Engagement and motivation in informal second language learning

11th June 2019 : 13:00 - 14:00

Category: Seminar

Research Group: Applied Linguistics

Speaker: Henriette Arndt, University of Oxford

Location: Department of Education, Seminar Rooms A

Convener: Hamish Chalmers

Seminar Abstract

In this presentation, Henriette Arndt will introduce her DPhil research on the informal second language practices of secondary school students in Germany.

The majority of research in second language acquisition has traditionally focused on teacher-led, classroom-based learning. However, with the spread of new technologies and the concomitant progressive globalisation of popular culture, informal language contact is increasingly becoming part of the daily lives of many language learners, particularly those learning English. Previous studies of Informal Second Language Learning (ISLL) have provided evidence for a positive relationship between informal practices — such as watching TV series, online social networking, listening to music, and playing video games — and L2 proficiency. However, considerable individual and group differences (e.g. relating to gender) have also been recorded, which seem to indicate that not all learners participate in and/or can benefit equally from ISLL.

The present study employed a framework of student engagement (comprising behavioural, cognitive, affective, and linguistic aspects) in an attempt to provide deeper insight into the nature of German secondary school students’ informal language contact and its relationships with proficiency, motivation, and attitudes towards language learning. The project involved mixed research methods and data was collected in three phases: First, the researcher conducted focus group interviews with 47 students, which informed the development of the language diary, questionnaires, and language tests that were used subsequently to collect data from 354 students at two time points. The nature of the students’ engagement in ISLL, and its relationships with motivation, attitudes, and proficiency over time, were explored both through qualitative analysis (inductive and deductive thematic coding) and statistical modelling (Multilevel Structural Equation Modelling and Latent Profile Analysis).

This research makes strong theoretical, empirical, and methodological contributions to the newly emergent field of ISLL research, as well as to the wider field of Applied Linguistics. The findings might also be of interest, for example, to teachers and policy makers seeking to gain a better understanding of the factors that determine participation and success in language learning beyond the classroom.


In 2019, the University of Oxford’s Department of Education celebrates the 100th year since the passing of a statute creating what was known in 1919 as the University Department for the Training of Teachers. To celebrate our centenary a year-long series of activities will be delivered to address some of the department’s top initiatives for 2019, answer some of the big questions facing education today and to reveal the advancements the department has made to the study of and research in the field of education. Join us as we mark our 100th year and discover more about our anniversary here.

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