The effect of multilingual pedagogies on language aptitude: A study on lower secondary school students based on the LLAMA test




Multilingual pedagogies, Translanguaging, Language aptitude, Metalinguistic awareness


The paper presents an explorative study regarding the relation between multilingual pedagogies and language aptitude, a complex construct associated with metalinguistic awareness and cognitive processes, which predict the capacity of learning a foreign language. We administered the LLAMA test to 67 lower secondary school students in Italy, divided into two groups: the target group had been regularly exposed to éveil aux langues (awakening to languages) and translanguaging practices, with explicit focuses on crosslinguistic reflection, for the prior four years; the control group has been exposed to regular monolingual instruction. Results show that the target group achieved a better score in two LLAMA sub-tests (sound-symbol correspondence task and grammatical inferencing task). A composite pattern of correlations and predictors regarding the influence of Italian competence and English competence are also analysed and disentangled. Finally, the paper discusses the implications of these results in terms of research and educational perspectives.

Author Biography

Valentina Carbonara, Università per Stranieri di Siena, Italia

Valentina Carbonara completed her PhD in linguistics and second language acquisition in 2017 at the Università per Stranieri di Siena. She taught Italian as a second language in different schools in Italy and abroad. As a post doctoral scholar, she collaborates with Bilingualism Matters (Siena branch), and with her colleague, Andrea Scibetta, she coordinates the project, "L'AltRoparlante: translanguaging educational practices for the management of the superdiversity in class." Her research interests are teaching Italian as a second language, early language education, CLIL, bilingualism, and translanguaging


Armand, Françoise, Maraillet, Érica, Beck, Isabelle Anne, Lamarre, Patricia, Messier, Marielle, & Paquin, Sophie (2004). Pour éveiller à la diversité linguistique: le projet Elodil. Revue Québec Français, hiver, 54–57.

Baddeley, Alan (2003). Working memory: Looking back and looking forward. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 4(10), 829–839.

Bellinzona, Martina, & Carbonara, Valentina (2021). Secondary students’ attitudes towards linguistic diversity: an investigation on individual and educational aspects in Italian schools. Italiano LinguaDue, 14(2), 227-253.

Bokander, Lars, & Bylund, Emanuel (2020). Probing the internal validity of the LLAMA language aptitude tests. Language Learning, 70(1), 11–47.

Candelier, Michel (Ed.) (2003). Evlang – l’éveil aux langues à l’école primaire – Bilan d’une innovation européenne. De Boek-Duculot.

Candelier, Michel (coordinator) (2012). Framework of reference for pluralistic approaches to languages and cultures (FREPA/CARAP). Council of Europe Publishing.

Candelier, Michel (2017). “Awakening to languages’’ and educational language policy. In Jasone Cenoz, Durk Gorter, & Stephen May (Eds.), Language Awareness and Multilingualism (pp. 161–172). Springer.

Carbonara, Valentina (2021). Multilingual education in a public kindergarten: towards teachers’ professional empowerment and an equal education for minoritized children. Multilingua, Journal of Cross-Cultural and Interlanguage Communication, 41(3), 321-340.

Carbonara, Valentina, & Scibetta, Andrea (2020). Integrating translanguaging pedagogy into Italian primary schools: implications for language practices and children’s empowerment. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 25(3), 1–21.

Carbonara, Valentina, Scibetta, Andrea, & Torregrossa, Jacopo (in press). The benefits of multilingual pedagogies for multilingual children’s narrative abilities. Journal of Multilingualism.

Carroll, John B. (1981). Twenty-five years of research on foreign language aptitude. In Karl C. Diller (Ed.), Individual differences and universals in language learning aptitude (pp. 83– 118). Newbury House.

Carroll, John B., & Sapon, Stanley (2002). Modern language aptitude test: MLAT. N. Second Language Testing Inc.

Cummins, Jim (2019). The emergence of translanguaging pedagogy: A dialogue between theory and practice. Journal of Multilingual Education Research, 9(2), 19-36.

Cummins, Jim (2021). Rethinking the education of multilingual learners: A critical analysis of theoretical Concepts. Multilingual Matters.

Cummins, Jim, & Early, Margaret (2011). Identity texts the collaborative creation of power in multilingual schools. Trentham Books Ltd.

CUNY-NYSIEB (City University of New York-New York State Initiative on Emergent Bilinguals) (Eds.) (2021). Translanguaging and transformative teaching for emergent bilingual students. Lessons from the CUNY-NYSIEB Project. Routledge.

Duarte, Joana (2020). Translanguaging in the context of mainstream multilingual education. International Journal of Multilingualism, 17(2), 232–247.

El Euch, Sonia (2018). Language aptitude and metalinguistic awareness: separate or overlapping constructs? Evidence from bilinguals and trilinguals. Rivista di Psicolinguistica Applicata: XVIII(1)9-31.

Field Andy (2009), Discovering Statistics Using SPSS. Sage Publications.

García, Ofelia, & Flores, Nelson (2012). Multilingual pedagogies. In Marilyn Martin-Jones, Adrian Blackledge, & Angela Creese (Eds.). The Routledge handbook of multilingualism (pp. 232-246). Routledge.

García, Ofelia, Johnson, Susana Ibarra, & Seltzer, Kate (2017). The translanguaging classroom: leveraging student bilingualism for learning. Caslon.

García, Ofelia, & Sánchez, María Teresa (2022). The making of the language of US Latinxs: Translanguaging tejidos. In María Teresa Sánchez & Ofelia García (Eds.). Transformative translanguaging espacios. latinx students and their teachers rompiendo fronteras sin miedo (pp. 19-44). Multilingual Matters.

Hélot, Christine (2012). Linguistic diversity and education. In Marilyn Martin-Jones, Adrian Blackledge & Angela Creese (Eds.), Routledge handbook of multilingualism (pp. 214-231). Routledge.

Hopp, Holger, Kieseier, Teresa, Jakisch, Jenny, Sturm, Sarah, & Thoma, Dieter (2021). Do minority-language and majority-language students benefit from pedagogical translanguaging in early foreign language development?. Multilingua, 40(6), 815-837.

Hyltenstam, Kenneth (2021). Language aptitude and language awareness: Polyglot perspectives. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 41, 55-75.

Italian Ministry of Education (2021). Gli alunni con cittadinanza non italiana. A.S. 2019-2020.

Jessner, Ulrike (2006). Linguistic awareness in multilinguals: English as a third language. Edinburgh University Press.

Juvonen, Päivi, & Källkvist, Marie (2021). Pedagogical translanguaging: Theoretical, methodological and empirical perspectives. Multilingual Matters.

Li, Shaofeng (2015). The associations between language aptitude and second language grammar acquisition: A meta-analytic review of five decades of research. Applied Linguistics, 36(3), 385–408.

Little David, & Kirwan, Déirdre (2019). Engaging with linguistic diversity: a study of educational inclusion in a primary school. Bloomsbury Academic Publishing.

Lory, Marie-Paule, & Armand, Françoise (2016). Éveil aux langues et évolution des représentations sur le répertoire linguistique d’élèves plurilingues [Awakening to languages and evolution of representations on the linguistic repertoire of plurilingual pupils]. Revue internationale de recherche interculturelle– Alterstice, 6(1), 27–38.

Marshall, Steve (2022). Plurilingualism and the tangled web of lingualisms. In Enrica Piccardo, Aline Germain-Rutherford, & Geoff Lawrence (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of plurilingual language education (pp. 46-64). Routledge.

Meara, Paul (2005). LLAMA language aptitude tests. Lognostics.

Mikawa, Momo, & De Jong, Nivha H. (2021). Language neutrality of the LLAMA test explored: The case of agglutinative languages and multiple writing systems. Journal of the European Second Language Association, 5(1), 87–100.

Pinto, Maria Antonietta, Iliceto, Paolo, & Candilera, Gabriella (2003). Tam-2: Test di abilità metalinguistiche n.2: 9-14 anni: la valutazione dello sviluppo metalinguistico tra scuola elementare e scuola media: manuale di istruzioni. Scione.

Rogers, Vivienne E., Meara, Paul, Aspinall, Rachel, Fallon, Louise, Goss, Thomas, Keey, Emily, & Thomas, Rosa (2016). Testing aptitude. EUROSLA Yearbook, 16(1), 179–210.

Rogers, Vivienne, Meara, Paul, Barnett-Legh, Thomas, Curry, Clare, & Davie, Emma (2017). Examining the LLAMA aptitude tests. Journal of the European Second Language Association, 1(1), 49–60.

Rubini, Vittorio, & Rossi, Maria Angela (1982). PMA: abilità mentali primarie: (revisione 1962): manuale per l’esaminatore. Reattivi per i livelli 4-6 (3. 4. 5. elementare e 1. media). Organizzazioni speciali.

Sáfár, Anna, & Kormos, Judit (2008). Revisiting problems with foreign language aptitude. International Review of Applied Linguistics, 46(2), 113–136.

Singleton, David (2017). Language aptitude: Desirable trait or acquirable attribute? Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching, 7(1), 89.

Skehan, Peter (1998). A cognitive approach to language learning. Oxford University Press.

Skehan, Peter (2019). Language aptitude implicates language and cognitive skills. In Zhisheng Wen, Peter Skehan, Adriana Biedroń, Shaofeng Li, & Richard Sparks, (Eds.), Language aptitude: Advancing theory, testing, research and practice (pp. 56–77). Routledge.

Stansfield, Charles W., & Reed, Daniel J. (2004). The story behind the modern language aptitude test: an interview with John B. Carroll (1916-2003). Language Assessment Quarterly, 1(1), 43–56.

Velasco, Patricia, & Fialais, Valérie (2018). Moments of metalinguistic awareness in a Kindergarten class: translanguaging for simultaneous biliterate development. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 21(6), 760–774.

Yalçın, Sebnem, Çeçen, Sevdeger, & Erçetin, Gülcan (2016). The relationship between aptitude and working memory: An instructed SLA context. Language Awareness, 25(1–2), 144–158.



How to Cite

Carbonara, V. (2022). The effect of multilingual pedagogies on language aptitude: A study on lower secondary school students based on the LLAMA test. EuroAmerican Journal of Applied Linguistics and Languages, 9(2), 1–16.



Research Articles