Previously, researchers had offered conflicting explanations of this problem. In order to test the varying claims about learning, participants in this project were required to complete tasks designed specifically to elicit rich and balanced samples of Spanish past tenses.
Sixty L2 learners of Spanish were recorded at three levels (beginner, intermediate, advanced), undertaking four oral tasks (including interview and story-telling) and a comprehension task.
Results showed that the intermediate learners were already starting to use past tense forms, and that most of the advanced learners could use them well. However, the analysis did not support either of the previous main explanations suggested for learning these tenses. Instead , the results suggest that the learning task for English speakers involves re-mapping past tense meanings onto new L2 forms.
The project has made available all the learner data including transcripts and sound files.