Despite increased interest in learning Maltese as a foreign language (MFL), there is a lack of research and large-scale studies on the acquisition of MFL.The research question of this study is: Can a pattern be observed over time in the acquisition of verbal tense/aspect by adult learners of Maltese as a foreign language?
The aim of my research is to understand what is going on in a learner’s mind when acquiring Maltese verbal tense and aspect as a foreign language (FL). The study is guided by Chaos/Complexity theory(C/CT), which focuses on the non-linear learning curve, the initial conditions of the butterfly effect and fractal patterns in language learning, and considers learning to be unpredictable, chaotic and complex (Larsen-Freeman, 1987; 2011). My research is based on the epistemological approach of pragmatism and includes both cognitive and sociocultural perspectives of second language acquisition (SLA). A longitudinal research design and a mixed method approach focusing on methodological triangulation are adopted, as they are the most suitable for answering my research question. From a target population of 39, with a 95% confidence interval and a margin of error of 4%, a convenience sample of thirty-five adult participants attending three Lifelong Learning Centres to learn Maltese as a foreign language participated in this study from March 2016 until May 2017. Structured Timed Grammaticality Judgment Tests (TGJTs) and verb conjugation tasks were used to investigate the learning curve of the students, and hence to explore any learning patterns over time. The results indicated that all participants exhibited a non-linear learning pattern, except for three learners who exhibited an ogive learning curve. The main learning pattern was an increase in learning (vertical axis) over time (horizontal axis). The findings are consistent with Chaos/Complexity theory, which postulates that learning is complex, chaotic and unpredictable and, as in nature, it is impossible to find a true, logical pattern in the foreign language learning process.
A short biography abour Dr Żammit
Dr Jacqueline Żammit is a lecturer in the Pedagogy of Maltese, with a specialization in the teaching of Maltese as a Foreign Language within the Department of Languages and Humanities, Faculty of Education at the University of Malta. She holds a First Class B.Ed (Hons) Degree in Maltese and Early and Middle Years, a Masters of Arts Degree with Distinction in Maltese Linguistics, and a PhD from the University of Malta. Her areas of interest comprise Adult Education, Chaos/Complexity Theory, second language acquisition, the interlanguage, teaching approaches, multiculturalism, interculturalism, cross-cultural communication, plurilingualism, applied linguistics, psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics, adult education, artificial intelligence, and, in particular, the learning of Maltese as a second language. Jacqueline has more than twenty years of pedagogy insights experience working with Primary, Secondary and Tertiary schools to teach Maltese as a first and foreign language as well as Spanish as a foreign language. She is a research and design consultancy in teaching and learning Maltese as a foreign language. She introduced Maltese as a foreign language and presented Second Language Acquisition pedagogies at several universities such as the Universities of Edinburgh, Cork and Antwerp. She is currently publishing papers on refereed journals and is writing books about Maltese as a Foreign Language.