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Age of Acquisition

The introduction of some studies Critical Period Hypothesis

Mastery of the spoken language

Intuitions of grammaticality

Comparing child, adolescent and adult language learners

At what age should second language instruction begin?

Children find it much easier to learn 2nd language. Example:

Children from immigrant families speak the language of new community with native-like fluency

Patsy M. Lightbown and Nina Spada

There is a critical period for 2nd language acquisition, as in 1st language acquisition, older learners must depend on more general learning abilities critical period ends somewhere around puberty or even earlier Younger learners have more time to devote to learning language

Younger learners dont experience so strong pressure to speak fluently and accurately form the very beginning Adults are often embarrassed by their lack of mastery of the language, they can feel frustrated

Cognitive Explanations (Lenneberg, 1967)

Automatic LA cognitively open See only similarities Lacks flexible thinking Are self- centred Havent developed social attitudes

Not automatic LA/ natural LA See similarities and differences

Think flexibly
Become de- centred Have strong social attitudes

Cognitive Explanations
Adolescents learn more rapidly than children as they can not only pick up language like children, but also supplement this process by conscious study. Adolescents are more efficient in SLA than adults because they have better memories.

Affective Explanations (Brown)

SLA is related to 4 stages of acculturation Initial excitement and euphoria Culture shock hostility target culture Culture stress- gradual & hesitating recovery Assimilation/adaptation to the new culture. Young children acquire L2 more quickly because of socio- culturally resilient, less culture- bound than adults & move through stages of acculturation more quickly.

Primary and Secondary Levels of Language (Neufeld)

Primary level = functional vocab. + mastery of pronunciation + gram. Rules.

Secondary level = complex gram. structures + different lang. styles.

Syntax and Morphology



Children GOOD

Adults BEST

Children BEST

Adults GOOD

Adolescents BETTER

Adolescents BETTER

Primary and Secondary Levels of Language (Neufeld) All learners- innate ability to acquire primary
levels. Children more likely to achieve sec. levels than adults as they are strongly motivated by the need to be accepted by their peer groups. Children seem learn faster than adult because their learning often goes hand in hand with physical actions. They have to comprehend the language in play and school environments

Critical Period Hypothesis

Brown (2007) defines CPH as . . . a biological timetable during which, both first & second language is more successfully accomplished. Ellis (1997) defines CPH as . . . a period during which target-language competence in an L2 can only be achieved if learning commences before a certain age is reached. (e.g. the onset of puberty)

Critical Period Hypothesis

Older learners- problems with accent, they almost always have a noticeable foreign accent

Mastery of the spoken language

Mastery of the spoken language

Mark Patkowskis experiment with immigrantshe wanted to check if there is a difference between learners who began to learn English before puberty an those who began learning Eng. later (he didnt take into account an accent) Answer: Yes. Native-like mastery of the spoken lang. is difficult to attain by older learners, but possible.

Intuitions of grammaticality

Experiment shows that people who started learning language before the puberty are also better in grammar.

Is younger really better?
1978- experiment in Holland (very detailed), how English speakers learnt Dutch Result: 1) The adolescents better than children and adults 2) Adolescents and adults learned faster than children in the first few months of exposure to Dutch 3) By the end of the year children caught up or surpassed adults on several measures Conclusion-> there is no critical period (but results can be also interpreted in other ways)

At what age should second language instruction begin?

Generally, its better to start learning lang. as early as possible, but it depends on what is your goal. If the goal is native-like mastery of lang., its better for learner to be completely surrounded by the lang. as early as possible When the goal is basic communicative ability, it may be more efficient to begin learning of 2nd lang. later, e.g. at the age of 10,11,12

S. Krashen, R. Scarcella, & M. Long (eds.), Child-Adult Differences in Second Language Acquisition, Newbury House

1. Adults proceed through the earlier stages of syntactic and morphological development faster than children (where age and exposure are held constant) 2. Older children acquire faster than younger Children (again, the early stages of syntactic and morphological development re time and exposure are held constant. 3. Acquirers who begin natural exposure to second languages during childhood generally achieve higher second language proficiency than those beginning as adults.

Cook (ed.) (1986), Experimental Approaches to Second Language Learning, Chapter 2

1. Older children are better than younger children at learning a second language.
2. Adults are better than children at learning a second language 3. Immigrants who start learning a second language younger end up better speakers than those who start older