Language learning, motivation, and well-being in later life

Mara van der Ploeg*, Merel Keijzer, Wander Lowie

*Corresponding author for this work

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Besides challenges such as age-related illnesses, our ageing world also brings opportunities for lifelong learning, and learning a language at an older age (later-life language learning; LLLL) has been named as one such opportunity. Moreover, lifelong learning, and by extension language learning, have been related to self-fulfilment and actualisation. However, socio-affective measures such as motivation and well-being have not been studied extensively in relation to LLLL. Therefore, we longitudinally examine the socio-affective outcomes of a language learning intervention for older adults. More specifically, we compared two different teaching methodologies (with implicit vs. explicit grammar instruction) in order to ascertain learning needs and detailed their differential socio-affective outcomes in 16 Dutch older adults during an English course. Data consisted of global motivation and well-being measurements administered in a pre-post-retention test design and included the shortened Dutch AMTB, and parts of the CASP, TOPICS, and MHC-SF. Additionally, dense motivation and well-being measurements over time were collected in the form of a daily diary. This English course consisted of weekly group lessons via Zoom, and five days of 60-min homework investments. Using linear mixed effects models, our results show that three AMTB-constructs significantly improved as a function of the language course. However, no significant effects for daily motivation were found. For well-being we found the opposite pattern: no effects were found for the global measures (i.e., the questionnaires), but daily well-being was found to increase over time. Finally, descriptive statistics showed the explicit group to be more stable in their motivation and well-being than the implicit group. Our results underline the need for dense longitudinal observations to capture the inter- and intra-individual differences and socio-affective development present in older adults. Furthermore, we highlight the need for a focus on socio-affective outcomes of later-life interventions such as language learning in addition to a focus on cognitive effects.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100749
Number of pages10
JournalSocial Sciences and Humanities Open
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan-2023


  • Implicit explicit grammar instruction
  • language teaching pedagogies
  • Later-life language learning
  • Motivation
  • Older adults
  • SLA
  • Well-being


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