The Relationship between Age and Language Learning

Topics: Linguistics, Second language acquisition, Second language Pages: 5 (1565 words) Published: September 24, 2013
Age and Language Learning
The Relationship between Age and Language Learning

What is the relationship between age and language learning ? There are many prejudices, myths, misunderstandings and misconceptions about the abilities or inabilities of the language learners of different ages. There are manyquestion about this where nobody has an exact answer for it.

Do children learn language quicker than adults ?
Is it impossible for adults to achieve fluency in any additional language ?

In one sipmle word - " No "

These and other kind of beliefs are no right. Children do not learn quicker than adults, even adult people may learn more efficiently. Since age is not a determining factor of learning language there will be no loss of language learning abilities over a certain of time. In addition, learning additional languages (second, third, etc) keeps the human brain active and this is an benefit for older learners. This means that people of any ages can take advantages from learning additional languages.

There are two reports (click below read more ) which were sponsored by the USDepartment of Education. The reports show the effect of age and language learning from two different point of view. The Older Language Learner shows some of the myths surrounding adult language learners, and Myths and Misconceptions aboutSecond Language Learning shows the same from the perspective of working withchildren. These reports were produced mainly for teachers and educators, but they clearly show that people of any age can be accomplished language learners, particularly self-motivated adults. In addition, they show how learning style and different learning methods can have a powerful impact on our success rate as language learners.

The Older Language Learner

Can older adults successfully learn foreign languages? Recent research is providing increasingly positive answers to this question. The research shows that: --there is no decline in the ability to learn as people get older; --except for minor considerations such as hearing and vision loss, the age of the adult learner is not a major factor in language acquisition; --the context in which adults learn is the major influence on their ability to acquire the new language. Contrary to popular stereotypes, older adults can be good foreign language learners. The difficulties older adults often experience in the language classroom can be overcome through adjustments in the learning environment, attention to affective factors, and use of effective teaching methods. AGING AND LEARNING ABILITY

The greatest obstacle to older adult language learning is the doubt--in the minds of both learner and teacher--that older adults can learn a new language. Most people assume that "the younger the better" applies in language learning. However, many studies have shown that this is not true. Studies comparing the rate of second language acquisition in children and adults have shown that although children may have an advantage in achieving native-like fluency in the long run, adults actually learn languages more quickly than children in the early stages (Krashen, Long, and Scarcella, 1979). These studies indicate that attaining a working ability to communicate in a new language may actually be easier and more rapid for the adult than for the child. Studies on aging have demonstrated that learning ability does not decline with age. If older people remain healthy, their intellectual abilities and skills do not decline (Ostwald and Williams, 1981). Adults learn differently from children, but no age-related differences in learning ability have been demonstrated for adults of different ages.


The stereotype of the older adult as a poor language learner can be traced to two roots: a theory of the brain and how it matures, and classroom practices that discriminate against the older learner. The "critical period" hypothesis...
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