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Individual Differences in Second Language Learning Learner Beliefs Another way in which Second Language Acquisition is affected is by the

learners preconception of the way they think they should be taught. If there is a crash between the approach the teacher is using and the students idea of appropriate teaching, the students might think that they havent reached an acceptable academic progress. This ideas might be the result of a past learning experience or a preconceived idea of what really works and what not. Most adults think that mastery of grammar skills should be accomplish in order to communicate correctly. If a teacher uses a communicative approach, where the focus is on oral production, or a Task - Based Language Learning approach, where the focus on the students ability to perform a task with the use of the target language, it might be a little uncomfortable for the students to adapt to them. Since the students perceptions might affect their learning experience and the way they prepare themselves to learn, its recommended to be flexible integrate different teaching approaches to accommodate the students expectations and expand their learning strategies. Age of Acquisition and the Critical Period Hypothesis Another characteristic to be considered in the acquisition of a second language is the age factor. As we all know the Critical Period Hypothesis says that there is a time in which learning a second language is more successful because the brain is prone to language acquisition. When an older person learns a second language his/her learning is based not on an innate predisposition to learn the language, but on other methods or general learning abilities. In addition to innate capabilities, there are other conditions that contribute to the differences between a younger learner and an adult learner. A young child doesnt have the pressure that an adult might have when learning a second language. While a childs effort is praised whether its correct or not, adults might feel embarrassed if they make a mistake, holding themselves back during the learning process. Another view on this issue is that when in similar conditions adults tend to make more progress in the first learning stages of second language acquisition than children, because of other skills already mastered such as memory strategies, problem-solving skills among others. It is also said that when second language learners start at a younger age they have more probability of achieving native-like mastery of the language, while older learners often have a more evident foreign accent. Studies have been made to ascertain whether learning a second language afte4r the critical period has effects on more than the accent. Patkowski conducted a research in

which he taped 67 highly educated immigrants that have learned English at different ages, but that have lived in the United States for more than 5 years. What he believed he would conclude was that those who learned English before 15 would achieve native like mastery of the language. In addition, he taped 15 native speakers of English with a similar level of education. Each person was interviewed and recorded, then he transcribed those interviews to eliminate the possibility of the participants to be evaluated by their accents and submitted them to be rated by trained native speakers. They were to evaluate each speaker in terms of language knowledge in a rate from 0 to 5. The results obtained where that all native speakers and 32 of 33 second language speakers that learned the language before 15 were given ratings of 4-5. The ones that learned after puberty where rated around 3. The study shows a close relationship between age of acquisition and mastery of the second language other than accent. Another study made by Jacqueline Johnson and Elissa Newport found a relationship between age of immigration and language proficiency. In this study Johnson and Newport studied 46 Chinese and Korean speakers who had started to learn English at different ages. All them students or faculty of American universities and that have been at least 3 years in the United States. They also included 23 native speakers. The participants had to listen to a series of sentences and tell whether they were grammatical or not. The results were similar to that of Patkowski, those who learned the language before puberty achieved highest scores. Rate of learning Another factor studied was which age group achieved faster learning depending on the amount of time. Catherine Snow and Marian Hoefnaggel- Hohlle conducted a study using different group ages. They were all learners of Dutch and measured at different lengths of time first at 6 months of exposure, then at intervals of 4-5 months. The adolescents were the group with the highest score followed by the adults. At the end of the study the adolescents where still ahead, but the young ones were catching up. It has been argued that skills measured where difficult for the younger children, even for Dutch children and that given more time they would eventually be ahead. This study is useful because it shows that adolescents and adults can make considerable progress learning a second language when they use it in social, personal, professional, or academic interaction. When should a second language be acquired? If the purpose is native like mastery of the language it may be good to start at an early age, but the exposure should not interfere with the acquisition of the first language. If the purpose is solely for communication is effective to start later.