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Age as an Affective Factor in Second Language Acquisition

Age as an Affective Factor in Second Language Acquisition

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Published by Namaste'
This paper examines the relationship of age factor to second language acquisition. Age as an affective factor brings different performance stages in second language learning. The researchers in relation to the Critical Period Hypothesis and other variables have derived two major aspects of language learning--the younger the better and the older the better. However, there is no linear pattern of learning among the same age group of learners, and they learn differently and individually depending on variables like learning opportunities, the motivation to learn, individual differences and learning styles.
This paper examines the relationship of age factor to second language acquisition. Age as an affective factor brings different performance stages in second language learning. The researchers in relation to the Critical Period Hypothesis and other variables have derived two major aspects of language learning--the younger the better and the older the better. However, there is no linear pattern of learning among the same age group of learners, and they learn differently and individually depending on variables like learning opportunities, the motivation to learn, individual differences and learning styles.

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Published by: Namaste' on Nov 05, 2008
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09/19/2013

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Age as an
Affective
Factor 1
Krishna K. BistaABSTRACT
This paper examines the relationship of age factor to second language acquisition. Age as an affectivefactor brings different performance stages in second language learning. The researchers in relation to theCritical Period Hypothesis and other variables have derived two major aspects of language learning--theyounger the better and the older the better. However, there is no linear pattern of learning among the sameage group of learners, and they learn differently and individually depending on variables like learningopportunities, the motivation to learn, individual differences and learning styles.
Age as an Affective Factor in Second Language AcquisitionAge is one of the affective factors in Second Language Acquisition (SLA). A greatvariety of views have been expressed on the age question in children and adults who learn either the native language (L1) or the second language (L2) in different ages. Age as an affective factor  brings different performance stages in second language learning. Various explanations andinterpretations of second language acquisition exist while considering age. However, there is nolinear pattern of learning among the same age group of learners, and they learn differently andindividually depending on variables.Most people believed that younger learners have certain advantages over older learners inlanguage learning while others believed the opposite. The common notion is that younger children learn L2 easily and quickly in comparison to older children (Ellis, 2008; Larsen-Freeman, 2008; Mayberry & Lock, 2003). The relationship between age and success in SLA,though complex in nature, is linked to the Critical Period Hypothesis (CPH). CPH, also known as“the sensitive period,” is defined as “the period during which a child can acquire language easily,
 
Age as an
Affective
Factor 2
rapidly, perfectly, and without instruction” (Richards & Schmidt, 2002, p.145). The CPHsuggests that a period of time, between birth and somewhere around the age when a child enters puberty, exists in which the learning a second language can be accomplished more rapidly andeasily than times falling outside of this period i.e. post puberty (Larsen-Freeman & Long, 2008).SLA theories and research have attempted to explain various interpretations and findingsin age factor of second language acquisition. As reported by Lightbown and Spada (2008),learning depends on learners’ characteristics and the environment. Their findings suggested thatolder learners have a higher level of problem solving and metalinguistics abilities than younger learners. Some other researchers have focused on learners’ pronunciation, syntax andgrammatical morphemes. Mark Patkowski (1982) examined the level of spoken English of sixty-seven immigrants to the U.S. His finding was that pre-puberty learners acquire second language better than post-puberty learners. He also pointed out that two other factors—length of residenceand amount of instruction—are inseparable from the age factor. Johnson and Newport (quoted inLightbown & Spada, 2008) found native-like language abilities and the performance levels lower in older children than younger in a study of forty-six Chinese and Koreans speakers. On the other hand, Snow and Hoefnagel-Hohle (1982), from their research carried in Holland, concluded thatadults learned faster than children and the rate of second language learning was higher. DavidSingleton (2003) also declared that the tendency for “younger learners to do better in the longrun in the matter of second language lexical acquisition is no more than a tendency” (p. 22). Inthis paper, an attempt is made to study and analyze the age related research on the basis of critical period hypothesis and other relevant variables.The key questions in this study will be how age affects second language acquisition. Do people of the same age group possess the same learning characteristics and learn in the same
 
Age as an
Affective
Factor 3
ratio in SLA? Are there any certain features that the researchers have agreed upon regarding theage factor in SLA and CPH?The notion of critical period for a second language acquisition has been associated withseveral hypotheses. Some researchers have focused on the view that the younger the better learner whereas others opine the older the better. However, there are several needs and demandsof learning a foreign or second language for both the young and older learners. Adults naturallyfind themselves in such situations that demand more complex language and expression of morecomplicated ideas. On the other hand, children lack pressure and maturity in second languagelearning.David Singleton (1989) offered a number of proposals related to age and second languageacquisition. The most popular notions are “the younger =the better” and “the older =the better”(Singleton, p. 31). He, on the basis of previous studies and research on age factor, focused onlearners’ pronunciation skill and other linguistics features. There are a number of researchfindings for the hypothesis “the younger the better.” Yamanda
et al.
(qtd. in Singleton, 1989)studied 30 Japanese elementary school pupils of seven to ten ages old. These students did nothave any previous experience of English. The researchers used a list of 40 English words andrecorded the success of students. Their finding was that more than average older learnersdecreased with age i.e. the older the age the lower the score. In support of this hypothesis, Mark S. Patkowski (1982) carried out research on 67 highly educated immigrants to the United Statesfrom various backgrounds. In his control subjects, 33 subjects were those who had come to theUnited States before the age of 15 (pre-puberty group) and 34 subjects who were post-pubertygroup with similar backgrounds. He examined the spoken English of the subjects, and analyzed“a difference between learners who began to learn English before puberty and those who beganlearning English later” (Patkowski, 1982, p. 58). His results showed a strong negative

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