Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Is earlier better in foreign language acquisition?

 Is earlier better in foreign language acquisition?
Sent to the Dallas Morning News, June 18, 2013

Parental input is of course extremely important, but before Highland Park "launces Spanish classes at elementary schools," (June 17), administrators and teachers might want to look at the research.
It is true that those who begin a second language as children have a better chance of sounding native than those who start as adults, but years of research on second language acquisition has shown that older acquirers progress more quickly than
younger acquirers in the early stages (older children are faster than younger, adults are faster than children).
Most important, those who begin second languages as adults, given enough opportunity, can reach very high levels of proficiency in second languages.

Stephen Krashen


Beginning of the article:
Park Cities parents want their kids to learn foreign languages at a younger age, and they’d like them to start with Spanish.
Ninety-one percent of Highland Park ISD parents said in a district survey that elementary school is the most appropriate time to begin studying a second language. Three-quarters said they would like their children to learn Spanish, with some preferring Mandarin or French.
With that strong parent support, Highland Park ISD administrators are planning a new elementary foreign language program. The survey was part of a feasibility report by a committee of parents, teachers and administrators who researched and visited elementary programs across the country.
The committee report, presented to the school board this month, was funded by a grant from La Fiesta de Seis Banderas, a Park Cities nonprofit that raises money for charities. School board members expressed support for the elementary language program and said they will consider how to fund it.

1 comment:

  1. Motivation is the main factor for second language acquisition. While age seems to be the factor it is really conscious effort vs non-conscience effort. Young children do not have all the baggage, so to speak, of knowing any different. Children will learn in an environment and dont realize its different. On the other hand, older people that are more developed have to be motivated to really want to learn the language.
    My opinion is strictly observational based on my situation of moving to Brasil 9 months ago. I have two children, age 9 and 12. The 9 year old adapted quickly and speaks fluent portuguese without an accent. My 12 year old had difficulties in the first 6 months in adapting to the new environment and is now catching up. I believe the main reason the 12 year old took longer is that he did not embrace the new culture and was bitter about the change while the 9 year old didnt know any better, was not as attached to the previous environment, embraced and the new culture and wanted to make friends. Once the 12 year old started gaining friends he became motivated to learn the language. I realize I see the same in myself as well.