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Adults vs. Kids learning

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s_allard
Triglot
Senior Member
Canada
Joined 4338 days ago

2704 posts - 5425 votes 
Speaks: French*, English, Spanish
Studies: Polish

 
 Message 49 of 77
17 May 2013 at 11:19pm | IP Logged 
As I was coming home today, I walked past the courtyard of a local bilingual (English-French bilingual elementary and high school called Fine Arts Core Education (FACE). I saw about 200 children aged 6-10 playing and making lots of noise in French and English. This is organic language learning at its best. If 200 30-year old adults were doing the same thing, they would also be learning the languages organically.

@Lone Wolf says "It is my opinion that languages ARE BEST LEARNED under certain ideal conditions and by use of ideal resources REGARDLESS of the person's age." I agree 100% with that. Does anybody disagree?

The real problem of adults is that it is nearly impossible to reproduce the learning environment of one's childhood. Childhood is usually when the ideal conditions and the ideal resources are present. Sure we could imagine ideal conditions for learning language as an adult i.e. work and live in the country for a few years, marry a monolingual native, have the daily services of a private dialect coach for six months, avoid as much contact with fellow country men etc. After a few years you would likely sound like a native. But how many of us can do that?

I don't know if @Lone Wolf has children, but I wonder how many parents do not believe that languages are best learned at an earlier age. Maybe they know something that those parents who line up at 5 o'clock in the morning to register there children into French immersion schools in Canada don't know.

We can dance around the subject all we want with all sorts of ifs and buts. The plain truth is that languages are best learned when one is young. Please don't interpret this to mean ONLY when one is young.
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Lone_Wolf
Groupie
United States
Joined 4214 days ago

60 posts - 117 votes 
Speaks: English*

 
 Message 50 of 77
18 May 2013 at 12:01am | IP Logged 
@s_allard,

Quote:
I agree 100% with that. Does anybody disagree?


To be honest, it appears as though you disagree with this because of your belief that languages are best learned when a person is young. Such a statement is diametrically opposite to my statement that "languages ARE BEST LEARNED under certain ideal conditions and by use of ideal resources REGARDLESS of the person's age".

Quote:
The real problem of adults is that it is nearly impossible to reproduce the learning environment of one's childhood. Childhood is usually when the ideal conditions and the ideal resources are present. Sure we could imagine ideal conditions for learning language as an adult i.e. work and live in the country for a few years, marry a monolingual native, have the daily services of a private dialect coach for six months, avoid as much contact with fellow country men etc. After a few years you would likely sound like a native. But how many of us can do that?


Perhaps it may be best if you amend your statement to "It is best to learn languages under ideal conditions and with ideal resources and those conditions and resources are usually MORE AVAILABLE to children than they are available to adults."

Quote:
I don't know if @Lone Wolf has children, but I wonder how many parents do not believe that languages are best learned at an earlier age. Maybe they know something that those parents who line up at 5 o'clock in the morning to register there children into French immersion schools in Canada don't know.


Yes I do have children. I have three boys and I am one of those parents who do not believe that languages are best learned at an earlier age by some sort of default as per my participation so far in this thread. Granted that an adult is mentally sound/healthy, is afforded all the time that he/she needs, is provided with the ideal tools and resources, is studying in an environment where organic learning naturally occurs and is not bogged down by things that can be a distraction and source of stress and worry (mortgage, work, bills, car payments, KIDS, etc.), he or she can learn a foreign language just as easily, quickly and comfortably as any child who is ALSO learning under such conditions, be it abroad or at home.

Quote:
We can dance around the subject all we want with all sorts of ifs and buts. The plain truth is that languages are best learned when one is young


May I ask if there was a research study done which empirically and categorically confirmed this assertion and if so may you be so kind to present to me? I am interested in any research study which was done on both adults and children, placed under the exact same conditions, with the same learning tools/resources and in the same length of time. Being under the exact same conditions is important for any such study to have any merit. If the adults were people with full time jobs, living expenses and kids of their own (whereas the children would obviously NOT be strapped down by such impediments) then that would automatically warrant the study invalid.


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beano
Diglot
Senior Member
United KingdomRegistered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 3530 days ago

1049 posts - 2152 votes 
Speaks: English*, German
Studies: Russian, Serbian, Hungarian

 
 Message 51 of 77
18 May 2013 at 1:54am | IP Logged 
Adults have to work for a living and when they move to a country where they know little of the language, one of two things tends to happen. Either they are appointed to a post where a significant portion of their duties can be carried out through their native tongue or they end up doing menial work where language skills are not an essential requirement.

Children of the above adults go to school for several hours each day which gives them a fully immersive experience, whether they want it or not. They may well be exposed to a parental language at home but at school they are surrounded by peers who speak to them only in the new language. And it's free!

If the roles could somehow be reversed and the child was a star in an English-speaking stage production (picking up some of the local language when time permitted) and the parents could spend 35 hours a week in a highly-interactive language school among dozens of native speakers who questioned them remorselessly (while tutors wandered around correcting every mistake) I'm sure the old heads would fare better than the young ones.
3 persons have voted this message useful



s_allard
Triglot
Senior Member
Canada
Joined 4338 days ago

2704 posts - 5425 votes 
Speaks: French*, English, Spanish
Studies: Polish

 
 Message 52 of 77
18 May 2013 at 2:04am | IP Logged 
This is interesting. Here is a parent with (young?) children who does not believe that it is advantageous to expose their children to languages early because under the ideal conditions these children could learn these languages just as well at an adult age. So, while many parents line up to put their kids in immersion or bilingual programs for Spanish or Mandarin or Chinese, @Lone Wolf says, "Thanks but no thanks, I'll wait and let my children decide when they are adults what is the best way to learn a language."

I hope I don't come across as facetious here. That position will make some other parents happy.

I don't see the point of showing any study that proves that under identical conditions children learn better than adults. As I said in my earlier post, the question isn't really whether there is some incontrovertible biological advantage of children. The reality is that the best conditions for learning a language are nearly always present at an early age.

Maybe adults can learn as well IF and IF and IF certain conditions are met. But I believe that 100% - 1% or 99% of all parents believe that you are better off starting at an early age because we don't know what the future holds.

So I prefer to wait in line to register my kids in an enriched Mandarin bilingual program while you do what you want. That's fine by me.

Edited by s_allard on 18 May 2013 at 2:06am

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beano
Diglot
Senior Member
United KingdomRegistered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 3530 days ago

1049 posts - 2152 votes 
Speaks: English*, German
Studies: Russian, Serbian, Hungarian

 
 Message 53 of 77
18 May 2013 at 2:15am | IP Logged 
s_allard wrote:
. So, while many parents line up to put their kids in immersion or bilingual programs for Spanish or Mandarin or Chinese, @Lone Wolf says, "Thanks but no thanks, I'll wait and let my children decide when they are adults what is the best way to learn a language."



This does give rise to the situation where some adults claim their inability to speak a language is down to their parents not doing the right thing. For example, former tennis player Andre Agassi - whose father is Iranian - has bemoaned the fact that he can't speak Farsi because his old man "never taught him"

Now, that couldn't be an excuse to avoid putting in effort, could it? With millions of dollars in the bank and access to Farsi-speaking family, why doesn't he just go ahead and learn it himself? I would wager that he doesn't speak much German either, despite being married to Steffi Graf.

Edited by beano on 18 May 2013 at 2:15am

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Lone_Wolf
Groupie
United States
Joined 4214 days ago

60 posts - 117 votes 
Speaks: English*

 
 Message 54 of 77
18 May 2013 at 3:12am | IP Logged 
beano wrote:
Adults have to work for a living and when they move to a country where they know little of the language, one of two things tends to happen. Either they are appointed to a post where a significant portion of their duties can be carried out through their native tongue or they end up doing menial work where language skills are not an essential requirement.

Children of the above adults go to school for several hours each day which gives them a fully immersive experience, whether they want it or not. They may well be exposed to a parental language at home but at school they are surrounded by peers who speak to them only in the new language. And it's free!

If the roles could somehow be reversed and the child was a star in an English-speaking stage production (picking up some of the local language when time permitted) and the parents could spend 35 hours a week in a highly-interactive language school among dozens of native speakers who questioned them remorselessly (while tutors wandered around correcting every mistake) I'm sure the old heads would fare better than the young ones.


Just to be clear, I am not specifically speaking about the cases when an adult is "stationed" in a foreign country by their companies. I have read on the internet many, many cases where adults migrate to a country STRICTLY for the organic learning experience such a thing affords them. Just look at the wealthy expats in Dubai, U.A.E. and Doha, Qatar who moved their of their own free will and through their own independent financial means. Benny Lewis is one specific example of what I am talking about.
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Lone_Wolf
Groupie
United States
Joined 4214 days ago

60 posts - 117 votes 
Speaks: English*

 
 Message 55 of 77
18 May 2013 at 3:36am | IP Logged 
@s_allard,

I don't know if you are genuinely misunderstanding me or if you're deliberately twisting and misinterpreting my words....

Quote:
So, while many parents line up to put their kids in immersion or bilingual programs for Spanish or Mandarin or Chinese, @Lone Wolf says, "Thanks but no thanks, I'll wait and let my children decide when they are adults what is the best way to learn a language."


Okay, so please provide the quote in which I ever said any such thing. I can provide the quote in which I said that I do not believe that children by default learn languages easier than adults due to their young age. I have made that standpoint very clear from the very beginning of my participation in this thread.

Quote:
don't see the point of showing any study that proves that under identical conditions children learn better than adults


Please forgive my forthright tone here, but you are not going to provide any such study because you cannot provide one. The reason you cannot provide one is because there is no such research study. Unless and until there is such a study, your view that children learn easier or better than adults remains simply as your own opinion and belief. Others have the right to disagree with that opinion.

Quote:
As I said in my earlier post, the question isn't really whether there is some incontrovertible biological advantage of children. The reality is that the best conditions for learning a language are nearly always present at an early age.


Again, an expression of a reality which isn't backed by any study to prove it. But out of curiosity, if there isn't an incontrovertible biological advantage that children have over adults, then please inform me as to WHAT advantage they do have over adults and please be so kind to present something which will prove that advantage as true.

Quote:
Maybe adults can learn as well IF and IF and IF certain conditions are met.


What are those certain conditions? Are they any different than the conditions I have already expounded? If so, then what are they please?

Quote:
But I believe that 100% - 1% or 99% of all parents believe that you are better off starting at an early age because we don't know what the future holds.


You and I both know that neither one of us can speak for ANY PERCENTAGE of parents on this issue because you have not (just as I have not) interviewed every parent there is on this planet who have children with an interest in foreign languages. You can never, ever, ever back up or substantiate your statement above.

Quote:
So I prefer to wait in line to register my kids in an enriched Mandarin bilingual program while you do what you want. That's fine by me.


I am also fine with whatever you are anyone else here does about their foreign language journey for themselves and their children. You should keep in mind that I NEVER said that none of my children are learning foreign languages and I NEVER said that I prefer to let them become adults and pursue their own foreign language journeys. It would be a demonstration of prudence and maturity on your part if you were to go back and actually "READ" what I said instead of assuming I have a position which I never expressed.

Again, please forgive the forthright tone.


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s_allard
Triglot
Senior Member
Canada
Joined 4338 days ago

2704 posts - 5425 votes 
Speaks: French*, English, Spanish
Studies: Polish

 
 Message 56 of 77
18 May 2013 at 6:15pm | IP Logged 
I don't see what the fuss is about. I said that I agree that under IDEAL conditions adults can probably learn as well as children. Who can't agree with this statement? I even listed such ideal conditions in an earlier post.

And I'll take back that quote that I sarcastically attributed to @Lone Wolf. Also, I must eat a bit of crow here. I was wrong. I see now that there are some parents on this planet who do believe that languages are not best learned when young. @Lone Wolf is one of them. I guess there must be others. I can only say that he or she is the first person that I have met who believes that languages are not best learned when one is young.

But come to think of it, there are parents in Canada who do not believe in French immersion schooling for their children. Why line up at 5 o'clock in the morning to register one's kids when we know that French has no future and is a dying language. And the whole world will soon be speaking English anyway.

But to come back to the main issue here, Sure we can imagine all kinds of ideal conditions for adults of all ages learning languages. Maybe @Lone wolf has met many adults who have benefited from such ideal conditions. I have not met any. All I can say is that as teacher of French and having seen hundreds if not thousands of learners I make four observations:

A) I have never met an adult learner of French who has achieved native-like proficiency and particularly phonological nativeness.

B) All the speakers who have attained native-like proficiency in French started at a young age and under certain conditions. Of these conditions, schooling in French is particularly important.

C) I've never met anybody who regrets learning French or any foreign language as a child.

D) I've met many adults who regret not having learned French or paying more attention during French classes when they were young.

Edited by s_allard on 18 May 2013 at 6:21pm



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