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The Impact Of Age In Relation To Second Language Acquisition

2029 words - 9 pages

Language connects human beings together by providing them a way to express ideas and thoughts to one another. The continuous growth of interaction between countries requires a need for more multilingual people in the world, and the value of acquiring a second language can provide people with numerous activities not as easily adaptable for monolingual individuals. A major component of linguistics involves grammar, which are the rules of language. Grammar can be broken down into syntax and semantics. Syntax refers to the system of rules that governs how human beings combine words in order to create sentences, and semantics refers to the context of sentences and provides meaning to what it is ...view middle of the document...

By the time a person has reached puberty, the plasticity of the brain and the reorganizational capacities that are necessary to easily acquire language have decreased (Johnson and Newport, 62). Therefore, even if a child has not reached puberty, he will experience a greater difficulty in learning a second language as opposed to someone who is younger. In September of 2002, a Turkish family moved to Italy, with their two sons not knowing any Italian. Dilek Peçenek, who works in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Ankara in Turkey, studied this Turkish family and the journey the boys encountered in acquiring Italian as their second language. The older of the two children was eight years old, and the younger boy was five years old at the time of the study (Ankara 272). Despite the fact that both children had not yet reached puberty, they experienced different encounters with the language that supports the idea that the younger the child is, the easier a second language can become acquired. In less than a year, “[the older brother] had linguistic difficulties at school in his first months of exposure to Italian...he did not understand what his teacher was saying” (274). The mother, who was asked to write notes down in a journal of her sons’ progression recorded numerous times throughout several months in early 2003 that her older child refused to speak, despite his eventual understanding of the foreign language. While his speech lacked, his writing and reading of the language were at an average level with children his age, showing that he was at least acquiring the written language at the pace of a native speaker (274). As time progressed, however, the child’s mother wrote in her journal in October 2004, “[The older brother’s] pronunciation is better than mine and he speaks more fluently than me. I cannot catch up with his pace in Italian most of the time” (276). Within a little over one year, the progression made in Italian for the eight-year-old increased dramatically. A large portion of the difference occurred when he began to speak more in Italian instead of relying on Turkish to convey his thoughts. The mother, who in Turkey worked as an Italian teacher for ten years at a language center and is a proficient speaker of Italian, had been surpassed by her child as a more advanced speaker of the language, all within less than two years of him encountering the second language (272). As much progress as the older child made in acquiring his second language, however, his younger brother had an even more successful progression into native-proficiency of Italian. In November of 2002, the child’s mother wrote in her journal, “[The younger brother] did not have any problems with linguistic and social adaptation in preschool...He began to understand conversations during the very first week” (280). Comparatively, the younger child achieved near native-proficiency almost instantly, while his brother gained the same level of distinction nearly...

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