Age in second language acquisition by Birgit Harley

By Birgit Harley

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As indicated on pages 1113, Krashen hypothesizes that the ability to obtain comprehensible input may increase with age in L2 acquisition. In the long run, however, children will be superior in ultimate L2 attainment, because of the affective filter arising from formal operations at puberty. Thus, although the adult may get sufficient quantities of input, it does not all become intake (Krashen, 1981b:9). A further viewpoint on the kind of L2 input that is conducive to acquisition is provided by Scarcella & Higa (1982).

With reference to Krashen's Monitor model, McLaughlin (1978) has pointed out the impossibility of empirically establishing when an individual is operating with conscious or unconscious rules and thus the difficulty of testing the Monitor model. McLaughlin proposes that Krashen's acquisition/learning distinction be replaced with the concepts of "controlled" and "automatic" processing (see below). However, it is not clear that McLaughlin's distinction is empirically any more verifiable than the one that Krashen makes.

Neurological Arguments for Early L2 Acquisition The Brain Plasticity Hypothesis According to Penfield (in Penfield & Roberts, 1959) the child's brain is plastic compared with that of an adult. Before the age of nine to 12, he maintains, "a child is a specialist in learning to speak. " After the age of nine, however, "for the purposes of learning languages, the human brain becomes progressively stiff and rigid" (Penfield & Roberts, 1959:23536). He goes on to recommend the teaching of second languages at an early age in school by ''the direct method that mothers use" (Penfield, 1964:80).

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