggest that the majority of the participants had negative emotional experiences with English language acquisition in their home countries which resulted from socio-emotional pressures and stress from both L1 community members and their internal self-perceptions. In addition, the majority of participants also reported difficulties integrating and creating L2 attachments when study abroad brought entry into the L2 community. In analyzing those members whose L2 language learning in their home country paired with positive emotional experiences, non-traditional informal learning methods of entertainment and L2 social bonding were explored as main contributors. The study supports previous research showing that memory encodes with emotion, and extends this notion to suggest that adult English language learners will already have an established relationship to the English language due to their past experiences with learning English, which will heavily impact their socio-emotional experiences and perceptions in the L2 community and classroom. Ramifications include encouragement of emotionality writing in both the L1 and L2 with reflection to build awareness in both instructors and L2 writers, as well as pedagogical methods that encourage play, humor, service learning, self-expression, story-telling, and L2 social bonding.

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