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Motivation in acquiring multiple languages for adults- A case of Multilanguage man.

Language acquisition is a field of study that had been focused by many researchers in past years.
This field is an interesting field as it involves cognitive and also linguistic. In this paper, I would
like focus on the factors for acquiring several languages for an adult. Acquiring language is a
process that will be easy for children. According to a study (Newport,1991,p112) any
phenomenon in which there is a maturational change in the ability to learn , with a peak in
learning at some maturational definable period and a decline in the ability to learn, given the
same experiential exposure , outside of this period. This means that the language learning of
adults will decline compared to their ability before they get matured. Scovel (1988) with
Patkowski(1980,1990) had hypothesized that as the brain matures , it will become less plastic
and that lost neural plasticity hampers L2 learning. This means that as the person turns adults,
the ability of the person in acquiring second language will be slow and ineffective. Therefore, in
this research, the adult that successfully acquired several languages will be used as the sample to
show the ability to acquire language despite being and adult and the factors that helped the adult
to acquire many languages.

By reviewing some paper, there are papers that proves the adults can acquire second language
with some motivational factors. Gardner (1985) pointed that learners of target language will be
successful when they are motivated to learn the language for economic or social progress. This
means that, some learners of target languages are motivated because they needed the languages

for their advancement in their working field and in the case of people that have own business,
they can communicate with customers from different ethnicity. The researcher in this paper will
review past related studies on motivation factors in acquiring multi languages for adults. The
researcher also will share an experience of an adult that motivated and able to learn several
languages despite being old. In conclusion, the paper will argue on the ability of the adult to
learn language after the critical period stage and the motivational factors that helped the adult to
learn foreign languages.

Motivations for Adult Learning foreign languages.

Dr. Karen Thoms (2001, pp. 56) pointed that adult learners have habits such as eagerness, selfpride and able to make decision with their needs and have a strong eagerness to apply what is
learned and use it now. This means that motivation of the adults to learn will be different if
compared to children. Besides that, the adult learners also already engaged in different social
roles such as husband or wife, employee, and this make them to be responsible for their own
future life (Wlodkowski 1993, p. 5 cited by Merriam 2007). Individual adults learn differently
depending on their experience, aptitude and attitude (OConner et al quoted by Thoms 2001, p.
4), which means that their motivation will be different according to their own experience,
aptitude and also attitude. According to the different ranges of life, the purpose for adults also
will be different. Reasons such as for job requirements, for economic reason and for future career
stability play part in motivating the adult learners. Benson (2001) stated the positive relationship
between second language learner and second language learning motivation which includes
extrinsic and intrinsic motivations and also supported by other researcher (e.g. Spratt,
Humphreys, &Chan, 2002; Ushioda, 1996, 2001).

Foreign language acquisition for adults.

Previous findings from age of arrivals of emigrants became and important determinant of overall
degree of foreign accent in the second language. This means that the younger they came to
foreign country, the more fluent and they accent more the second language (Flege, Munro, &
MacKay, 1995a). Another research by Flege, J. E., Yeni-Komshian, G. H., & Liu, S. (1999)
mixed support for the existence of a critical period in the domain of morph syntax. This shows

the validity of critical theory hypotheses. Birdsong (2009) pointed that the typical outcome of
adults in the attainment of second language is negative compared to the children. Flege, Yeni, &
Liu (1999) stated for the existence of a critical period in the second language acquisition for the
adults. This shows the validity of critical theory hypotheses. Besides that, Newport (1991)
suggested that the adults with a large capacity to memorize will get many inputs on second
language and will try to process a lot of linguistic information and made the learning become
unsuccessful. In opposite, the children whit smaller capacity can absorb small amount of
information at a time and the acquisition process become successful. The term less is more can
be used in language learning. Flege, Yeni, & Liu (1999) stated for the existence of a critical
period in the second language acquisition for the adults. This shows the validity of critical theory

Many studies show that second language acquisition is successful for children and it goes viceversa for the adults. Despite that, there are some evidences to show that the adults can master
second language successfully despite being adult, better than the children (Fledge1978).Research
by Snow and Hoefnagel-Hohle (1978) shows that English-speaking adults can produce Dutch
sound more authentic than children after they received same amount of second language
experience. From many past researches, it show that the adults can compete with the children in
the term of second language acquisition as they are restricted by the age factor. Still the validity
of critical period hypotheses is debatable and the lack of researchers on adult acquiring second
language outside classroom environment dampen the process of this research.

The method employed for this research is qualitative method. In this research, the interview
method using open-ended questions had been employed. The sample had been taken from one
sample and the process has been video recorded.

The questions asked in the interviews are.

1) How you learned several languages?
2) The purpose for you learning several languages?
3) When did you acquired the foreign languages?
And then, I asked in to speak in the languages he knows.

The background of the participant.
He is an adult male aged 69 .His race is Indian and his ethnicity is Tamil. He is a Malaysian
citizen. He been running food restaurants since 29 years old till now. He went to school till 12
years old and then he had to quit his schooling due to poverty. After that, he went working in
Chinese restaurant as dish washer. He never been exposed with formal education on the
languages he learned. At the age of 29, he started to set his own food stall and till now he is
running his own restaurant. His customers are from different races such as Malay, Indian,
Chinese, and Sikhs. He able to speak in Tamil, English, Hokkien, Hindi, Malay and also
Malayalam. He acquired the languages when he started to run his business and he told that he
started to master all the languages when he was 30 to 50 years old. This means that during that

period, he started to use some word when talking with his customer. For an example, when
talking with Chinese customers, he will try to use some word such as the numbers in Hokkien
language. Sometimes, when he did some mistakes, the customers will correct for him and, by
simple word to phrases and it developed to sentences and now he can speak fluently .For Tamil
language, it is mother tongue and Malayalam also can be considered as mother tongue as it is a
language used by her mother who came from Malayalam ethnicity. For Malay language, he
acquired it when he was young as it is national language and a medium language used in schools.
Hindi language he acquired when he worked as dishwasher as the workers in the restaurant are
mostly from Nepal and also from India that uses Hindi and this made him to quire the language.
Hokkien he started to learn when started to run his own business as most of his customers are
The purpose for him learning several languages is because he wants to use those language to be
close with his customers. From his point of view, he thinks that people will be a regular customer
if we converse friendly and use their mother tongue. It also will stand as uniqueness and the
customers will be happy as they think that they are being appreciated. Besides that, he able to
connect with people that are not good in national language such as Malay language.
The factors that led him to learn many languages are because his driven with motivation .Even
though, he was not exposed with formal education, still because of being highly motivated to
advance economically, he started to learn several languages which will be helpful for his own
business. He was driven with motivation as he dont have education background to compete and
get good jobs. Therefore he has to stand unique front the rest and he started to learn language
without formal exposure.
(Here the researcher added the video on the interview).

It is proven the adult can acquire second and more languages with motivational driven factors.
Even though they cant acquire native-ness like proficiency, still they achievement will be
remarkable as the result will be against the critical period hypotheses. It is not impossible for the
adult to acquire foreign languages given they have motivation to achieve .The motivation can be
extrinsic or intrinsic motivations.
For limitation in this study is the related articles or researchers done on the adults. Most of the
researchers done are on the children and for the case of the adults only in classroom setting
.Therefore for the future recommendation, hope this research will spark the interest of other
researchers to investigate Multilanguage acquisition on adults in setting other than classroom
because the results from such researchers can be used to debate on maturational effect on the
adults for acquiring foreign languages.