Differences in Learning Language between Adolescent and Adults
Differencesin Learning Language between Adolescent and Adults
Accordingto world health organization, adolescents refer to individuals whoare at the age of ten and nineteen years during which variousdevelopments and growth occur (Gouws & Kruger, 2014). Researchand theory on language learning have extensively recognized thesignificant power of learner’s personalities. Simply theseidentities involve how the novice perceives themselves and areperceived by others regarding the acquisition of the language as wellas their cultures influences. Researchers in linguistics have alsofound that adults can learn the language better when subjected tocontrolled conditions. However, such conditions may not be easy toprovide in many learning sessions. Adolescent and children have beenfound to pick up other tongues easier compared to adults.Additionally, the age of the learner is directly related to theswiftness of learning a second language (Hayes et al., 2015).Accordingly, the two essential elements intersect in the adolescentacquisition of second language case. This research seeks to answerwhy it is easier to learn language during adolescent, and why it’shard, during old age?
Recentstudies show that age of the learner is principally believed to bethe major factor influencing the achievement of learning a foreign ora second language (Heinzmann, 2013). In general, the adolescent isconsidered proficient in new language acquisition with ease andquickness, while adults are thought to be bound for disappointment.
Thecritical period of acquiring language is typically defined as anepoch when lingo learning naturally results to the high level ofsuccess and relatively easy. This exceptional ability does not lastbeyond teenage years or even sometimes before (Ur, 2012). For thatreason, adults have difficulties of learning a foreign language and astandard learner can hardly attain the native-like proficiency in thelanguage.
Customarily,proficiency in a language has been directly equated to pronouncingwords like a native speaker (Ur, 2012). The adolescent issignificantly accurate and faster in learning a language than olderadults. The decrease in the ability to learn a language can beattributed to the fact that adults are affected by the nativelanguage more than adolescents. The influence of the native languageincreases in post-puberty making it difficult for adults to learn thesecond language (Hayes et al., 2015). At the same time, anyimprovement in the learning of the second language in an adult isaffected by the fact that they are not able to reduce theinterference. When the adults return to the native languageregularly, they are distracted, and hence the process of learninglanguage is impaired. The level of learning distraction increaseswith increase in the number of times that reference to the mothertongue is done. Distractions bring about disconnection, impedimentand hence interference in learning (Heinzmann, 2013).
Adolescentand children are less likely to be distracted because they do notregularly refer to the native language. For instance, abstractthinking is reduced while reasoning and thinking in wider perspectiveincrease upon reaching the adolescent stage. Other improved areasduring adolescent include attention, memory, processing speed andorganization of ideas. Moreover, adolescents have more elaboratecontrol of thought, coordination, and behavior.
Besides,there are also changes in the ways of approaching concepts, ideas,personality formation and character development (Hayes et al., 2015).Changes in brain structure, organization and connectivity furtherlead to massive cognitive development in that the individualexperiences, high level of acquisition of knowledge. The reasoning inan adolescent is less abstract and more accurate compared to that ofthe adult. Interference occurs when ideas and concepts overlap. Infact, learning becomes difficult as age advances an attribute thathas been correlated to interference.
Asindividual ages, learning language becomes tight. The reason is thatideas and new concepts from the new language overlap leading tointerference (Heinzmann, 2013). They also demonstrate cognizance ofmore selectivity foreign language compared to the adolescentindividuals. Studies show that any attempt to impose long-termlearning of language in adults leads to resistance unless there is aclear comparison of the second language to the native language (Ur,2012). For adults, more learning occurs when the mother tongue issimilar to the foreign language. Consequently, the acquisition age isof great significance for a learner to pronounce and use the grammarof the second language similar to indigenous orator. Development inlanguage has been connected with particular variations in thedevelopment of the brain. According to studies, the level oflateralization of language reduces in old age as the left hemispheredecreases between the ages of twenty-five and above(Ur, 2012).Similarly, there is a significant increase in white matter inchildren and adolescence yet the same component does not increaseduring adulthood.
Althoughthe left hemisphere is increased exponentially between the ages offive to twenty years, there is considerable increase between the agesof twenty to twenty-five (Heinzmann, 2013). Above the age oftwenty-five, the level of lateralization decreases considerably. Thegreatest significant of development in the performance of the lefthemisphere is experienced during adolescence and is the section thatis involved in the receptive and expressive language functions.Nevertheless, linguistic proficiency has recently included bothsemantic and grammar or morpho-syntactic skills. The (CPH) whichstands for Critical Period Hypothesis was the term given to thenotion that there is a limited best possible time of learning alanguage (Hayes et al., 2015). CPH formulation is based on biologicalfactors. In adolescent, growth, and development of brain increases.
Correspondingly,there is a significant increase of white and gray matters as well aschanges in synapses. The differentiation and number of synapses getto the highest level between age two and four and then reduces andreaches stable state between the ages ten and fifteen (Ur, 2012).Consequently, transmitters of chemicals in the brain only becomestable when a child becomes an adolescent. Although no much change insize is experienced when the person is undergoing adolescent periodthe significant changes that take place are highly visible andimpactful as compared to adult age. Brain development progressivelyincreases leading to greater effectiveness, adaptability andefficient modulation. Nevertheless, brain changes in complexityespecially in the cortex region that deals with emotional andcognitive information (Heinzmann, 2013). As such, learning languagebecomes easier to the adolescent. Accordingly, this means that he orshe is in a learning phase of almost everything including languageacquisition.
Otherthan biological factors which enable a person to learn a languagewith ease and success at this stage of adolescence, there are otherbenefits associated with the stage that is limited to other stages oflife (Gouws & Kruger, 2014). Adolescents are prone to mistakes,and they are not mostly affected by those errors the way adults wouldbe affected. The child can be corrected by a punishment and stillcorporate immediately without much resistance. As a consequence,young learners are most likely to be anti-language apprehensive ascompared to older learners, therefore, making them absorb the most ofthe idiom rather than blocking it out. It is also proved that thereis more time present for everyday study for adolescents as well asmore collective time for them to achieve faster proficiency (Hayes etal., 2015). Accordingly, those adolescents that start learning thelanguage untimely succeed more than those who start at a late age.
Similarly,a lot of cognitive capabilities are identified to diminish as aperson gets older (Heinzmann, 2013). Complexities in encodingnew-fangled information as well as reduced ability to studypaired-connections are some of the age-associated cognitive processeschanges significantly to the acquisition of a language. Furthermore,older learners suffer from decreased accuracy in remembering detailsas contrasted to the general idea. Moreover, their other factors thataffect adults include deficits in potential attention, commoncognitive slowing and decreased active memory aptitude (Gouws &Kruger, 2014). All these developments decrease with age, and mostresearchers have documented them across the lifetime.
Despitethe fact that many scientists support the idea of the criticalperiod, currently, some studies have criticized the issue of CPH(Heinzmann, 2013). Criticism has been brought in based on biologicaland motivational factors.
Oneof the most critic researchers suggests that the CPH ought to involvethe consequence that passing this period is total inability to learnthe language. Certainly, with appropriate motivation cluster of anyage can acquire any language. Nevertheless, there is no substantialresearch supporting the idea that adults can completely attainfluency same as natives. The reason behind this statement is due tothe findings of language phonetic studies which show thatadolescently can distinguish the phonetics of both local and foreignlanguage (Hayes et al., 2015). On the other hand, if grown-upstudents are incapable of hearing phonemes of a second language, thenthey may not be able to make those similar sounds.
Thereis also somewhat more persuasive argument in opposition to CPH whichis based on semantics domains. According to Gouws & Kruger(2014), adults perform as well as young individuals in learning newwords or semantic level concepts. This argument can hardly bedisputed bearing in mind that there are several modalities to lingoproficiency. However, lacking a precise definition of this criticalperiod among the modalities does not invalidate the broad hypothesis.Even though there is no identified semantics’ critical period,several studies have been concluded that adolescent and younglearners of a language are most probable to gain pronunciation likethat of native speakers than old learners (Ur, 2012). Therefore, wecan as well conclude that those young learners have a unique benefitin acquiring languages but squanders as they get old. Adolescence andyoung learners are highly skilled when it comes to recognizing subtlevariations in sounds (Gouws & Kruger, 2014). For instance,adolescence can easily be able to pronounce minimal pairs of wordssuch as flies and fries and pen and pin while adults have challengesin pronouncing without confusion.
Accordingly,adult learners struggling to learn other languages including Englishhave difficulties in the pronunciation of minimal pairs.Correspondingly, adult learners have a strong accent which reducesproficiency. The reason is that pronunciation is a reliable indicatorof eloquence and fluency (Hayes et al., 2015). Confusion inpronunciation and accent changes the context and meaning of words andthus hinders the process of learning because it impedes communicationand decreases the level of confidence and urge to learn more wordsand their meaning.
Atthe same time, the learning environment may determine the standard ofsuccess in learning languages because most of the adults learn athome with the help of educational software (Heinzmann, 2013). On theother hand, adolescent mostly enrolls in institutions and study newlanguages in a formal setting and with guidance from the teacher.Consequently, students are guided on the most significant aspects oflearning languages an opportunity which most of the adults studyingat home cannot be able to achieve. The adolescent is also able tostrike a conversation with fellow students, partners and friends thusmaking them fluent and faster in learning (Heinzmann, 2013). Adultsstudying at homes may not be able to access such a vital opportunityand thus may be disadvantaged. The reason is that Learning languagewithout steady conversation with friends and partners can be achallenge because it might be unstructured and thus missingfundamental factors such as fluency and eloquence (Hayes et al.,2015).
Moreover,missing necessary instructions from the teacher and lack of otheressential practices such as practicing writing down sentences canfurther impede learning. Although some adult learners may attendclasses and other formal learning settings, their levels are usuallyconceptual and analytical and thus may miss the opportunity toinclude activities and friendly interactions. Adolescents caninteract and carry out activities without established boundaries andthus cannot miss the opportunity to freely interact and participatein activities. Accordingly, adolescences have huge opportunities tolearn and acquire more knowledge than adults.
Someadult learners are subjected frustration while trying to learn otherlanguages. As such, some of the adults give up learning languagesclaiming that young individual and adolescents are the good whileadults are underprivileged in learning languages. The argument isthat children and adolescent have more absorbent minds, moreadaptability, and better memories. Age of the learner is principallybelieved to be the major factor influencing the achievement oflearning a foreign or a second language. In general, the adolescentis considered proficient in new language acquisition with ease andquickness, while adults are thought to be bound for disappointment.Among the reasons why adolescence is right in understanding otherlanguages is the fact that adults are affected by the native languagemore than adolescents, they are not able to reduce interferenceduring learning and have challenges in challenges in thepronunciation of minimal pairs. Besides, most of the adult learnersstudy at home where there is minimal interaction and communicationwhile adolescents study in institutions where interaction is highlyencouraged. Besides, adults had deficits in potential attention,common cognitive slowing and decreased effective memory aptitude.During the onset of adolescent, brain development progressivelyincreases leading to greater effectiveness, adaptability andefficient modulation. Left hemisphere is increased exponentiallybetween the ages of five to twenty years. In adults, the level oflateralization of language reduces in old age as the left hemispheredecreases between the ages of twenty-five and above. As such,learning language becomes easier to the adolescent.
Gouws,E., & Kruger, N. (2014).The adolescent: An educationalperspective. Durban: Butterworth Publishers.
Hayes,L. L., Ciarrochi, J., & Hayes, S. C. (2015). The thrivingadolescent: Using acceptance and commitment therapy and positivepsychology to help teens manage emotions, achieve goals, and buildconnection. Oakland, CA: Context Press.
Heinzmann,S. (2013). Young language learners` motivation and attitudes:Longitudinal, comparative and explanatory perspectives. London:Bloomsbury.
Ur,P., & Ur, P. (2012). A course in English language teaching.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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