CHAPTER 3 AGE AND ACQUISITION PPT

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CHAPTER 3. AGE AND
ACQUISITION
by: Marisol Barraza
Do children and adulthood, and differences between them, hold
some keys to language acquisition models and theories?
INTRODUCTION
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The increased pace of research on first
language acquisition in the last half of
the twentieth century attracted the
attention of:
linguists
educators
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Learning a second language, particularly in
an educational setting, can meet with great
difficulty and sometimes failure, so learning
something from a systematic study of first
language learning experience can help us
understand things better.
Important questions that need
answers:
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How should second language teachers
interpret the many facets and sometimes
conflicting findings of first language research?
Do childhood and adulthood, and the
differences between them, hold some keys to
language acquisition models and theories?
DISPELLING MYTHS
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The first step in investigating age and
acquisition might be to dispel some myths
about the relationship between first and
second language acquisition.
DISPELLING MYTHS
H. H. Stern summarized some common arguments that cropped
to recommend a second language teaching method or procedure
on the basis of first language acquisition:
1. Repetition.
2. Imitation.
3. Natural order. (sounds >words > sentences)
4. Speech development. (listen > speaking. Understanding always
precedes speaking.)
5. Natural. Order. (listening > speaking > reading > writing)
6. There shouldn’t be any translation.
7. It is unnecessary to use grammatical conceptualization in
teaching.
1.
REPETITION: In language teaching, we must practice and
practice, again and again. Just watch a small child learning his
mother tongue. He repeats things over and over again. During
the language learning stage' he practices all the time. This is
what we must also do when we learn a foreign language.
2. IMITATION: Language learning is mainly a matter of imitation.
You must be a mimic. Just like a small child. He imitates
everything.
3. NATURAL ORDER: First, we practice the separate sounds, then
words, then sentences. That is the natural order and is therefore
right for learning a foreign language.
4. SPEECH DEVELOPMENT: Watch a small child's speech
development. First he listens, then he speaks. Understanding
always precedes speaking. Therefore, this must be the right
order of presenting the skills in a foreign language.
5. NATURAL ORDER: A small child listens and speaks and no one
would dream of making him read or write. Reading and writing
are advanced stages of language development. The natural order
for first and second language learning is listening, speaking,
reading, and then writing.
6. TRANSLATION: You did not have to translate when you were
small. If you were able to learn your own language without
translation, you should be able to learn a foreign language in the
same way.
7. GRAMMAR: A small child simply uses language. He does not
learn formal grammar. You don't tell him about verbs and nouns.
Yet he learns the language perfectly. It is equally unnecessary to
use grammatical conceptualization in teaching a foreign
language.
DISPELLING MYTHS
These statements imply two things:
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They represent the views of those who felt that "the first language
learner was looked upon as the foreign language teacher's dream: a
student who mysteriously laps up his vocabulary, whose
pronunciation, in spite of occasional lapses, is impeccable, while
morphology and syntax, instead of being a constant headache, come to
him like a dream" (Stern, 1970, cited in Brown, 2000, p.50).
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They also tend to represent the views of those who were dominated by
a behavioristic theory of language in which the first language
acquisition process was viewed as consisting of rote practice, habit
formation, shaping, overlearning, reinforcement, conditioning,
association, stimulus and response, and who therefore assumed that
the second language learning process involves the same constructs.
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This shows us that we need to enrich our understanding of the second
language learning process itself.
So what happened? What is the
history behind all this?
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As cognitive and constructivist research on
first language acquisition, second language
researchers and foreign language teachers
began to recognize the mistakes in drawing
direct global analogies between first and
second language acquisition.
One mistake was identified by David
Ausubel (1964, cited in Brown, 2000, p. 51).
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Ausubel outlined a number of problems with the thenpopular Audiolingual Method. He issued the following
warnings and statements:
The rote learning practice of audiolingual drills lacked
the meaningfulness necessary for successful first and
second language acquisition.
Adults learning a foreign language could, with their full
cognitive capacities, benefit from deductive
presentations of grammar.
The native language of the learner is not just an
interfering factor- it can facilitate learning a second
language.
The written form of the language could be beneficial.
Students could be overwhelmed by language spoken at
its “natural speed”, and they, like children, could benefit
from more deliberative speech from the teacher.
TYPES OF COMPARISON AND
CONTRAST
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The comparison of first and second language acquisition
can easily be oversimplified. At the very least, one needs
to approach the comparison by first considering the
differences between children and adults:
It is, in one sense, illogical to compare the first language
acquisition of a child with the second language acquisition
of an adult.
It is much more logical to compare first and second
language learning in children or to compare second
language learning in children and adults.
Nevertheless, Child 1st language acquisition and adult
2nd language acquisition are common and important
categories of acquisition to compare.
THE CRITICAL PERIOD
HYPOTHESIS
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Critical period: a biologically determined period of line when language can be
acquired more easily and beyond which time language is increasingly difficult
to acquire.
Eric Lenneberg (1967) argued tat the LAD, like other biological functions,
works successfully only when it is stimulated at the right time – a time which
is referred to as the critical period‟
This notion that there is a specific and limited time period for language
acquisition is referred to as the critical period hypothesis (CPH).
There are two versions of the CPH:
The strong version suggests that children must acquire their first language by
puberty or they will never be able to learn from subsequent exposure.
The weak version is that language learning will be more difficult and
incomplete after puberty.
The Critical Period Hypothesis (CPH) claims that there is such a biological
timetable.
Initially the notion of a critical period was connected only to first language
acquisition.
This must be viewed in the light of what it really means to be successful in
learning a second language.
NEUROLOGICAL
CONSIDERATIONS
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How might neurological development affect
second language success?
Does the maturation of the brain at some stage
spell the doom of language acquisition ability?
To examine these issues, we will look at:
Neurological considerations
Phonological considerations
Cognitive considerations
Affective considerations
Linguistic considerations
Hemispheric Lateralization
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Left hemisphere seems to control intellectual,
logical, and analytic functions including language
functions, while right hemisphere controls functions
related to emotional and social needs.
Then when does this lateralization take place, and
how does that lateralization process affect language
acquisition?
Some scholars contended the lateralization is
completed about at the age of puberty, and some
said it’s about five.
Thomas Scovel applied this lateralization concept to
the second language acquisition.
Biological Timetables
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Thomas Scovel cited evidence for a sociobiological
critical period in various specis of mammals and birds.
He concluded that human beings’ native accents may be
a genetic left-over just like animals’.
Walsh and Diller concluded that different aspects of a
second language are learned optimally at different ages:
Lower-order processes are dependent on early maturing
and less adaptive macroneural circuits, while higherorder language functions are more dependent on late
mature neural circuits.
However, those were mainly about the acquisition of an
authentic “accent.”
Right-Hemispheric Participation
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Another branch of neurolinguistic research focused on
the role of the right hemisphere in the acquisition of a
second language.
Olber noted that in second language learning, there is
significant right hemisphere participation especially at
early stages.
Genesee concluded that there may be greater right
hemisphere involvement in language processing in
bilinguals who acquire their second language late
relative to their first language and in bilinguals
Second language learners, particularly adult learners,
might benefit from more encouragement of right brain
activity in the classroom context.
Anthropological Evidence
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Jane Hill cited anthropological research on
non-Western societies that yielded evidence
that adults can acquire second languages
perfectly.
Sorenson studied the Tukano culture of South
America and reported that during adolescence,
individuals actively and almost suddenly began
to speak two or three other languages to which
they had been exposed at some point.
Hill suggested that we have to explore the
influence of social and cultural roles.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF ACCENT
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Although there are some exceptions, most of the evidence
indicates that persons beyond the age of puberty do not acquire
authentic pronunciation of the second language.
There had been some studies to contradict Scovel’s strong CPH
such as Gerald Newfeld’s, Moyer and Bongaerts, Planket, and
Schils.
However, these studies at the end have left the strong CPH
unchallenged.
We are left with powerful evidence of a critical period for accent,
but for accent only! Great accent only doesn’t mean that the
learner is a successful second language learner.
Even though poor at accent, one can have fluent control of a
second language.
Instead of focusing only on the accent, studies on the effect of
input, on lexical acquisition, on UG, and on discourse acquisition
are very important research fields on age and acquisition.
COGNITIVE CONSIDERATIONS
Jean Piaget outlined the course of intellectual
development in a child through various stages:
• Sensorimotor stage (birth to two)
• Preoperational stage (ages two to seven)
• Operational stage (ages seven to sixteen)
• Concrete operational stage (ages seven to
eleven)
• Formal operational stage (ages eleven to
sixteen)
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A critical stage concerning SL acquisition is at puberty (age eleven in his
model).
At eleven, a person becomes capable of abstraction, of formal thinking which
transcends concrete experience and direct perception.
According to this model, one can expect that adults could profit from certain
grammatical explanations and deductive thinking.
But children do learn SL well without this benefit. How? Young children are
generally not “aware” that they are learning, while adults are too consciously
aware of it. Does this make learning SL difficult? There were evidences of
successful adult SL learners.
So, if mature cognition is a liability to successful SL acquisition, clearly some
intervening variables allow some persons to be very successful SL learners
after puberty.
There are many areas to consider when studying the cognitive differences
between child and adult language acquisition.
One is lateralization hypothesis, another is the Piagetian notion of
equilibration, which is related to the concept of equilibrium, the other is the
distinction that Ausebel made between rote and meaningful learning.
Caracteristics of the
Sensorimotor Stage:
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The first stage of Piaget’s theory lasts from birth to
approximately age two and is centered on the infant
trying to make sense of the world.
During the sensorimotor stage, an infant’s
knowledge of the world is limited to their sensory
perceptions and motor activities.
Behaviors are limited to simple motor responses
caused by sensory stimuli.
Children utilize skills and abilities they were born
with, such as looking, sucking, grasping, and
listening, to learn more about the environment.
Characteristics of the
Preoperational Stage:
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The preoperational stage occurs between
ages two and six.
Language development is one of the
hallmarks of this period.
Piaget noted that children in this stage do
not yet understand concrete logic, cannot
mentally manipulate information, and are
unable to take the point of view of other
people, which he termed egocentrism.
Characteristics of Concrete
Operations:
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The concrete operational stage begins
around age seven and continues until
approximately age eleven.
During this time, children gain a better
understanding of mental operations.
Children begin thinking logically about
concrete events, but have difficulty
understanding abstract or hypothetical
concepts.
Characteristics of the Formal
Operational Stage:
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The formal operational stage begins at
approximately age twelve to and lasts into
adulthood.
During this time, people develop the ability
to think about abstract concepts.
Skills such as logical thought, deductive
reasoning, and systematic planning also
emerge during this stage.
AFFECTIVE CONSIDERATIONS
The affective domain includes many factors.
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A case in point is the role of egocentricity. Very young children highly
egocentric. In preadolescence children develop an acute consciousness of
themselves as separate and identifiable entities but ones which need
protecting. They therefore develop inhibitions about this self-identity.
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For any monolingual person, the language ego involves the interaction of the
native language and ego development.
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Guiora suggested that the language ego may account for the difficulties that
adults have in learning a SL. A new language does not pose a threat or
inhibition to the ego of a child.
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Younger children are less frightened because they are less aware of language
forms, and the possibility of making mistakes in those forms does not concern
them greatly. But mature adults manifest a number of inhibitions.
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Among other affective factors is ego identification. The role of attitudes is
another important factor. Younger children are more likely to succeed in
learning other languages because they don’t have negative attitudes toward
races or cultures yet.
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Finally, children are under high peer pressure. They want to be like the rest of
the kids. It can lead them to learn the second language.
Affective considerations
Empathy, self-esteem, extroversion, inhibition, imitation,
anxiety, attitudes, egocentricity.
A. language ego
 The child’s ego is dynamic and growing and flexible
through the age of puberty.
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Mature adults manifest a number of inhibitions.
B. Attitudes
 Very young children are not developed enough
cognitively enough to possess attitudes.
C. Peer pressure
 Adults tend to tolerate linguistic differences more
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than children.
LINGUISTIC CONSIDERATIONS
Bilingualism
 Children learning two languages
simultaneously acquire them by the use of
similar strategies.
 They are learning two first languages.
 Researches show a considerable cognitive
benefit of early childhood bilingualism,
supporting that bilingual children are more
facile at concept formation and have a greater
mental flexibility.
LINGUISTIC CONSIDERATIONS
Interference Between First and Second
Languages
 The linguistic and cognitive processes of
second language learning in young children
are in general similar to first language
processes.
 Similar strategies and linguistic features are
present in both first and second language
learning in children.
Interference Between First and
Second Languages
Interference in Adults
 Adults appear to operate from the solid foundation
of the first language and thus manifest more
interference.
 But adults, too, manifest errors not unlike some of
the errors children make.
 The first language, however, may be more readily
used to bridge gaps that the adult learner cannot fill
by generalization within the SL.
 In this case the first language can be a facilitating
factor, and not just an interfering factor.
LINGUISTIC CONSIDERATIONS
Order of Acquisition
 Researchers claimed that transfer of L1 syntactic patterns rarely
occurs in child second language acquisition.
 Children learning a SL use a creative construction process, just
as they do in their first language.
 Data about the acquisition order of eleven English morphemes
in children learning English as a SL supported this claim.
 “The younger, the better” is a myth that has been fueled by
media hype and, sometimes, “junk science.”
 There appear to be some potential advantages to an early age
for SLA, but there is absolutely no evidence that an adult cannot
overcome all of those disadvantages save one, accent, and the
latter is hardly the quintessential criterion for effective
interpersonal communication.
ISSUES IN FIRST LANGUAGE
ACQUISITION REVISITED
What are the implications of the following
issues for SLA?
ISSUES IN FIRST LANGUAGE
ACQUISITION REVISITED
Competence and Performance
 It is as difficult to get at linguistic
competence in a second language as it is in a
first.
 Therefore, teachers need to be cautiously
attentive to the discrepancy between
performance on a given day or in a given
context and competence in a SL in general.
ISSUES IN FIRST LANGUAGE
ACQUISITION REVISITED
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Comprehension and Production
Teaching involves attending to both
comprehension and production and the full
consideration of the gaps and differences
between the two.
ISSUES IN FIRST LANGUAGE
ACQUISITION REVISITED
Nature or Nurture?
 Adults and children alike appear to have the
capacity to acquire a SL at any age; though
accent is a different matter.
 If an adult does not acquire a SL successfully, it
is probably because of intervening cognitive or
affective variables.
 Defining those intervening variables appears to
be more relevant than probing the properties
of innateness.
ISSUES IN FIRST LANGUAGE
ACQUISITION REVISITED
Universals
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Some researchers strongly claim the
existence of Universal Grammar.
But there’re also partial- or no-access claim.
So keeping an open mind as teachers and an
inquisitive spirit as researchers is required.
ISSUES IN FIRST LANGUAGE
ACQUISITION REVISITED
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Systematicity and Variability
SLA, both child and adult, is characterized
by both systematicity and variability.
ISSUES IN FIRST LANGUAGE
ACQUISITION REVISITED
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Language and Thought
Language helps to shape thinking and vice
versa.
The second language teacher needs to be
acutely aware of cultural thought patterns
as well.
ISSUES IN FIRST LANGUAGE
ACQUISITION REVISITED
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Imitation
Meaningful contexts, rather than surface
structure, for language learning are
necessary.
ISSUES IN FIRST LANGUAGE
ACQUISITION REVISITED
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Practice
Contextualized, appropriate, meaningful
communication is the best possible practice.
ISSUES IN FIRST LANGUAGE
ACQUISITION REVISITED
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Input
Teachers should be deliberate and
meaningful in their communications with
students.
That input should foster meaningful
communicative use of the lg in appropriate
contexts.
ISSUES IN FIRST LANGUAGE
ACQUISITION REVISITED
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Discourse
Research on the acquisition of discourse is
very important.

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