Register  Login  Active Topics  Maps  

Adults vs. Kids learning

 Language Learning Forum : Philological Room Post Reply
77 messages over 10 pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 ... 1 ... 9 10 Next >>
JacobTM
Groupie
United States
Joined 4506 days ago

56 posts - 67 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: Spanish

 
 Message 1 of 77
07 May 2013 at 8:13pm | IP Logged 
I am an optimistic language learner, after learning Spanish and Portuguese as an adult
without having learned any other languages as a child.

It is a common assertation that after age X, one simply can't learn a language as well.
However, I believe (and remember hearing here) that if you compared the amount of hours
spent on a language, adults were no worse than children at it, if they each spent the
same amount of time on learning a language.

The real challenge for an adult language learner is finding the time.

But I'm not sure if there is any research backing this up? I know people here are
optimistic about learning languages, but is there any overall research comparing the
time-frame to gain similar levels of fluency in terms of hours, comparing adults and
children?

Edited by JacobTM on 07 May 2013 at 8:14pm

1 person has voted this message useful



patrickwilken
Senior Member
Germany
radiant-flux.net
Joined 3441 days ago

1546 posts - 3200 votes 
Studies: German

 
 Message 2 of 77
07 May 2013 at 8:51pm | IP Logged 
I remember reading the Foreign Services Institute claiming that they take people to a level in say 1400 hours that a child takes 14000 hours to reach.


1 person has voted this message useful



vogue
Triglot
Senior Member
United States
Joined 3162 days ago

109 posts - 181 votes 
Speaks: English*, Italian, Spanish
Studies: Ukrainian

 
 Message 3 of 77
07 May 2013 at 9:28pm | IP Logged 
I'd believe it takes adults less time because adults have a better grasp of how writing and reading works, as
well as how speaking works. That is to say that because adults are developed, they're own development isn't
exactly impeding their language learning. So, a baby learns a language quite slowly, but it's also growing in a
lot of respects. Adults don't have to deal with that trouble.

I think what people are really asserting is it's 1) less effort to learn as a kid and 2) it's easier to get a native
pronunciation.

But that's my 2, non-scientific, cents.
3 persons have voted this message useful



mikonai
Diglot
Senior Member
United States
weirdnamewriting.bloRegistered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 3837 days ago

178 posts - 281 votes 
Speaks: English*, Italian
Studies: Swahili, German

 
 Message 4 of 77
07 May 2013 at 9:40pm | IP Logged 
I'm afraid I don't remember any of the specific research, but allow me to copy some of
the things I've learned/heard in my linguistics classes:

There has been some research into where language is stored/processed in the brain, i.e.
what the "language centers" of the brain are, and whether these are different for
people who are raised bilingual (on this forum we call them bilingual, as opposed to a
diglot or some such) versus monolinguals or monolinguals who have learned an L2. It's
generally been found that monolinguals and bilinguals have generally the same area of
activation when processing language (except for bilinguals of spoken and signed
languages, but that's a different, albeit interesting, topic), while learners of an L2
have overlapping, but different areas for language.

These findings, coupled with cases of children who didn't learn language early (all
really very sad languages), who never have quite acquired language to full fluency, has
led people to conclude that after a certain age (or "critical period") it's impossible
to learn language, or to learn a second language to full native fluency, since it seems
there isn't the brain plasticity to allow for the languages to overlap.

However, aside from the testimonials from people on this forum and elsewhere,
there was another study that tested low-proficiency learners of an L2 versus high-
proficiency learners of the same language, along with bilinguals and monolinguals. This
study found that the greater the proficiency of the learner, the more the areas of
activation would overlap, and the highest-proficiency L2 learners showed activation
virtually identical to that of the bilinguals. That is, the centers for the different
languages were basically fully integrated.

So while the "critical theory hypothesis", which is the idea that after a certain age
you can't learn language, still seems to hold well enough for first-language
acquisition (although it's difficult to test, since it's not exactly ethical to just
deprive a child of language exposure for the first eight or ten years of their life),
it doesn't exactly hold up for second-language acquisition.

As far as learning hours, however, I'm not sure there's any research on that particular
aspect. The main difficulty is that adults can't really learn very well the way
a child learns: the Critical Theory Hypothesis postulates that there are dedicated
language learning centers or processes that sort of disappear as we get older, and
what's more, how do we measure how many hours a child spends "learning" a language?
They seem to learn better via passive exposure than adults can, and they don't really
need to be taught grammar like an adult does.
6 persons have voted this message useful



casamata
Senior Member
Joined 3170 days ago

237 posts - 377 votes 
Studies: Portuguese

 
 Message 5 of 77
08 May 2013 at 1:16am | IP Logged 
JacobTM wrote:
I am an optimistic language learner, after learning Spanish and Portuguese as an adult
without having learned any other languages as a child.

It is a common assertation that after age X, one simply can't learn a language as well.
However, I believe (and remember hearing here) that if you compared the amount of hours
spent on a language, adults were no worse than children at it, if they each spent the
same amount of time on learning a language.

The real challenge for an adult language learner is finding the time.

But I'm not sure if there is any research backing this up? I know people here are
optimistic about learning languages, but is there any overall research comparing the
time-frame to gain similar levels of fluency in terms of hours, comparing adults and
children?


Well, adults learn second languages *relatively* fast because they are already developed, physically and mostly intellectually. Plus, they already know a language or languages. However, I think of kids knowing languages as almost always being better than adult learners. Some people never get rid of a noticeable foreign accent nor can they speak as correctly or naturally as a native speaker.

I would sure as heck take the bilingual speaker that is a certified translator or whatever instead of the adult learner.


2 persons have voted this message useful



casamata
Senior Member
Joined 3170 days ago

237 posts - 377 votes 
Studies: Portuguese

 
 Message 6 of 77
08 May 2013 at 5:55am | IP Logged 
mikonai wrote:
I'm afraid I don't remember any of the specific research, but allow me to copy some of
the things I've learned/heard in my linguistics classes:

There has been some research into where language is stored/processed in the brain, i.e.
what the "language centers" of the brain are, and whether these are different for
people who are raised bilingual (on this forum we call them bilingual, as opposed to a
diglot or some such) versus monolinguals or monolinguals who have learned an L2. It's
generally been found that monolinguals and bilinguals have generally the same area of
activation when processing language (except for bilinguals of spoken and signed
languages, but that's a different, albeit interesting, topic), while learners of an L2
have overlapping, but different areas for language.

These findings, coupled with cases of children who didn't learn language early (all
really very sad languages), who never have quite acquired language to full fluency, has
led people to conclude that after a certain age (or "critical period") it's impossible
to learn language, or to learn a second language to full native fluency, since it seems
there isn't the brain plasticity to allow for the languages to overlap.

However, aside from the testimonials from people on this forum and elsewhere,
there was another study that tested low-proficiency learners of an L2 versus high-
proficiency learners of the same language, along with bilinguals and monolinguals. This
study found that the greater the proficiency of the learner, the more the areas of
activation would overlap, and the highest-proficiency L2 learners showed activation
virtually identical to that of the bilinguals. That is, the centers for the different
languages were basically fully integrated.

So while the "critical theory hypothesis", which is the idea that after a certain age
you can't learn language, still seems to hold well enough for first-language
acquisition (although it's difficult to test, since it's not exactly ethical to just
deprive a child of language exposure for the first eight or ten years of their life),
it doesn't exactly hold up for second-language acquisition.

As far as learning hours, however, I'm not sure there's any research on that particular
aspect. The main difficulty is that adults can't really learn very well the way
a child learns: the Critical Theory Hypothesis postulates that there are dedicated
language learning centers or processes that sort of disappear as we get older, and
what's more, how do we measure how many hours a child spends "learning" a language?
They seem to learn better via passive exposure than adults can, and they don't really
need to be taught grammar like an adult does.


Wow, great post. Are you or were you a linguistics major in college? Could you include some of the links of the studies that came to these conclusions?
1 person has voted this message useful



schoenewaelder
Diglot
Senior Member
Germany
Joined 4468 days ago

759 posts - 1197 votes 
Speaks: English*, French
Studies: German, Spanish, Dutch

 
 Message 7 of 77
08 May 2013 at 1:54pm | IP Logged 
I think there are a few factors most of these comparisons focussing on the theoretical technical capacity of the brain to learn a language neglect. In real life situations, children have massive advantages, such as how desparately children wish to communicate and integrate with their peer groups, and how easy it seems to be for them (or how hard it is for adults) to let go of their already internalised language habits. Maybe if you combined language learning with psychoanalysis or cognitive behaviour therapy, you could get the typical adult to be as effective as the average kid (Plus they would need full immersion: Job, partner, children all native speakers of the target language and with no ability in your native language).

It sort of comes under "motivation", but that just doesn't seem a strong enough word for it.

[edit: Obviously I'm thinking along the lines of ideal conditions here, i.e. immersion. I guess in the typical school classroom situation, adults probably are better than children. But I'm just thinking of all those "start a new life in another country" programmes I've seen, where the kids usually speak like natives after 6 months in school, while the adults are still unable to do the basics after yearsof immersion]

Edited by schoenewaelder on 08 May 2013 at 2:03pm

1 person has voted this message useful



patrickwilken
Senior Member
Germany
radiant-flux.net
Joined 3441 days ago

1546 posts - 3200 votes 
Studies: German

 
 Message 8 of 77
08 May 2013 at 4:21pm | IP Logged 
My take on it is that they are sort of stupid and distractable (though obviously cute). Adults have a real advantage here in language learning. Also their progress is not that impressive. Adults can beat children quite easily (perhaps not in accent) if they put in the same number of hours.

I don't know the studies very well, but I read that children of foreigners who enter the school system here in Germany take about four years or so to close the language gap with their native speaking peers (though that could be because their home environment is L1 partly or completely). If someone has seen some data on this it would be great to know

Edited by patrickwilken on 08 May 2013 at 4:22pm



1 person has voted this message useful



This discussion contains 77 messages over 10 pages: 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10  Next >>


Post ReplyPost New Topic Printable version Printable version

You cannot post new topics in this forum - You cannot reply to topics in this forum - You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum - You cannot create polls in this forum - You cannot vote in polls in this forum


This page was generated in 1.6572 seconds.


DHTML Menu By Milonic JavaScript
Copyright 2021 FX Micheloud - All rights reserved
No part of this website may be copied by any means without my written authorization.