This study investigated whether working memory capacity and L2 motivation have significant relationships with Japanese English as Foreign Language (EFL) learners’ speaking skills, and to what degree working memory capacity and L2 motivation respectively contribute to L2 speaking skills and their subcomponents (vocabulary, grammar, fluency, and pronunciation). Participants were 113 Japanese EFL students. They completed three assessments: The Versant English Speaking Test; a Japanese (L1)-based listening span test; and an L2 learning motivation survey. To investigate the relationships between variables (English speaking skills, phonological working memory capacity, and L2 learning motivation), a correlation analysis was conducted. L2 speaking test scores were found to be significantly related to both working memory capacity and language learning motivation. Furthermore, regression analyses showed that phonological working memory capacity and motivation significantly explained variance in L2 speaking skills, and indicated significant influences of predictors on four components of L2 speaking skills (vocabulary, grammar, fluency, and pronunciation); L2 motivation displayed stronger influence on speaking subcomponents, except speaking grammar. These results contribute to existing literature on the generalization of effects of individual differences, such as working memory and motivation, on L2 learning.
Working memory (WM) and language analytic ability (LAA) are considered important cognitive factors in second language (L2) grammar learning, but it is not clear which contributes more particularly with different types of grammatical rules. Previous studies have focused on grammatical rules that rely on form, but there are no studies investigating WM and LAA’s contribution comparatively to learning linguistic rules that require the generalization of semantic information. The aim of this study was to determine the contributions of WM and LAA in learning semantic noun classes, grammatical structures whose rules rely on the ability to generalize and categorize based on conceptual knowledge. Thirty Japanese native-speakers participated in a controlled learning experiment that targeted demonstrative-noun agreement patterns based on semantic categories. Multiple regression analyses revealed that WM significantly contributed to the learning of semantic noun classes, but LAA did not. The results suggest that WM is a better predictor than LAA in learning linguistic rules that rely on knowledge outside of linguistic form.