LINGUIST List 13.1160

Thu Apr 25 2002

Diss: Applied Ling: Zapata "Overcoming Plateaus..."

Editor for this issue: Karolina Owczarzak <>


  1. azapata, Applied Ling: Zapata "Overcoming Plateaus in SLA"

Message 1: Applied Ling: Zapata "Overcoming Plateaus in SLA"

Date: Wed, 24 Apr 2002 21:58:49 +0000
From: azapata <>
Subject: Applied Ling: Zapata "Overcoming Plateaus in SLA"

New Dissertation Abstract

Institution: University of Kansas
Program: Teaching and Leadership
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2001

Author: Argenis A. Zapata 

Dissertation Title: 
Overcoming Plateaus in Second Language Acquisition

Linguistic Field: Applied Linguistics

Subject Language: English

Dissertation Director 1: Paul L. Markham

Dissertation Abstract: 

The purpose of this study was to investigate the second language (L2)
learning experiences of people who have reached near-native
proficiency in English after surmounting plateaus in their
interlanguage. Two research questions were addressed: (1) How do
people with near-native proficiency in a second language, who have
overcome plateaus in their interlanguage, describe their L2 learning
experiences? (2) What factors have helped those learners overcome
their language plateaus?

This study was based on Selinker's (1972) theories of interlanguage
and fossilization. In particular, it focused on the notion of plateaus
in the interlanguage of adult L2 learners. This investigation followed
the procedures of basic qualitative research.

Nine college students from different native language backgrounds
participated in this study as informants. The data were collected
using a semistructured interview. The data analysis involved
consolidating, reducing and interpreting the gathered information
in order to discover emergent themes and categories.

This study yielded the following results: (1) the participants
reported plateau symptoms that included deficits of L2 competence,
loss of motivation and diminished self-confidence; (2) the
learners&acirc;Euro(tm) plateaus were caused mainly by lack of
opportunities to practice the L2 and culture shock; (3) factors that
helped the participants overcome their plateaus involved: awareness of
plateaus, determination to improve, change of attitude toward L2
speakers and their culture, interaction with native L2 speakers, their
feedback on learner performance, and paying attention to particular
aspects and uses of the language.

On the basis of these findings, it was concluded that (a) under
appropriate conditions, plateaus can be overcome by adult L2 learners;
(b) exposure to the L2 and interaction with L2 speakers are necessary
for people to learn the language and eventually surmount plateaus; (c)
awareness of the plateaus is equally necessary for learners to
undertake actions aimed at overcoming their plateaus; (d) both
positive and negative experiences in the learners' lives can encourage
them to get over their plateaus; and (e) learners must be highly
motivated, have high levels of self-confidence, be willing to take
moderate risks, and believe they can solve their learning problems.

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