Adult Second-Language Learning: Toward an American Adaptation With a European Perspective


  • Francis J. Dannerbeck

    1. University of South Carolina
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      Francis J. Dannerbeck (Ph.D., Purdue University) is Professor of German and Chairman of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures at the University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC.


ABSTRECT The adult learner has become a significant figure in many college and university second-language courses. In the United States this person is part of the adult education movement which has, in the recent past, gained considerable momentum. Because the adult learner's profile differs from that of younger students, special classroom treatment is required. As the numbers of adult second-language learners grow, it is becoming increasingly important that second-language teachers apply learning strategies that are appropriate for adults. It is suggested in this article that the European perspective on adult second-language learning provides important background information for adapting instruction in our country to American adult second-language learners. Discussed are factors found in Europe to be paramount in working with these people. They are: the learning biography of each adult; specific motivation for adult second-language study; how adults learn differently but not less well than younger learners; how individual differences are addressed; how partnerships between teachers and students work; special aspects of language skill development and testing; teaching methods and materials; and in-service teacher training for such programs.