The effects of age on second language acquisition
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The Effects of Age on Second Language Acquisition. Vanessa Stratton. Introduction. Many languages in world Many reasons to learn a second language Factors that benefit language learners are important. Research Question. Does age affect the ability to learn a second or foreign language?

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  • Many languages in world

  • Many reasons to learn a second language

  • Factors that benefit language learners are important

Research question
Research Question

Does age affect the ability to learn a second or foreign language?

  • Critical Period Hypothesis

  • Age at Time of Acquisition

  • Amount of Exposure to the Language

Literature review
Literature Review

  • Critical Period Hypothesis (Tran, 2009)

    • Developed from studies: “window” and after very difficult for native-like proficiency.

  • Birdsong (1992)

    • 15 / 20 Adult French Learners “native like” proficiency

  • Bongaerts (1999)

    • Successful English Learners > Native Speakers Scores

    • Native Speakers Had Best Scores

    • Some Adult Learners Had Native Like Proficiency


  • Critical Period Hypothesis

    • Varying results = No clear answer to validity

    • Adult learners achieved native like proficiency

    • Possibility: Easier/more likely for younger learners

    • Results: Does not prevent adult learners

  • Important to note: Results of High Scores = Exceptional and Successful Learners

Literature review1
Literature Review

Krashen, Long and Scarcella


  • Younger arrivals =

    closest to native speech level

    Older = furthest

  • Correlation for accent

    and age of arrival

  • No correlation for accent

    and years in US

Literature review2
Literature Review

  • Bowers and Kennison, (2011)

    • 36 Spanish–English bilinguals

    • L1 to L2 and L2 to L1

    • Quicker translation for words acquired early on

Literature review3
Literature Review

  • Huang and Jun (2011)

    • 3 groups of Mandarin-speaking immigrant with varying AoAin US

    • Native English speakers in control group

    • Participants read a paragraph in English

    • Results: Adult arrivals deviate most from native speakers, read slower than Native and Child Arrivals


  • The amount of exposure was constant

  • Early AoA showed an ability for a higher proficiency in the second language

  • Efficiency in translation processing achieved by younger learners

  • Some studies show Adult learners have cognitive abilities over child learners.

  • Adult learners initially learned faster in structured learning setting


  • No clear evidence validating CPH

    • Suggestion: Modified to acknowledge abilities of adult learners

  • The evidence shows there is a benefit to younger second language acquirers.

  • The advantages of younger learners appear to be related most strongly to speed of processing, fluency, pronunciation and aural perception (Jarvis, 2009).

  • More research must be done to better understand the reasoning of this advantage and the extent of it.


  • Huang, Becky H.; Jun, Sun-Ah (2011, September). The Effect of Age on the

    Acquisition of Second Language Prosody. Retrieved from


  • Muñoz, Carmen (2008, September) Age-related differences in foreign language

    learning. Revisiting the empirical evidence. Retrieved from cc17-584f-416f-b3ee-eecd7200670d%40sessionmgr15&vid=21&hid=13

  • Tran, Thu Hoang (2009). The Critical Period and Second Language Acquisition.

    Retrieved from

  • Bowers, J. Michael; Kennison, Shelia M. (2011, August). The role of age of

    Acquisition in bilingual word translation: Evidence from Spanish-English

    bilinguals. Retrieved from


  • Jarvis, Scott. (2009, September) Review of 'Age and the rate of foreign language

    learning'. Retrieved from

  • Krashen, Stephen, D., Michael, H. Long, and Robin C. Scarcella (1979). Age, rate,

    and eventual attainment in second language acquisition. TESOL Quarterly 13 (4): 573–582. Retrieved from