The Age Factor in Second Language Acquisition

Topics: Second language acquisition, Language acquisition, Linguistics Pages: 9 (3019 words) Published: August 6, 2013
The Age Factor in Second Language Acquisition
Introduction
There are many factors that affect second language acquisition (SLA). For example, SLA is affected by the role of the mother tongue, the role of gender differences, the role of personal differences and the role of age differences. The role of age differences is one of the most important factors that affect SLA. It is often claimed that children learn faster than adults. The younger the learner of a foreign language, the more effective the learning process will be. Nowadays, many countries are trying to introduce English for younger learners. They believe that the younger the learners are, the better the learning English process will be. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) country is one of them. In the UAE, English was introduced at the age of 13. Then, the ministry of education has changed the policy and started to teach English at the age of 10. Now, they are introducing English at the age of 7. The reason is that the country wants the young generation to acquire English in a good way. It wants them to be familiar with English and to be able to speak like English native speakers because the demand for English is growing. In my project, I will discuss the age factor in second language acquisition. I will talk about Why to Study the Role of Age Differences in SLA. Then, I will talk about some research findings. Finally, I will talk about The Neurological Explanation (or The Critical Period Hypothesis). Why to Study the Role of Age Differences in SLA?

Since the 1960s a lot of research has been done on the age factor in second language acquisition. It has been shown that young language learners tend to achieve higher levels of success than older learners. The outcome of children is different from the outcome of adults. Murad (2005) said that "It is commonly known that children with regular faculties and given normal circumstances easily master their native language. Unfortunately, perfect language mastery is rarely the result of second language acquisition". So, researchers did many studies to understand the relationship between the age factor and second language acquisition. Murad (2005) found the following: One of the most obvious potential explanations for the lack of success of L2 learners compared to L1 learners is that the acquisition of L2 begins at a later age than that of the mother tongue does. Thus, it has been prevalently assumed that age itself is a predictor of L2 proficiency. We can see here that the researcher tries to argue that the age factor can determine whether the language learning process is successful or not. In other words, young learners have the opportunity to acquire the language like native speakers while adults do not have this opportunity. In this area, there are theoretical and a practical considerations. According to Krashen, Scarcella and Long (1982 IX), (quoted in Barakat and Shehadeh, 1994, p. 126), it is very important to study the role of age differences in SLA because we want to know the optimal age to begin instruction in second languages. Also, we want to know how far the older student can progress. In addition, we must consider the different methods and approaches in studying foreign and second languages that are needed by students of different ages. Clyne (1977), (quoted in Lengyel and Singleton 1995, p. 52) argued that "the relationship of age to second language acquisition is not just the difference between children and adults but might also involve second language acquisition in old age". Research Findings

The connection between age and language development is not something which has been recently commented on. Many studies have found that children learn better than adults. The right hemisphere and the left hemisphere of child's brain work, but the...

References: Arabski, J. (1999). Neuroanatomical perspective of age in L2 acquisition. In Janusz Arabski (Ed), Pase Papers (p. 25). Katowice.
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Barakat, G., & Shehadeh, A. (1994). Issues in second language acquisition: The age factor. Research Journal of Aleppo University, 25, (pp. 131, 132).
Hakuta, K., Bialystok, E., & Wiley, E
Lenneberg, E. (1967). Biological Foundations of Language. New York: Willy and sons.
Lengyel, Z. & Singleton, D. (1995). The Age Factor in Second Language Acquisition.
Retrieved April 20, 2007, from http://www.hausarbeiten.de/faecher/vorschau/66930.html

Ryan, L. (2004). Language Acquisition: the age factor. Clevedon ; Buffalo : Multilingual Matters, (p. 2).
(pp. 1537, 1539).
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