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The Age Factor in Second Language Acquisition

Second Language Acquisition
Age Factor

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The Age Factor in Second Language Acquisition

  1. 1. EDUC 821 Dr. Dulcinia Nuñez Jeanette Carrasquillo S00231169 Turabo University School of Education Doctoral Program
  2. 2. Objectives   Factors that Influence Language Learning  Point out key concepts related to age as a factor for second language acquisition  Critical Period Hypothesis in L2 learning  Research related to the possible existence of a “ceiling "or upper limits of successful L2 learning  Benefits of learning a second language at an early age  List of findings in which most theorists agree  Video: Language Acquisition- Krashen
  3. 3. Factors that can Influence Language Learning  SLA Motivation Biological Mother Tongue Age Emotions Learning Intelligence Environment
  4. 4. Is there an optimal age for second language acquisition?  Everybody agrees that age is a crucial factor in language learning. L1- Children - within a biological window of 4-6 years of age. L2- ages vary widely
  5. 5. Key Concepts concerning the Age Factor  Cognitive Factors Critical Period Biological Schedule Brain Plasticity
  6. 6.   The possibility that there is a biologically determined period of life when language can be acquired more easily. Beyond this time a language is more difficult to acquire. Karavasili, 2014 Critical Period
  7. 7. Biological Schedule  Neurophysiological Mechanism Bilingual language Acquisition - age 2 to puberty (Lenneberg) L1 Acquisition- 4-6 years of age Loss of brain plasticity- 9 years of age Penfield and Roberts (1959) and Lenneberg (1967) Pronunciation and intonation- acquired easier during early childhood
  8. 8. Brain Plasticity   The loss of the brain plasticity happens by the age of nine. This plasticity assigns functions to different areas of the brain and cannot be changed Penfield and Roberts (1959) and Lenneberg (1967)  The loss of brain plasticity explains why adults may need more time and effort compared to children in second language acquisition (Lenneberg, 1967)
  9. 9. Critical Period Hypothesis for SLA  Has not been conclusively proven by research, nor has it been completely disproved (Wagner, 2014) Discordant evidence Most research indicates that CPH does not exist for all aspects of SLA (Wagner,2014) There is powerful evidence of a critical period for accent (Brown, 2000)
  10. 10. “Ceiling "or Upper Limits of Successful L2 Learning   There is a possibility that there may be a ceiling to L2 learning in the sense that it may be impossible to develop levels of L2 competence that are identical to the competence all humans possess in their own mother tongue.  There is not well-understood but nevertheless biologically determined impossibility, after a certain age to continue using the implicit learning processes that are best suited for natural language learning during the early years of human life. (DeKeyser,2003 ; Loup, 2005)
  11. 11. Benefits of Learning a Second Language at an Early Age  Pronunciation and intonation (neuromuscular mechanism) Motivation (lack of inhibitions) Imitation (this capability fades away after puberty) Flexibility, curiosity, tolerance, learning and memory capacity
  12. 12. Two hot issues  Critical Period Hypothesis in L2 learning- Does a biological schedule operate, after which the processes and outcomes of L2 acquisition are fundamentally and irreversibly changed? The possibility of the existence of a ceiling to L2 learning Impossibility of developing L2 competence as developed in their mother tongue
  13. 13. Older is better initially, but younger is better in the long run   Krashen, Long and Scarcella – 23 studies between 1962-1979  Five long term studies concluded: after five years of residence in L2 environments, young starters were clearly better than adult starters  Adult learners and older children learn at a faster pace (cognitive maturity)  Children eventually always catch up and surpass late starters.  Aoyama’s study (2008) supports the same conclusion
  14. 14. List of Findings   In terms of L2 learning rate, adults and older children enjoy an initial advantage  In terms of L2 attainment, learners who begin acquiring the L2 before puberty will develop levels of morphosyntactic and phonological competence that are close to native speakers of that language  Post-pubertal learners, are not likely to perform in the native speaker range (regardless of the numbers of years they have resided in L2 environment).
  15. 15. List of Findings   Some researchers are in favor of a critical period stating that it is biologically impossible for the human brain to use the same processes that were involved in learning the L1.  Others are in favor of non-biological explanations , they consider socio-educational and affective-motivational forces.  Recent research suggests that bilingualism effects (L1 & L2 interaction) and language activation and dominance effects ( relative amounts of L1 versus L2 use) operate across all ages, beginning as early as age two.
  16. 16.   Stephen Krashen on Language Acquisition.mp4  Myth Busting Age and Language Learning - Video #1.mp4 Video
  17. 17. Conclusion   Ortega states that Newcomers to the field of SLA might feel overwhelmed by the many arguments and data that appear to equally support and contradict various positions. Age is a controversial topic. The findings seem difficult to interpret , and many questions to understand universal age effects on L2 acquisition remain open.
  18. 18. References   Ortega, Lourdes ( 2009). Understanding Second Language Acquisition. Hodder Education.  Termcord (2014) The Age Factor in Second Language Acquisition. Downloaded November 3,2014 from http://termcoord.eu/2014/02/age-factor-second- language-acquisition/