The Development of L2 Oral Language Skills in Two L1 Groups: A 7-Year Study


  • The findings from this research were presented at the 2010 meeting of the American Association for Applied Linguistics, Atlanta, GA. We thank the participants in this study, who agreed to return for an eighth round of testing and interviews. We are grateful to the administrators and staff at NorQuest College and Metro Continuing Education for allowing us to contact the participants at the outset of the study. We thank Ron Thomson, who was involved with the first seven data collections, and Lori Diepenbroek, Amy Holtby, Jennifer Foote, and Jun Deng, who assisted with the final round of data collection. We are grateful to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for two grants awarded to us to carry out this research.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Tracey Derwing, Department of Educational Psychology, 6–102 Education North, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G 2G5 Canada. E-mail:


Researching the longitudinal development of second language (L2) learners is essential to understanding influences on their success. This 7-year study of oral skills in adult immigrant learners of English as a second language evaluated comprehensibility, fluency, and accentedness in first-language (L1) Mandarin and Slavic language speakers. The primary data were judgments at three times from two sets of listeners: native monolingual speakers of English and highly proficient English L2 speakers. The Mandarin L1 speakers showed no change over time on any of the dimensions, while the Slavic language L1 speakers improved significantly in comprehensibility and fluency. Improvement in accent was limited to the first 2 years in the Slavic language group. These outcomes appear to be due to the complex interplay of L1, age, the depth and breadth of learners’ conversations in English, and their willingness to communicate.