This unsourced knowledge suggests the existence of a universal grammar. There is considerable variation in the rate at which people learn second languages, and in the language level that they ultimately reach. Some learners learn quickly and reach a near-native level of competence, but others learn slowly and get stuck at relatively early stages of acquisition, despite living in the country where the language is spoken for several years. The reason for this disparity was first addressed with the study of language learning aptitude in the s, and later with the good language learner studies in the s.
More recently research has focused on a number of different factors that affect individuals' language learning, in particular strategy use, social and societal influences, personality, motivation, and anxiety. The relationship between age and the ability to learn languages has also been a subject of long-standing debate.
The issue of age was first addressed with the critical period hypothesis. However, the exact age marking the end of the critical period is debated, and ranges from age 6 to 13, with many arguing that it is around the onset of puberty. However, in general, adolescent and adult learners of a second-language rarely achieve the native-like fluency that children who acquire both languages from birth display, despite often progressing faster in the initial stages.
This has led to speculation that age is indirectly related to other, more central factors that affect language learning. Children who acquire two languages from birth are called simultaneous bilinguals. In these cases, both languages are spoken to the children by their parents or caregivers and they grow up knowing the two languages. These children generally reach linguistic milestones at the same time as their monolingual peers. People often assume that a sequential bilingual's first language is their most proficient language, but this is not always the case.
Over time and experience, a child's second language may become his or her strongest. Proficiency for both simultaneous and sequential bilinguals is dependent upon the child's opportunities to engage in meaningful conversations in a variety of contexts. Often simultaneous bilinguals are more proficient in their languages than sequential bilinguals. One argument for this is that simultaneous bilinguals develop more distinct representations of their languages, especially with regards to phonological and semantic levels of processing.
Learning a language earlier in life would help develop these distinct representations of language, as the learner's first language would be less established. Conversely, learning a language later in life would lead to more similar semantic representations. Although child learners more often acquire native-like proficiency, older child and adult learners often progress faster in the initial stages of learning. Once surpassed, older learners often display clear language deficiencies compared to child learners. This has been attributed to having a solid grasp on the first language or mother tongue they were first immersed into.
Having this cognitive ability already developed can aid the process of learning a second language since there is a better understanding of how language works. The exact language deficiencies that occur past a certain age are not unanimously agreed upon. Some believe that only pronunciation is affected, while others believe other abilities are affected as well. However, some differences that are generally agreed upon include older learners having a noticeable accent, a smaller vocabulary, and making several linguistic errors.
One explanation for this difference in proficiency between older learners and younger learners involves Universal Grammar. Universal Grammar is a debated theory that suggests that people have innate knowledge of universal linguistic principles that is present from birth. The rules and principles that guide the use of the learners' native language plays a role in the way the second language is developed. Some nonbiological explanations for second-language acquisition age differences include variations in social and psychological factors, such as motivation; the learner's linguistic environment; and the level of exposure.
Even with less advantageous nonbiological influences, many young children attain a greater level of proficiency in their second language than older learners with more advantageous nonbiological influences. Considerable attention has been paid to the strategies learners use to learn a second language. Strategies have been found to be of critical importance, so much so that strategic competence has been suggested as a major component of communicative competence.
Learning strategies are techniques used to improve learning, such as mnemonics or using a dictionary. Communicative strategies are strategies a learner uses to convey meaning even when he or she doesn't have access to the correct form, such as using pro-forms like thing , or using non-verbal means such as gestures. If learning strategies and communicative strategies are used properly language acquisition is successful.
Some points to keep in mind while learning an additional language are: providing information that is of interest to the student, offering opportunities for the student to share their knowledge and teaching appropriate techniques for the uses of the learning resources available. Another strategy may include intentional ways to acquire or improve their second language skills. The learner's attitude to the learning process has also been identified as being critically important to second-language acquisition.
Anxiety in language-learning situations has been almost unanimously shown to be detrimental to successful learning. Anxiety interferes with the mental processing of language because the demands of anxiety-related thoughts create competition for mental resources. This results in less available storage and energy for tasks required for language processing.
Further, the apprehension created as a result of anxiety inhibits the learner's ability to retrieve and produce the correct information. A related factor, personality, has also received attention. There has been discussion about the effects of extravert and introvert personalities. Extraverted qualities may help learners seek out opportunities and people to assist with L2 learning, whereas introverts may find it more difficult to seek out such opportunities for interaction.
Further, while extraversion might be beneficial through its encouragement of learning autonomously, it may also present challenges as learners may find reflective and time-management skills to be difficult. Other personality factors, such as conscientiousness , agreeableness , and openness influence self-regulation, which helps L2 learners engage, process meaning, and adapt their thoughts, feelings, and actions to benefit the acquisition process. Both genetics and the learner's environment impact the personality of the learner, either facilitating or hindering an individual's ability to learn.
Social attitudes such as gender roles and community views toward language learning have also proven critical. Language learning can be severely hampered by cultural attitudes, with a frequently cited example being the difficulty of Navajo children in learning English [ citation needed ]. Also, the motivation of the individual learner is of vital importance to the success of language learning. Motivation is influenced by goal salience , valence , and self-efficacy.
However, motivation is dynamic and, as a L2 learner's fluency develops, their extrinsic motivation may evolve to become more intrinsic. Further, a supportive learning environment facilitates motivation through the increase in self-confidence and autonomy. Attrition is the loss of proficiency in a language caused by a lack of exposure to or use of a language.
One way it does this is by using L1 as a tool to navigate the periods of change associated with acquisition and attrition. A learner's L2 is not suddenly lost with disuse, but its communicative functions are slowly replaced by those of the L1. Similar to second-language acquisition, second-language attrition occurs in stages.
However, according to the regression hypothesis, the stages of attrition occur in reverse order of acquisition. With acquisition, receptive skills develop first, and then productive skills, and with attrition, productive skills are lost first, and then receptive skills. Age, proficiency level, and social factors play a role in the way attrition occurs. However, if a child has established a high level of proficiency, it may take them several years to lose the language.
Proficiency level seems to play the largest role in the extent of attrition. For very proficient individuals, there is a period of time where very little, if any, attrition is observed. For some, residual learning might even occur, which is the apparent improvement within the L2.
A cognitive psychological explanation for this suggests that a higher level of proficiency involves the use of schemas , or mental representations for linguistic structures. Schemas involve deeper mental processes for mental retrieval that are resistant to attrition. As a result, information that is tied to this system is less likely to experience less extreme attrition than information that is not.
In particular, motivation and attitude influence the process. Higher levels of motivation, and a positive attitude toward the language and the corresponding community may lessen attrition. This is likely due to the higher level of competence achieved in L2 when the learner is motivated and has a positive attitude.
While considerable SLA research has been devoted to language learning in a natural setting, there have also been efforts made to investigate second-language acquisition in the classroom. This kind of research has a significant overlap with language education , and it is mainly concerned with the effect that instruction has on the learner.
It also explores what teachers do, the classroom context, the dynamics of classroom communication. It is both qualitative and quantitative research. The research has been wide-ranging. There have been attempts made to systematically measure the effectiveness of language teaching practices for every level of language, from phonetics to pragmatics, and for almost every current teaching methodology.
This research has indicated that many traditional language-teaching techniques are extremely inefficient. Rather, to become proficient in the second language, the learner must be given opportunities to use it for communicative purposes. Another area of research has been on the effects of corrective feedback in assisting learners.
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This has been shown to vary depending on the technique used to make the correction, and the overall focus of the classroom, whether on formal accuracy or on communication of meaningful content. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article is about natural acquisition of a second language. For classroom learning, see Language education. Outline History Index. Grammatical theories. Main article: Interlanguage. Main article: Order of acquisition.
Main article: Language transfer. Main article: Individual variation in second-language acquisition. Main article: Second-language attrition. Main article: Second-language acquisition classroom research. Linguistics portal Languages portal. Main article: Outline of second-language acquisition. Bilingualism neurology Dynamic approach to second language development International auxiliary language Language learning aptitude Language acquisition Language complexity List of common misconceptions about language learning List of language acquisition researchers Native-language identification Psycholinguistics Second-language attrition Sociolinguistics Theories of second-language acquisition Vocabulary learning.
This strict separation of learning and acquisition is widely regarded as an oversimplification by researchers today, but his hypotheses were very influential and the name has stuck. See Krashen for a review of these studies. Sharwood Smith and Kellerman preferred the term crosslinguistic influence to language transfer. They argued that cross-linguistic influence was neutral regarding different theories of language acquisition, whereas language transfer was not.
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