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Are Children Better Language Learners? Essay

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Are children better language learners? Discuss the age factor in second language learning and consider more recent research which sees age not in absolute terms, but in relation to other aspects of language learning.

There has been much research conducted in the field of second language acquisition relating to the age factor, and it seems that the link between the two has been altered over time. To understand how and why this shift has occurred, it will be helpful to look at some of the older theories that hypothesise the idea of a critical period in which a second language is acquired, and compare this notion to more recent studies that provide a basis for the conclusion that age is not necessarily a critical factor in successful second language learning and that the idea that ‘younger = better’ is not absolute.

Firstly, it will be useful to us to examine an older view of the age factor and the importance that it is said to play in one’s ability to learn a second language, as it provides a more binary idea of the variable of age in L2 learning; i.e. ‘younger = better’. The main basis for the argument that age plays a fundamental role in successful acquisition of native-like proficiency in a second language lies in the exploration of the Critical Period Hypothesis (CPH) (Lenneberg 1967). Lenneberg applied the principle of CPH to first language acquisition, in that he suggested there was a cutoff in the ability to innately acquire language, which occurred somewhere around
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