The Influence of Age Factors on Second Language Acquisition Xu Bailin
Abstract: In second language acquisition, age factors has always been the study focus and one of the most controversial issues of linguistics. Based on the Brain Plasticity Theory and the Critical Period Hypothesis, the purpose is to prove such a hypothesis that the younger the leaner who begins to learn an second language,the greater the probability that he or she will achieve a native-like command of it.
Key word: second language acquisition age factors
1.1 The Definition of Second Language Acquisition
In order to investigate and understand the factors of second language acquisition (SLA for short), it is important to establish clearly what the meaning of the term “SLA” is. SLA refers to the subconscious or conscious processes by which a language other than mother tongue is learnt in a natural or a tutored or a classroom setting; it covers the development of phonology, lexis, grammar, pragmatics and other knowledge . There are two distinctions concerning the definition of SLA that need to be attached great importance so that what positions researchers have taken up in order to study how an L2 is learnt will be clear. Firstly, it is very important to make a distinction amomg the terms “seconde language”, “foreign language” and “targe language”. Technically, learning an second language takes place in a country where the language is widely used, while leaning a “foreign language” takes placein a country where it is not an everyday medim. For example, when the English language is learnt by a learner whose mother tongue is Chinese in the United States, it is called an second language; when learnt in China, it is called a “foreign language”. The term “target language” simply refers to that language being learned, whether as an L2 or a foreign language. Secondly, second language acquisition is also sometimes contrasted with second language learning by some reasearchers especially Krashen on the assumption that these are different processes. The term “acquisition”, they think, refers to picking up an L2 through exposure, whereas the term “learning” refers to the conscious study of an L2. 1.2 Age Factor in Second Language Acquisition
Age has been most frequently used in discussions of differences between kids and adults in SLA. This is partly due to the ease which it can be measured unlike other general factors. Another reason is probably the commonly held belief that kids are better language learners than adults. SLA researchers often regard puberty as the critical point for acquisition, which refers to the stage of adolescence, usually from 13 to 15 years old. In Lenneberg’s study of biological foundations of language, subjects are divided into six grades according to age stage: 0 to 3 months (emergence of cooing)
4 to 20 months ( from babbling to words)
21 to 36 months (acquisition of language structure)
3 to 10 years ( grammatical refinement and expansion of vocabulary) 11 to 14 years ( foreign accents in L2 learning)
Mid-teens-senium (SLA is increasingly difficult).
He also notes that foreign accents become likely in SLA around puberty, and SLA becomes increasingly difficult around post-puberty. 2 General Theories of Age Factors in SLA
2.1 Brain Plasticity Theory
In the study of SLA, Brain Plasticity Theory of penfield and Roberts is often used as a biological basis for explaning the phenomenon that the younger the better in L2 learning. The notion of “plasticity” comes from a study of aphasia kids who suffer from partial or total loss of the ability to articulate ideas or comprehend or spoken or writen language, resulting from damage to the brain caused by injury or some diseases. It refers to...
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