Foreign Language Training Transfer: Individual and Contextual Predictors of Skill Maintenance and Generalization

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Abstract

Foreign language proficiency is a critical skill in which many U.S. military personnel receive extensive training. However, very little research has examined the factors associated with the successful transfer of this training. This study therefore investigates the impact of individual and contextual variables on two different types of foreign language skill transfer measures in a military context. Archival data were analyzed from 133 U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Berets) teams, including 919 Soldiers who had completed job-required foreign language training. Results indicate that initial skill acquisition had a positive impact on both the maintenance and generalization of language skills. The posttraining time interval between training and transfer measurement was negatively associated with skill maintenance, suggesting significant skill decay over time. The team context also accounted for significant variability in skill transfer, and the team mean skill level moderated the relationship between individual initial skill and subsequent generalization to job performance.

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