Foreign Language Seminar on March 6, at 11:00 am @ meeting rooms (Zagreb and Dubrovnik)



Speaker 1: Nikolina Božinović

Title: "The use of grammar learning strategies in relation to the foreign language being learned and language learning level"


Although numerous studies have investigated the use of language strategies and their effect on language learning, research dealing with the systematic examination of grammar learning strategies is scarce. Studies on grammar learning strategies have usually been conducted within the field of general language learning strategies. On the basis of some examples of grammar learning strategies, which primarily include conscious repetition of grammatical structure, imitation of language forms and rote learning, Cohen and Pinilla-Herrera (2010) define grammar learning strategies as deliberate thoughts and actions students consciously employ to facilitate learning and gain better control over the use of grammar structures. This implies that appropriate use of grammar learning strategies enhances efficiency and contributes to effective learning. It also allows learners to control their own learning and, by consciously choosing their strategies, to develop their grammatical competence. The first part of the paper contains the key definitions of grammar learning strategies, while the second part presents the results of quantitative survey that was conducted in Croatian educational context. Data were gathered from 150 students learning German and Spanish as a foreign language at two language learning levels: beginning and intermediate. The use of grammar learning strategies was measured by the Grammar Learning Strategies Questionnaire (Božinović, 2012). The survey aimed at determining difference in the use of grammar learning strategies in relation to foreign language being learned, and the language learning level. Compared to the foreign language being learned the results have shown that there are statistically significantly differences in the use of active and visual grammar learning strategies in the direction of greater strategy use among the students learning Spanish. Students at the beginning language level use more frequently memory and social grammar strategies. The final part of the paper specifies the implications for teaching practice and provides guidelines for future research. 

Key words: grammar learning strategies, grammatical competence, language learning level


Speaker 2: Barbara Perić

Title: "The Role of L2 Proficiency in the Acquisition of Third Language (Spanish)"


This research is focused on  cross-linguistic influences in L3 acquisition with participants with Croatian L1 and English L2.  Third language acquisition is a field of study focused on the learners who have previously acquired two languages and who are in a process of acquiring a new one. The learners who acquired L2 – English and who are presently in the process of acquiring L3 – Spanish are the focus of our study.

As De Angelis (2007) points out, the study of cross-linguistic influences seeks to explain how and under which conditions previously acquired linguistic knowledge influences the production, understanding and development of the target language. A number of authors state that language proficiency in previously acquired languages (Ringbom, 1987; Williams & Hammarberg, 1998) as well as the proficiency in the target language (Williams & Hammarberg, 1998; Bardel, 2010) have a significant role in cross-linguistic transfer. If the learners are proficient in L2, that language can play a different role than L1 in acquiring a new language. Ringbom (1987) claims that proficiency in the source language determines the type of transfer that is likely to occur in the target language. He believes that transfer of form is a relatively superficial type of transfer which can equally concern the L1 or the L2 since proficiency in the non-native language does not need to be very high for this type of transfer to occur. In contrast, he maintains transfer of meaning can only take place from languages the speaker knows well, therefore from the L1 or from an L2 in which the speaker is highly fluent. This issue is addressed in our study. We also claim that L2 has a greater influence on L3 when learners have achieved a high level of L2 proficiency than when they have achieved a low level of L2 proficiency.

There were 40 participants in this research, 20 of them were Croatian university students and 20 of them students of the Rochester Institute of Technology, all aged between 19 and 26. All participants were speakers of Croatian as L1, and for all of them L2 was English and L3 was Spanish in respect to order of acquisition. The results of the study investigating the effect of L2 proficiency on cross-linguistic influence from L1 Croatian and L2 English on L3 Spanish are reported in this paper. Rates of lexical inventions and language shifts were compared for two groups of L3 learners with different levels of L2 proficiency. Our hypotheses were confirmed on the basis of the error analysis in the compositions of the participants. The results also suggest that, unless a high level of L2 proficiency is achieved, cross-linguistic influence from L2 on L3 is very marginal.

Key words:  L2 proficiency; cross-linguistic influences; transfer of form; transfer of meaning


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