Explicit vs. Implicit Acquisition of Grammatical Gender in an Artificial Language by Monolingual Native English Speakers: an ERP Study
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Many adults wish to learn a second language to improve their employability, cognitive function, or social connections. However, learning a second language as an adult can seem very daunting. One particularly difficult feature of some second languages is that of grammatical gender; a noun classification system that separates nouns according to somewhat arbitrary classes which include, in many cases, feminine and masculine. This study’s aim was to identify whether explicit and implicit teaching methods differ in their ability to teach grammatical gender in a second language to individuals whose first language does not contain the feature. A group of English native speakers underwent a two-day training paradigm using a two-alternative forced choice task to learn 44 artificial nouns and their genders either explicitly or implicitly. A match/mismatch ERP task was used in combination with a gender association task (Phillips & Boroditsky, 2002) to assess gender and determiner learning. ERP and behavioural results did not show group differences in gender learning, but showed small N400s and increased accuracy ratings indicative of early noun learning. Limitations and future directions are discussed.