‘Negative Capability’; A Successful Indicator of Second Language Learner Aptitude

| January 5, 2005
‘Negative Capability’; A Successful Indicator of Second Language Learner Aptitude

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John Tatum

Bio Data
John Tatum is a certified English teacher from Texas in the USA with fifteen years teaching experience. He spent two years teaching EFL at Hunan University of Science and Technology in Xiangtan of Hunan Province, and is presently teaching English at Changsha University of Science and Technology.

In this research article, I shall attempt to prove that the literary concept first coined by the English romantic poet, John Keats is a successful indicator of second learner aptitude. In recent years this concept, ‘negative capability’ has become increasingly popular in such areas as psychoanalysis and leadership training for corporate executives. In order to simplify this concept as much as possible, I have broken it down into three main characteristics or qualities: ambiguity tolerance, perseverance, and empathy. This literary concept matches up extremely well with the outstanding characteristics of the so-called ‘good learners’ of a second language as explained in the book, The Good Language Learner. In order to further simplify and sharpen the focus of my comparison, I make the third characteristic of empathy point to a feeling toward the culture of the second language. This positive feeling or positive association toward the target language culture is one area that serves as an essential aid to the intrinsic motivation of the second language learner. With the help of some classroom-based research conducted with my university students, I believe I have revealed the possible validity of this theory. I have included the survey that I used with an answer key in the hope that this article will be beneficial to other teachers and students of the applied linguistic research being conducted in the EFL field at this time. I hope the data provided will stimulate others to test this theory with their EFL students in the hope that this knowledge could be used in the most beneficial way.
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Category: Monthly Editions, Volume 1