Impact of Learners’ Backgrounds on Speaking Proficiency of EFL Young Learners in Mexico

Conference: The European Conference on Language Learning (ECLL2020)
Title: Impact of Learners’ Backgrounds on Speaking Proficiency of EFL Young Learners in Mexico
Stream: Applied linguistics research
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation
Maria Nelly Gutierrez Arvizu, Universidad de Sonora, Mexico
Okim Kang, Northern Arizona University, United States


This study investigated how learners’ background characteristics have an impact on the language ability of young learners of English (YLE). Research confirms learners’ uniqueness to be the most consistent predictor in successful language learning (Dörnyei & Skehan, 2003). These factors include motivation, parent education, time of exposure to the target language, among others. One context in which speaking can be analyzed is through the narratives. They contain academically related language (Ukrainetz, 2006) and provide YLE with meaningful situations where story grammar and vocabulary interact cohesively (Pinter, 2006), further developing oral and literacy skills (Cameron, 2001). Sixty sixth graders from a bilingual school, a school with 10 hours a week of English classes, and a school with 3 hours of instruction in English a week. These schools are located in a northwestern state in Mexico. Measures for YLE background information (age, English exposure, parents’ income, and education), general motivational beliefs (self-efficacy, test anxiety, cognitive strategy use), and motivation to learn English were obtained through a series of surveys. Also, speaking skills were measured through story retells and examined in relation to their proficiency scores. The participants’ speech samples were analyzed for fluency features using the Automatic Speech Recognition Fluency Extractor (Kang & Johnson, 2018). The research design revolved around correlation and regression approaches. The results may inform policy and planning for syllabus design, teacher training, materials development, and awareness on language use outside the school context. This study was supported by the Alianza Interuniversitaria Sonora-Arizona aiming to promote international research collaboration.

Virtual Presentation