Many adults struggle to learn a second language, but not for lack of effort — the problem may actually be that they're trying too hard, a new study suggests. Scientists have long suspected that adults' superior cognitive function might actually be a drawback in picking up a new language, giving kids the upper hand. In the new study, when adults were told to try to learn the proper sentence structure and grammar of a new language, the participants actually learned less than those who were not told they would have to take a quiz.
Within the short space of time, a child can go from babbling to forming coherent sentences. This is all the more amazing since they do this through simple exposure to the language, without any formal instruction. Any adult learner hoping to match this progress will have to spend long periods of time at study, memorizing vocabulary and conjugations.
I considered two possibilities. If I was an idiot, then so was everyone else. I was just doing it wrong.
In fact, there are many reasons to believe that the popular opinion about how poorly adults learn languages is fundamentally flawed. From the lack of physical evidence for the superiority of language learning in children, a new system of beliefs is beginning to sprout through the cracks of the old, oversimplified model of age and language learning. The Critical Period Hypothesis is the academic name for what most of us have come to believe about adults and language learning. After that… good luck.
As a young adult in college, I decided to learn Japanese. However, many of my classmates and I found it difficult to learn a language in adulthood. We struggled to connect new sounds and a dramatically different writing system to the familiar objects around us.
You've likely heard that learning a new language is easier for children than it is for adults. But all hope is not lost for grown-ups looking to expand their linguistic knowledge. While a recent MIT study did pinpoint
Traditionally, diachronic language change has been attributed to intra-linguistic factors, which, in analogy to genetic drift, result in diversification of languages as a consequence of the social and geographical separation of linguistic communities Lupyan and Dale, More recently, extra-linguistic factors have been implicated in language change as languages adapt to ecological niches formed by geographic, demographic, and cultural characteristics of social environments Dale and Lupyan, ; Reali et al. One way of conceptualizing these extra-linguistic factors is to distinguish linguistic communities along a continuum of variation in population size, geographical spread, and amount of contact with other languages: Inward-facing, esoteric communities have small populations with shared knowledge and little language contact whereas outward-facing, exoteric communities have large populations, assembled into diverse social networks with substantial amounts of non-shared knowledge and contact with other languages Thurston, ; Wray and Grace,
Not a MyNAP member yet? Register for a free account to start saving and receiving special member only perks. Below is the uncorrected machine-read text of this chapter, intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text of each book. Kroll For cognitive scientists, the idea that speaking two languages might be the natural state of cognition has only recently come to be appreciated.
Second-language acquisition SLAsecond-language learningor L2 language 2 acquisitionis the process by which people learn a second language. Second-language acquisition is also the scientific discipline devoted to studying that process. The field of second-language acquisition is a subdiscipline of applied linguisticsbut also receives research attention from a variety of other disciplines, such as psychology and education.
I n our previous mini-article entitled Language Acquisition vs. Language Learning we mentioned an important distinction in the way in which children acquire their mother tongue naturally, by means of meaningful interactions with their parents in which the focus of every single exchange is communicative in nature. Adults, in contrast, when trying to learn a second language, are usually presented with a myriad of grammar rules and patterns to master from the very first class. It is said by advocates of these procedures, that their cognitive development cannot be equalled to that of a child and that statement is very true indeed.