Language aptitude: why and how to assess it?

Multilingualism in individuals
Project management:

Scientific partner: 
Hansjakob Schneider, PHZH

01.2017 to 12.2019
In progress

The potential to learn foreign languages varies from one individual to the next and has been investigated by many researchers as of the early 1950s. Individuals’ ability to learn foreign languages relies on various elements that have been identified and grouped under the term language aptitude (ability to retrieve, identify and memorise sound sequences belonging to foreign languages, ability to identify meaningful common features etc.). Another area of the research focuses on emotional/personality factors that may influence the acquisition of skills (e.g. motivation, anxiety, identity etc.) as well as on the effects of self- and hetero-perception towards language skills.

For this project, we rely on theoretical and empirical accounts of individual potential for learning foreign languages in a predictive approach. We answer the following research questions: Which factors can explain and forecast the differences in individuals’ capacity to learn foreign languages? Are these due to:

  • Learning abilities in general;
  • Language-specific abilities;
  • Factors related to motivation/anxiety/personality etc.?
Purpose – Expected results: 

The project aims to reach two main results. On the one hand, pupils’ potential and the problems they meet when learning foreign languages should be better understood in order to implement adequate differentiated instruction (“Binnendifferenzierung”). It is particularly important to define whether problems are specifically linked to foreign languages (and to the more general language field), if they reflect general learning difficulties or if they result from emotional factors.

Furthermore, the project will enable the development of a valid diagnostic and prognostic test allowing teachers to determine their students’ strengths and weaknesses and to target those areas that are less developed.

„Sprachen im Fokus“ - teaching materials

Sprachen im Fokus - Titelblatt Themendossier "Guten Appetit!"

The teaching material “Sprachen im Fokus” is aimed at students from 6H to 8H and provides them with opportunities to explore a variety of linguistic phenomena in different languages. The topics have been chosen in accordance with current teaching manuals and cover food, tourism, fables, and secret languages. The tasks are based on the Curriculum 21 (area “Languages in focus”) and have been designed to enhance German and foreign language classes. All units are available as PDF and Word documents.

Download collection "Essen"

Download collection "Tourismus"

Download collection "Fabeln"

Download collection "Geheimsprachen"

Download audio tracks (ca. 121 MB)


Please use the following reference to cite these materials:

Steiner C., Udry I.: "Sprachen im Fokus - Unterrichtsmaterialien" (2017-2019). Mit Illustrationen von Studer J. und Tonaufnahmen von Vanhove J.


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.