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What do polyglots know about learning languages? Assessing the beliefs and perceptions of polyglots vis-à-vis language learning

EFEOTOR, VOKE, EJIRO (2022) What do polyglots know about learning languages? Assessing the beliefs and perceptions of polyglots vis-à-vis language learning. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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There is an apparent dichotomy between the maligned fortunes of national language programs and the increasing stories of success shared at international polyglot gatherings. As enrolment in foreign language programs in several countries continues to decline and commissioned bodies are tasked with finding ways to improve language learning outcomes, the polyglot community continues to thrive and proclaim to have solutions to the woes voiced by individuals and governments alike. Despite this, there remains a dearth of research on polyglots and their beliefs regarding language acquisition. This research aims to fill this void by investigating the beliefs and perceptions of polyglots vis-à-vis language learning. The study focused on essential characteristics of a successful language learner, important considerations for successful language acquisition, and the benefits of technology for language acquisition.

This study used a mixed methods design to ascertain polyglots’ beliefs and perceptions. A questionnaire utilising a five-point Likert scale was administered to 513 polyglots from 71 countries, and a quantitative analysis of their responses was conducted. This was followed by a qualitative document analysis of 13 polyglots’ documents in order to elaborate on the initial findings from the questionnaire. Directed content analysis was conducted manually on the polyglots’ documents and underlying themes which emerged from the documents were reported.

The results indicated that the polyglots were divided on whether successful language learners are born with an aptitude for language learning. Nevertheless, they held that anyone can learn a second language. Characteristics of passion and effort were deemed pertinent, as well as the motivation of the learner. The findings also highlighted the polyglots’ belief that language education in schools is in need of reform. The way languages are taught and the way tests are used were scrutinised. Several benefits of the use of technology for language learning, such as increased resources and enhanced intercultural competence, also emerged from the study. The study concludes with some recommendations for language learners, language instructors, and course administrators, as well as some suggestions for future research.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:polyglots, language acquisition, multilingualism, language learning
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Education, School of
Thesis Date:2022
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:19 Jul 2022 08:12

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