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Age on Arrival and Immigrant Second Language Learning in Canada: A Reassessment1

JIM CUMMINS
The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education 1. INTRODUCTION

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The popular notion that younger children are better second language (L2) learners than older children, or as expressed by Penfield and Roberts (1959), that there is an optimal prepubertal age for L2 learning, has often been supported by contrasting the native-like fluency of young immigrant L2 learners with the obvious non-native L2 proficiency of many adult immigrants. In the present paper this popular notion is challenged on the grounds that 'language proficiency' is not a unitary construct; specifically, some aspects of language proficiency, such as reading skills, are strongly related to cognitive and academic development, whereas others involving such basic interpersonal communicative skills as oral fluency and phonology, are less related to cognitive and academic development. Because of older children's greater cognitive maturity, we would expect them to display an advantage over younger children in acquiring those aspects of L2 which are strongly related to cognitive and academic skills. However, no advantage would necessarily be predicted for older learners in acquiring aspects of L2 which are unrelated to cognitive maturity. First the recent literature on this issue will be reviewed and then data from one of the lesser-known studies, that of Ramsey and Wright (1974), will be reanalysed in the light of these hypotheses.
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2. RECENT STUDIES ON AGE AND L2 LEARNING

Studies relating age to second language (L2) learning have consistently shown a clear advantage for older learners in mastery of L2 syntax and morphology as well as in the literacy-related L2 skills (e.g., vocabulary, reading comprehension) measured by conventional standardized tests (Appel, 1979; Burstall, Jamieson, Cohen and Hargreaves, 1974; Ekstrand, 1977; Ervin-Tripp, 1974; Fathman, 1975; Genesee, 1979, Skutnabb-Kangas & Toukomaa, 1976; Snow and Hoefnagel-Hohle, 1978). The findings are less clear in aspects of L2 proficiency directly related to interpersonal communicative skills, such as oral fluency, phonology and listening comprehension (Asher & Garcia, 1969; Asher & Price, 1967; Ekstrand, 1977; Fathman, 1975, Oyama, 1976, 1978; Seliger, Krashen & Ladefoged, 1975; Snow & Hoefnagel-Hohle, 1978; Walburg, Hase & Pinzur Rasher, 1978). For example, Oyama (1976, 1978) reported an advantage for younger immigrant learners (6-10 years old on arrival) on both productive phonology
Applied Linguistics, Vol. 11, No. 2

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and listening comprehension tests whereas Snow and Hoefnagel-Hohle (1978) found that older learners performed better on measures of these skills. Ekstrand (1977) reports that oral production was the only variable on which older immigrant learners did not perform significantly better than younger learners. Krashen, Long and Scarcella (1979) suggest that the apparent inconsistencies can be resolved by distinguishing rate of L2 acquisition from level of ultimate attainment. Specifically, 'adults and older children in general initially acquire the second language faster than young children (older-is-better for rate of acquisition), but child second language acquirers will usually be superior in terms of ultimate attainment (younger-is-better in the long -run)' (p. 574). Genesee (1978) similarly concludes that older children and adults are more efficient L2 learners but the greater amount of time available to younger learners may give them an advantage in the long run. The distinction made by both Krashen et al. (1979) and Genesee (1978) between rate of L2 acquisition and level of ultimate attainment is useful in clarifying the research findings. However, one is struck by the fact that it is only on measures of interpersonal communicative skills that older learners failed to demonstrate a consistent advantage over younger learners. These measures generally involved ratings and self-reports of pronunciation, fluency or general L2 proficiency. In one study (Oyama, 1978) a listening comprehension test was used to assess L2 proficiency. This trend in the research findings suggests that measures of syntax, morphology, and literacy-related skills assess a different dimension of language proficiency from measures of basic interpersonal communicative skills. In particular, the fact that older learners are most obviously distinguished from younger learners by their greater cognitive maturity implies that measures of syntax, morphology and literacy-related skills assess a cognitive dimension of language proficiency, while measures of basic interpersonal communicative skills may be less sensitive to cognitive differences between individuals. This position is supported by a large body of research showing high correlations between general intellectual abilities and many measures of language proficiency (e.g., oral and written cloze, dictation, literacy skills; see Oiler, 1979, for a review). Verbal intellectual abilities tend to show higher correlations with these language proficiency measures than do non-verbal abilities. For example, Strang (1945) reported correlations of .41-.46 between non-verbal abilities and reading and of .8O-.84 between verbal abilities and reading. However, in a first language context it is clear that not all aspects of language proficiency are related to intellectual abilities. For example, with the exception of severely retarded or perceptually impaired individuals, everybody acquires command of LI phonology and basic syntax (Chomskian competence) regardless of IQ or academic aptitude. Thus, in everyday situations there is little apparent difference between academically gifted and less bright children in terms of oralfluency,phonology or command of basic grammatical structures. However, there are large differences in ability to manipulate language in academic and formal test situations. A similar distinction between cognitive/academic language proficiency (CALP) and basic interpersonal communicative skills is apparent in several studies of L2 acquisition. Genesee (1976), for example, tested anglophone

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students in grades 4, 7 and 11 in French immersion and 'core' French programs in Montreal on a battery of French language tests. He reported that although IQ was strongly related to the development of academic French language skills (reading, grammar, vocabulary, etc.), it was, with one exception, unrelated to ratings of French oral productive skills at any grade level. The exception was pronunciation at the grade 4 level which was significantly related to IQ. Listening comprehension (measured by a standardized test) was significantly related to IQ only at the grade 7 level. Ekstrand's (1977) data from an immigrant language learning situation show a similar trend: IQ (as measured by the PMA R Factor) correlated .41-.46 with reading comprehension, dictation and free writing and .22-.27 with listening comprehension, free oral production, and pronunciation. The distinction between CALP and interpersonal communicative skills is also consistent with the findings of Skutnabb-Kangas and Toukomaa (1976) that although parents, teachers and the children themselves considered Finnish immigrant children's Swedish to be quite fluent, tests in Swedish which required cognitive operations to be carried out showed that this surface fluency was not reflected in the cognitive/academic aspects of Swedish proficiency. In summary, this analysis suggests that older L2 learners acquire L2 syntax, morphology, and literacy skills more rapidly than younger learners because these aspects of language proficiency are closely related to cognitive skills. The inconsistent findings in relation to interpersonal communicative skills may reflect several factors: first, as suggested by Kxashen et al. (1979), several studies showing advantages for younger learners did not distinguish rate of acquisition from ultimate level of attainment; second, measures of these skills may assess cognitive skills to varying degrees. For example, ratings or selfreports are less likely to assess cognitive skills than are formal tests of listening comprehension or oral production. In any formal test situation, cognitively-based test-taking skills are likely to exert some influence.
3. THE RAMSEY AND WRIGHT STUDY

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A potential problem with the preceding interpretation of the research findings lies in the results of the Ramsey and Wright (1974, also Wright and Ramsey, 1970) study of over 1,200 immigrant students in the Toronto school system who were learning English as a second language (ESL). The data were gathered as part of a survey involving 25% of the Toronto system's grade 5, 7 and 9 classrooms. Ramsey and Wright (1974) reported that students who arrived in Canada at age 6 to 7 or younger suffered no academic handicap on measures of English language skills in relation to grade norms for the Toronto System, but for those who arrived at older ages there was a clear negative relationship between age on arrival (AOA) and performance on standardized measures of English proficiency. This negative relationship appears to be inconsistent with other studies which used criterion measures of L2 CALP. The present reanalysis of these data was undertaken because the original analysis did not investigate the possible effects of length of residence (LOR) in Canada. Also, the original research reports present data only in terms of standard scores. In other words, the comparison between older and younger L2 learners is based on the rapidity with which students approached grade

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norms in English proficiency. Thus, the Ramsey and Wright findings do not necessarily contradict those of other studies since most of the other studies have compared older and younger learners in terms of absolute (raw) scores. It is possible that older learners may learn more L2 in absolute terms but still be further behind grade norms in comparison to younger learners. Based on the data presented in Wright and Ramsey (1970) and Ramsey and Wright (1972) it is possible to compare the progress of older and younger learners in terms of both standard and absolute scores with LOR controlled.
4. MEASURES OF ENGLISH PROFICIENCY

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The language tests administered in the Toronto Board of Education survey on which the Ramsey and Wright study is based, consisted of a groupadministered Picture Vocabulary Test (PVT) derived from the Ammons Picture Vocabulary Test (see Ramsey and Wright, 1972) and a six part test of English Competence (ECT) developed by the Board for the survey. "Different procedures were employed in constructing the ECT in comparison to the PVT and most other norm-referenced standardized tests (see Wright, 1969). The ECT was an experimental test developed by the Toronto Board with the aim of assessing basic 'competence' in a Chomskian sense. Thus, items were designed such that native speakers should obtain a near-perfect score. The PVT, on the other hand, was intended to distribute native speakers according to a normal curve. The ECT was designed in this way in an attempt to solve some of the problems of testing English as a second language. Vocabulary used in the test was limited to the most frequently used words and it was intended that performance on the ECT would be uncorrelated with intelligence. However, as Wright (1969) acknowledges 'the ECT is far from perfection' (p. 32). Experience with the tests showed that they 'were tapping only some aspects of performance and were thus not even close to sampling competence' (Wright, 1969, p. 4). The experimental nature of the ECT should be borne in mind when interpreting the present results. However, the fact that there is relatively little variation among native speakers in performance on the ECT (see Table 1) makes it of interest to discover how long it takes immigrant students to attain this level of native-like proficiency. 4.1. The PVT. (Picture Vocabulary Test) Detailed information on the PVT is presented in Ramsey and Wright (1972). The students were required to associate a spoken word with one of four pictures. There were 50 items in the test. Scores were distributed from 1 to 50 with a mean score for the total sample of 32.49 and a standard deviation (SD) of 6.82. In addition, there was a consistent increase in mean score across grades 5, 7 and 9 accompanied by a fairly stable variance. Test-retest reliability based on a one-week interval with 37 Grade 7 students produced a Pearsonian r of .89. 4.2. The ECT. (English Competence Test) The ECT consisted of six parts. Parts I to III were designed to test aspects of auditory perception and were prerecorded on tape. Parts IV to VI tested

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vocabulary and idiom comprehension and were in printed form. An attempt was made to limit the vocabulary in all parts of the test to the first 500 words in the Lorge-Thorndike Count. Detailed information on the ECT is available in Wright (1969). Part I: Sound Discrimination. This subtest consisted of 45 items involving minimal pairs, i.e., words that sound alike except for one phonemic difference, e.g., pit:bit. The two stimulus words were said with an interval of approximately one second between them and students had to mark on the answer sheet whether the two words were the same or different. For example: Example 1: coat coat SQ Dp
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Part II: Sound Recognition. First one word was presented and approximately two seconds later two more words were presented one of which was the same as the first word. The students' task was to indicate which of the latter two words was the same as the first. For example: Example 1: poor power poor AD The fact that the response word(s) were written on the answer sheets in Parts I and II, raises the question of whether reading skills might have been assessed in addition to auditory skills in these subtests. Part III: Intonation. This subtest was designed to test whether students could discriminate differences in intonation on hearing a given utterance. Students first heard an utterance after which they head two more utterances which gave two possible interpretations of the first utterance. These two alternatives were presented on paper as well as on tape. The correct choice was to be indicated by darkening the box adjacent to A or B. For example: I want to go home. A Home is where I want to go. B It's I who want to go home, not him.

The rationale for presenting the choices on paper in addition to on the tape was to give the students as many cues as possible to minimize difficulty in understanding the choices. However, the disadvantage of this procedure is that good readers were likely to have an advantage over poor readers and non-readers. The reading and vocabulary component of this test is likely to be especially significant among the immigrant population. In addition to the reading component, the test is also likely to assess verbal comprehension and memory skills since students need to comprehend and retain the meaning of the first utterance while the secondary utterances are being processed. The complexity of this task suggests that among the immigrant group it may be primarily assessing CALP rather than intonation. Part IV: Vocabulary (Contentives). In this subtest students had to choose the item from column B which best described each of the items in column A. Students had five minutes to do the twelve items.

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A B 1. a musical sound 2. send the football to another player 3. to watch 4. trade, work or occupation A. side 5. to give up one's turn in a game of cards B. pass 6. not at the centre C. company 7. unit of an army D. note 8. two spaceships coming together E. business 9. to be moved to a higher grade F. meeting 10. two people coming face to face 11. buying and selling 12. a short letter Part V: Vocabulary (Functors). Students were required to choose the item from column B which was appropriate for each of the items in column A. The time limit was three minutes. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. A I don't agree you. Take the book the torn pages. He is board ship. She talks a lot nonsense. second thoughts, I stayed home. He led her her arm. He went no hat on. In the morning, birds are up six. He is the Member Parliament. I was down a fever. Switch the lights. He is free pain. B

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A. B. C. D.

on by with of

Part VI: Idioms. In this ten item subtest students were required to choose one of four alternative meanings for each idiom. Example What is the meaning of.. . ? 1. I haven't seen him for ages. A. I haven't seen him for some time. B. I haven't seen him since he was four. C. I haven't seen him for a few hours. D. I haven't seen him since the meeting at which he spoke for ages. The means of the PVT and ECT subtests for the ESL immigrant and total samples are presented in Table 1. It should be noted that the total sample includes the ESL immigrant sample.
5. DESIGN AND REANALYSIS

Of the total sample of 5,386 grade 5, 7 and 9 students, 1,210 were born outside Canada and had learned English as a second language. This immigrant sample was broken down by Wright and Ramsey (1970) according to

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Table 1
Means of Language: Proficiency Measures for Grades 5, 7 and 9, ESL. Immigrant (N = 1,210) and Total Sample (N = 5,386) Grade 5 Grade 7 Grade 9

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ESL
1mmigrant Test PVT (max: 50) ECT I (Sound Discrimination, max: 45) ECT II (Sound ' Recognition, max: 45) ECT III (Intonation, max: 24) ECT IV (Contentives, max: 12) ECT V (Functors, max: 12) ECT VI (Idioms, max: 10) Mean* 24.8 38.2 37.6 15.8 7.4 Total Mean 27.9 40.2

ESL
Immigrant Total Mean 32.8 41.6

ESL
Immigrant Total Mean 37.0 41.5 42.0 19.8

SD 5.3
4.4

Mean 30.4

SD 5.1
2.6 2.8

Mean 33.7

SD 6.2 19
2.9 2.1 1.4

40.6 41.2 18.5 9.7 10.3

40.6

40.0 16.6

5.5
2.8

41.8 19.0 10.4 11.1

41.3 19.2 10.4 10.5

2.6
1.7 1.4 1.9

8.5 9.8
4.7

2.3 2.3 2.0

11.1 11.4 7.8

7.9 3.6

1.3 1.8

5.5

6.7

65

* SD's for the ESL Immigrant subgroup were not available.

Table 2
Age on Arrival and Length of Residence of Non-English Speaking Immigrant Sample (N = 1210) (Adapted from Wright and Ramsey, 1970, Tables 2, 3, and 4) A. N 31 Grade 9

AOA 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 0-1 2-3 4-5

LOR 15
13 11 9 7 5

B. N 31 59 58 28
36 67

Grade 7 LOR 13 11 9 7 5 3 1

C. N 55
62 42 47 96 94

Grade 5

LOR
11

Mean LOR 12.6 1U 9.5

87 93
58 44 42

9
7 5 3 1

6.
7. 8. 9.

6-7 8-9 10-11 12-13 14-15 16-18

7.2
4.4 2.5

72 66
07

3
1

28 02

05

2.4
1.0

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AOA (see Table 2). No information was gathered on LOR in the Toronto survey. However, given the grade level of the student and the AOA, it is possible to approximate LOR. For example, if we assume that the average age of grade 5 students is 11 years, then those who arrived in Canada at AOA 0-1 have an LOR of approximately 11 years; those who arrived at AOA 2-3 have an LOR of 9 years, etc. It is possible to work out the average LOR for each AOA group by weighting the LOR by the N across grade levels. It is clear from Table 2 that LOR decreases linearly as AOA increases. The data presented in Table 2 also show how LOR and AOA can be disentangled. It can be seen, for example, that the groups in cells Cl, B2 and A3 have the same LOR (11 years) but different AOA. Data presented in graph form by Wright and Ramsey (1970) for the different AOA groups in grades 5, 7 and 9 on the PVT and ECT subtests allow the standard scores of the groups which have the same LOR but different AOA to be compared (e.g., Cl, B2, A3; C2, B3, A4, etc.). These comparisons are presented in Figs. 1-7. Standard scores are based on the deviation of absolute (raw) scores from the grade mean of the total sample. Thus, given the grade mean and grade SD and standard scores of the different groups it is possible to work out the absolute scores. The grade means and SD's for the PVT are presented in Ramsey and Wright (1972) and those for the ECT were obtained from the records of the Research Department, Toronto Board of Education. The procedure can be illustrated by taking group C3 in Table 2 (LOR 7, AOA 4-5) as an example. The standard score of this group on the PVT is -.30; the grade 5 PVT SD is 5.31 and the mean is 27.85; therefore the PVT absolute score is 26.3. The absolute PVT and ECT scores of the different groups are presented in Figs. 8-14.

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Grade mean
LOR. 11 LOR.9

LOR.7

Unit normal deviates below grade mean

-0.5

~ ' "
LOR 1

-1.5

-2.0 0-1 2-3 4-5 6-7


AOA

8-9

10-11

12-13

14-15

Fig. 1. Age on arrival (AOA), length of residence (LOR) and picture vocabulary test (PVT) scores

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LOR 11 LOR:9

Grade mean Unit normal deviates below grade mean

0
LOR.5

-0.5

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LOR 3

-1.0
LOR 1

-1.5

-2.0 0-1 2-3 4-5 6-7


AOA

8-9

10-11

12-13

14-15

Fig. 2. English Skills I

1
Unit normal deviates below grade mean

LOR:,^__
LOR-9 LOR 7
L0R

y \
5 V>-i L0R.3 ^*

-0.5

-1.0 ^

LOR 1

-1.5 -

-2.0

0-1

2-3

4-5

6-7
AOA

8-9

10-11

12-13

14-15

Fig. 3. English Skills II

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141

LOR.9

Grade mean Unit normal deviates below grade mean

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-0.5

-1.0

-1.5

-2.0 0-1 2-3 4-5 6-7


AOA

8-9

10-11

12-13

14-15

Fig. 4. English Skills III

+ 0.5h

Grade mean Unit normal deviates below grade mean

- 0 . 5 r-

-l.Or-

-1.5 h

- 2 . 0 r12-13 14-15

Fig. 5. English Skills IV

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IMMIGRANT SECOND LANGUAGE LEARNING

Grade mean

-0.5

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Unit normal deviates below grade mean

-1.0
LOR.3

-1.5 LOR I . -2.0

-2.5

0-1

2-3

4-5

6-7
AOA

8-9

10-11

12-13

14-15

Fig. 6. English Skills V

Grade mean

Unit normal deviates below

-0.5

LOR 1 -1.0

-1.5

-2.0 -2.2 0-1 2-3 4-5 6-7


AOA

8-9

10-11

12-13

14-15

Fig. 7. English Skills VI

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143

35 Raw scores

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30

25

20

0-1

2-3

4-5

6-7
AOA

8-9

10-11

12-13

14-15

Fig. 8. Age on arrival (AOA), length of residence (LOR) and PVT raw scores

42 41

Raw scores 40 39 38 37 36 35 34

LOR: 11

LOR:7

LOR.5

LOR:3

0-1

2-3

4-5

6-7
AOA

8-9

10-11

12-13

14-15

Fig. 9. English Skills I

144
42 41

IMMIGRANT SECOND LANGUAGE LEARNING

Raw scores 40 39

LOR: 11

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38 37 36 35 34 33 0-1 2-3 4-5 6-7


AOA LOR:1

8-9

10-11

12-13

14-15

Fig. 10. EngUsh Skills II

20 19 Raw scores 18 17 16 15 14
i i i

LOR: 11

LOR.9 LOR:7
/

/ LOR:3
/

LOR:5

LOR:1 t
1 i i I

0-1

2-3

4-5

6-7
AOA

8-9

10-11

12-13

14-15

Fig. 11. EngUsh SkiUs III

12 11 Raw scores

10 9 8 7 6
LOR.-1 LOR: 11 LOR-9

0-1

2-3

4-5

6-7
AOA

8-9

10-11

12-13

14-15

Fig. 12 EngUsh SkiUs IV

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Raw scores
LOR: 11 LOR:9

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LOR:1
I I

0-1

2-3

4-5

6-7
AOA

8-9

10-11

12-13

14-15

Fig. 13. English Skills V

Raw scores 6 5 4 3 2 0-1 2-3 4-5 6-7


AOA LOR: 11 LOR:9 LOR:7

8-9

10-11

12-13

14-15

Fig. 14. English SkiUs VI

6. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

6.1. Approaching Grade Norms as a Function of AOA and LOR

It is clear from Figs. 1-7 that LOR has a substantial effect on the rate at which immigrant students approach grade norms. This effect is evident on all seven measures of English skills up to about LOR 5, after which the curve tends to flatten out close to the grade mean. This effect of LOR is largely independent of AOA. For example, on the PVT the standard scores of the 10-11 AOA group at LOR, 1, 3 and 5 are -1.25, -.95 and -.70 respectively (see Fig. 1). Possibly because of the distributions, the effects of LOR on ECT subtest performance is not always linear. In other words, there are several instances where an AOA group which has spent less time in Canada performs better than one which has been in Canada longer. For example, on ECT IV (Fig. 5) at AOA 6-7 and 8-9 the LOR 5 group performs better than the LOR 7 group. This type of 'cross-over' effect is not surprising at higher LOR values when scores are close to grade norms, since by this time LOR has ceased to have a major effect Cross-over effects are observed in only two out

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of a possible 14 comparisons between LOR 1 and LOR 3 at AOA 10-11 and 12-13 (ECT III, Fig. 4, and ECT VI, Fig. 7). Thus, in general, there is a clear overall trend for LOR to exert a significant effect on English performance up to LOR 5. By contrast, when LOR is controlled, AOA appears to have relatively little effect on the rapidity with which grade norms are approached. For example, in Fig. 1 (PVT) there is a linear decrease in PVT standard scores with increasing AOA on only one of the six comparisons (LOR = 5). The only apparent pattern is that on the PVT and on the ECT Vocabulary and Idiom comprehension measures (Parts IV, V, VI) the AOA 6-7 group performs closer to grade norms than the AOA 8-9 group at both LOR 5 and 7. Thus, the AOA 6-7 which Ramsey and Wright (1974) suggested might be a critical age on arrival does appear to have some importance in terms of progression towards grade norms. However, the negative relationship which they reported between AOA and performance after AOA 6 is clearly due primarily to LOR rather than to AOA. 6.2. 12 Acquisition as a Function of AOA and LOR. The data presented in Figs. 1-7 show that with the exception of the 8-9 AOA group (in comparison to the 6-7 AOA group) older learners make almost as rapid progress towards grade norms as younger learners. One would expect, however, that in order to do this the older learners would have learned more in absolute terms than the younger learners (compare, for example, the LI vocabulary of a 12 year old with that of a six year old). This expectation is confirmed in Figs. 8-14 which present the absolute PVT and ECT scores for the groups. The pattern which emerges for the PVT is typical of that which emerges for ECT III-VI and thus the findings for these tests can be discussed primarily with reference to Fig. 8 (PVT). Two findings emerge very clearly from Fig. 8 (as well as Figs. 11-14). First, within each LOR level there is a linear increase in absolute PVT scores with AOA; second, within each AOA level there is a linear increase in absolute PVT scores with LOR. It is also possible to compare the rates at which students of different ages acquire vocabulary. For example, those who arrived at 14-15 acquire more English vocabulary (as measured by the PVT) in one year than those who arrive at 4-5 acquire in 7 years (27.1 vs 26.3). The AOA 14-15 group, however, is 1.6 unit normal deviates below the grade mean compared to .30 for the AOA 4-5 group (see Fig. 1). The consistency of the finding of superior performance by older learners can be seen in the fact that on the PVT and ECT III-VI tests, a younger group performs better than an older group on only one out of a possible 90 comparisons with LOR controlled (18 possible comparisons per test). This single occurrence is on ECT VI, LOR 1 where the 10-11 AOA group scores slightly higher than the 12-13 AOA group. With the exception of ECT III (Intonation) all these tests were designed to measure aspects of English vocabulary skills. However, the 'Intonation' findings are not surprising in view of the likelihood that this test is measuring reading and/or verbal comprehension and memory skills. These findings are consistent with the results of previous studies in showing that older L2 learners, whose LI CALP is better developed, acquire L2 CALP more rapidly

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than younger learners. The fact that the four ECT subtests which appear to measure CALP show an almost identical pattern of results to the PVT adds weight to this conclusion. The pattern of findings for ECT I and II (Sound Discrimination and Recognition) is similar to that of the other measures as far as LOR 1 and LOR 3 are concerned. Older learners perform better than younger learners, and students in Canada for three years perform much better than those in Canada for only one year. However, unlike the other measures this pattern does not continue at higher LOR levels where the effects of both AOA and LOR diminish considerably. It is somewhat difficult to interpret the results for these two tests since their validity as pure measures of auditory perception is open to question. Correlations between the different measures would have facilitated interpretation but unfortunately these were no longer available. However, the superior performance of older learners at LOR 1 and 3 suggests either that there is a cognitive component to these tests (deriving from the small reading aspect of the tests or from a general 'test-taking' ability dimension) or alternatively, that older learners have an advantage in rate of acquisition of auditory perceptual aspects of L2 in addition to cognitive aspects. The pattern of findings in Figs. 8-14 raises the question of why AOA should be related to performance at higher LOR levels. For example, why should the AOA 2-3 group consistently perform better than the AOA 0-1 group? To attribute the difference to the greater cognitive maturity of L2 learners who arrive at older ages seems far-fetched at younger AOA levels. The question can be resolved if we recall that within each LOR level students who are in grade 9 at the time of testing always form the oldest OAO group, those in grade 7 the middle AOA group and those in grade 5 the youngest group. Thus, at higher LOR levels (over LOR 5) when students are performing close to the grade mean, the performance differences between AOA groups probably reflect cognitive differences between grades 5, 7 and 9 students at the time of testing rather than the cognitive nature of the L2 acquisition process. However, at lower LOR levels (LOR 1-5) when the L2 acquisition process is still incomplete, the differences between AOA groups in L2 cognitive/academic performance reflect differences in the cognitive/academic skills which older and younger students have brought to the task of acquiring L2. Additional support for the hypothesis that performance on the PVT and ECT III-VI tasks reflects cognitive developmental level comes from the fact that, within LOR levels, differences between grades 5 and 7 scores (low and middle AOA) tend to be greater than differences between grade 7 and 9 scores (middle and high AOA). This flattening out of the curves of L2 proficiency between ages 13 and 15 in comparison to between 11 and 13 reflects the similar decrease in rate of cognitive growth during the adolescent years.
CONCLUSIONS

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The reanalysis of the Ramsey and Wright data is consistent with virtually all previous studies in showing that older learners acquire cognitive/academic L2 skills more rapidly than younger learners. Older learners also appeared to

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IMMIGRANT SECOND LANGUAGE LEARNING

have an advantage in acquiring L2 sound discrimination and recognition skills but these findings should be treated cautiously due to the questionable validity of the tests. The finding that it takes at least five years, on the average, for immigrant children who arrive in the host country after the age of six to approach grade norms in L2 CALP has important educational implications. In many school systems ESL assistance is given to immigrant children only during their first two years in the host country. The present data suggest that, from an educational perspective, thisfigureis arbitrary and may not reflect the needs of ESL children. A second implication is that psychological or educational assessment of immigrant children in L2 within their first five years in the host country is likely to seriously underestimate their potential academic abilities. In many school systems formal testing of immigrant students is not carried out during the first two years in the host country. Again, however, the figure of two years is arbitrary and does not reflect immigrant children's rate of L2 CALP acquisition. Finally, it should be noted that the present findings are not necessarily generalizable outside the Canadian social context, and even within that context may not hold for particular immigrant groups. A complex array of social, educational, affective and cognitive factors determine L2 acquisition by immigrant children and differences in these factors and their interactions will be reflected in differences in patterns of L2 acquisition. This is illustrated by the fact that Skutnabb-Kangas and Toukomaa (1976) report that Finnish immigrant children who were either born in Sweden or who arrived before the age of 8 reached a plateau in Swedish language proficiency considerably below Swedish norms. These findings differ markedly from those in the present study where children who arrived before the age of six tended to perform at grade norms in L2 proficiency. (Received June 1980)
NOTES
1

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Preparation of this paper was made possible by a grant to the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education by the Canadian Ethnic Studies Committee of the Multiculturalism Directorate for a Visiting Professorship in Third Language and Multiculturalism Studies. I would like to thank Dr. E. N. Wnght of the Toronto Board of Education for his very helpful suggestions in relation to the secondary analysis of the data and for making available additional information on the psychometric properties of the tests. REFERENCES

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