Aptitude is defined as being an inherent ability and a capacity for learning that goes beyond intelligence. It is “a combination of abilities and other characteristics, whether native or acquired, that are indicative of an individual’s ability to learn or develop proficiency in some particular area if appropriate education or training is provided”.
Aptitude is most definitely a factor in second language acquisition (SLA). However, the importance of aptitude is also dependent on a number of other factors. It is one of the many variables which play a part in determining the speed and comprehensiveness in which an individual gains fluency in a second language. Factors such as age, education level, motivation and general intelligence are also fundamental to a person’s ability to acquire a second language. The purpose of this essay is to establish just how great a role aptitude plays in SLA and its relationship to other aspects. In order to ascertain this, I will analyze academic works on the subject, before outlining what these works reveal about the function aptitude has in gaining fluency in a second language.
In his article, ‘Aptitude and Second Language Acquisition’, Peter Robinson characterizes second language (L2) learning aptitude as “strengths individual learners have – relative to their population – in the cognitive abilities information processing draws on during L2 learning and performance in various contexts and at different stages”. According to Robinson, neural differences, underlying abilities and SLA processes lie at a ‘subcomputational, physical’ level.