The Gender Gap in Second Language Acquisition: Gender Differences in the Acquisition of Dutch among Immigrants from 88 Countries with 49 Mother Tongues
Number of pages
SourcePLoS One, 10, 11, (2015), pp. e0142056
05 november 2015
Article / Letter to editor
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SubjectLanguage in Society; Variation and Distance
Gender differences were analyzed across countries of origin and continents, and across mother tongues and language families, using a large-scale database, containing information on 27,119 adult learners of Dutch as a second language. Female learners consistently outperformed male learners in speaking and writing proficiency in Dutch as a second language. This gender gap remained remarkably robust and constant when other learner characteristics were taken into account, such as education, age of arrival, length of residence and hours studying Dutch. For reading and listening skills in Dutch, no gender gap was found. In addition, we found a general gender by education effect for all four language skills in Dutch for speaking, writing, reading, and listening. Female language learners turned out to profit more from higher educational training than male learners do in adult second language acquisition. These findings do not seem to match nurture-oriented explanatory frameworks based for instance on a human capital approach or gender-specific acculturation processes. Rather, they seem to corroborate a nature-based, gene-environment correlational framework in which language proficiency being a genetically-influenced ability interacting with environmental factors such as motivation, orientation, education, and learner strategies that still mediate between endowment and acquiring language proficiency at an adult stage.
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