Working Memory and Second Language Learning: Towards an Integrated Approach

Author: Zhisheng (Edward) Wen

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Multilingual Matters
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This book introduces an approach to understanding and measuring working memory components and functions in second language learning, processing and development. It presents comprehensive, thorough and updated reviews of relevant literatures from cognitive sciences and applied linguistics. Drawing on multidisciplinary research, the book advocates a conceptual framework for integrating working memory theories with second language acquisition theories. An innovative theoretical model is also presented, which illuminates research studies investigating the distinctive roles of phonological and executive working memory as they relate to specific L2 learning domains, skills and processes. Theoretical and methodological implications of this integrative perspective are further elaborated and discussed within the specific realms of L2 task-based performance and language aptitude research.

As an applied linguist, academic and researcher who has English as an L2, interested in the nexus between working memory and L2 acquisition, I find this book to be a valuable reference in terms of its thorough and critical literature overview, the instructive P/E model and its inspiring implications for future research.

System 69 (2017)

This book provides an excellent overview for WM research in SLA. The book defines core terminologies used in the WM research in SLA and the table of 80 previous WM studies in SLA is impressive (Chapter 5) and provides well-rounded background references in research. Wen also provides a thorough analysis of different components of the WM in different aspects of L2. Since there has not been a comprehensive book which has focused on WM and SLA, this book is perfect for undergraduate and graduate students in the field of SLA.

LINGUIST List 28.555

The volume presents a comprehensive, thorough and updated review of both the theory and research in WM-SLA relationship(...) A great advantage of the book is the way the author provides information in the form of tables, which is of great assistance to the reader. Another asset is the critical perspective on the research methodology employed and the attempt to pinpoint the gaps and inconsistencies in empirical studies. Therefore, this book will be extremely useful for SLA undergraduate and postgraduate students and researchers interested in investigating cognitive differences.

SSLLT 6 (3). 2016. 537-539

A thorough analysis of how the various components of the working memory system relate to different aspects of second language processing and learning. This is a very timely and useful contribution to a centrally important topic in the field of individual differences.

One of the most encouraging features of the development of the multicomponent model of working memory has been its application beyond the laboratory to a range of issues of which language learning is among the most important. Work was initially focused on native language acquisition but subsequently exciting developments are increasingly occurring in the hugely significant field of second language learning. This book surveys the field in detail, producing a synthesis of evidence and theory that will make a substantial contribution to this important field.

There are perhaps few predicaments as frustrating as being unable to communicate with another person because he or she does not speak the same language as you. In this volume, Dr Wen comprehensively considers the importance for second language learning of the individual's working memory, the small amount of information that can be readily held in mind to carry out cognitive tasks. Different theoretical views are considered in detail and they are judiciously applied in an up-to-date treatment of various facets of language learning. The volume will be of great interest to students of both memory and language, ranging from novices to experts.

A well-informed, up-to-date, and comprehensive review of phonological and executive aspects of working memory, their  components and measurement, their roles in second language acquisition and processing, and their status as language aptitudes. An excellent overview for scholars in these areas.

Zhisheng (Edward) Wen is Associate Professor at the School of Languages and Translation at Macao Polytechnic Institute (MPI). He has taught undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in applied linguistics and psycholinguistics at tertiary level for over 15 years. His research interests include second language acquisition and TESOL, psycholinguistics and cognitive science, as well as genre analysis and translation studies. He is a co-editor of Working Memory in Second Language Acquisition and Processing (2015, Multilingual Matters).

Foreword (By Peter Skehan)

Preface and Acknowledgements             

List of Abbreviations

Chapter 1. Introduction and Overview

Part 1: Theoretical and Methodological Foundations       

Chapter 2. Working Memory Theories and Models          

Chapter 3. Working Memory Measures and Issues          

Part 2: Research Syntheses of Working Memory in L1 and L2 Learning    

Chapter 4. Working Memory in First Language Research               

Chapter 5. Working Memory in Second Language Research         

Part 3: Toward an Integrative Perspective on Working Memory and SLA

Chapter 6. An Integrative Framework for Working Memory and SLA Research   

Chapter 7. Working Memory in L2 Acquisition and Processing: The P/E Model    

Chapter 8. Working Memory and Tasks in L2 Speech Performance           

Chapter 9. Working Memory and Language Aptitude in L2 Development              

Chapter 10. Conclusions and Implications for Future Research   



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