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On how age affects L2 learning in natural and instructed settings Carmen Muñoz Universitat de Barcelona GALA ’07 University of Thessaloniki.

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Presentation on theme: "On how age affects L2 learning in natural and instructed settings Carmen Muñoz Universitat de Barcelona GALA ’07 University of Thessaloniki."— Presentation transcript:

1 On how age affects L2 learning in natural and instructed settings Carmen Muñoz Universitat de Barcelona GALA ’07 University of Thessaloniki

2 C. Muñoz - Gala '07 Age effects “The earlier the better”

3 C. Muñoz - Gala '07 Opinions “ The bilingual children I have met over the years learnt their skills at a very young age. When a child arrives in school with no English they learn quickly. ” (British teacher; Enever, forthcoming) “ Children are learning language anyway and pick it up naturally ” (British teacher; Enever, forthcoming) “ The younger they are, the more they are like sponges, the more they absorb, the more they retain. ” (Spanish parent; Torras, Tragant & García,1997)

4 C. Muñoz - Gala '07... like a sponge young children “soak up” languages

5 C. Muñoz - Gala '07 Scientific facts? Critical Period Hypothesis (Lenneberg, 1967) “... after the critical period language acquisition may be impossible or incomplete ”

6 C. Muñoz - Gala '07 Multiple sensitive periods –Some variability in ages of onset and offset –Environmental influence –Different timings for pronunciation (age 6), morphosyntax (midteens), … Scientific facts?

7 C. Muñoz - Gala '07 Theoretical dimension A biologically determined period → an innate language-specific faculty A valid SLA theory needs to solve the problem of age-related outcomes (Long, 2007) Applied dimension When to begin FL teaching at schools? Theoretical and applied dimensions

8 C. Muñoz - Gala '07 This talk Point out asymmetries concerning age-effects in natural and instructed learning contexts. -SLA and FLA -Characteristics of FL learning settings -5 asymmetries -Conclusions

9 C. Muñoz - Gala '07 SLA vs. FLA SLA resembles the natural way young children learn their L1, i.e., by implicitly acquiring the language while attempting to use it in communicative contexts for real- world purposes Instructed FLA draws more on conscious learning, explicit focus on form, and controlled practice.

10 C. Muñoz - Gala '07 Foreign language settings 1. instruction is limited to 2-4 sessions of approx. 50 min. / week 2. exposure to the TL during those class periods may be limited both in source (mainly the teacher) and quantity 3. the TL is not the language of communication between peers 4. the teacher’ s oral fluency may be limited 5. the TL is not spoken outside the classroom

11 C. Muñoz - Gala '07 5 asymmetries 1. Age-related advantages 2. Age of acquisition 3. Ultimate attainment 4. Length of exposure 5. Learning mechanisms

12 C. Muñoz - Gala '07 Asymmetry 1: Learning outcomes Naturalistic L2 learning -Late starters – short-term rate advantage -Early starters – long-term ultimate attainment advantage Johnson & Newport (1989), DeKeyser (2000), Snow & Hoefnagel-Höhle (1978), …

13 C. Muñoz - Gala '07 Learning outcomes Instructed L2 settings? …. can we automatically generalize?!

14 C. Muñoz - Gala '07 Instructed FL learning. The BAF Project Explore age effects in a foreign language setting –at different points in time (short/long term defined by increments of instruction/exposure) –for different language abilities –mixed design including longitudinal data

15 C. Muñoz - Gala '07 Group A AO = 8 Group B AO = 11 Group C AO = 14 Group D AO = 18+ Time h. A1A1A1A1 AT = 10;9 N = 284 OSE = 165 B1 AT = 12;9 N = 286 OSE = 107 C1 AT= 15;9 N = 40 OSE= 40 D1 AT = 28;9 N = 91 OSE = 67 Time h. A2 A2 AT = 12;9 N = 278 OSE = 140 B2 AT = 14;9 N = 239 OSE = 99 C2 AT =17;9 N = 11 OSE= 11 D2 AT = 39;4 N = 43 OSE = 21 Time h. A3 AT = 16;8 N = 338 OSE = 61 B3 AT = 17;9 N = 296 OSE = 51 D3 AT = 41;7 N = 7 OSE = 3 Time h. A4 AT = 17;9 N = 155 OSE = 27 The BAF Project

16 C. Muñoz - Gala '07 The BAF Project Questionnaire: language (L1, L2, L3) use, motivation, strategies,... Measures: –cloze (L1, L2, L3) –dictation (L1, L2, L3) –grammar –composition: fluency, (lexical & grammatical) complexity, accuracy –listening comprehension –minimal pair discrimination –word imitation –oral interview: production and reception; vocabulary development –oral narrative: textual cohesion; vocabulary development; grammar –role-play –map task

17 C. Muñoz - Gala '07 General results: cross-sectional and longitudinal data T1: D1 > C1 > B1 > A1 T2:D2 > C2 > B2 > A2 T3: B3 > A3

18 C. Muñoz - Gala '07...late starters are more efficient Advantage not uniform with respect to: - phonetics/phonology - morphosyntax - listening comprehension Gap reduced when difference in age (and cognitive development) is reduced as well

19 C. Muñoz - Gala '07 Phonetics –Initial age of learning not conclusive determinant … (Fullana, 2006)

20 C. Muñoz - Gala '07 “Accented L2 input hypothesis” “ L2 learners will fail to perceive and produce L2 sounds accurately if they are not provided with adequate L2 phonetic input, regardless of their starting age of L2 learning.” (Flege, 1991)

21 C. Muñoz - Gala '07 Morphosyntax vs. Listening comprehension (from Muñoz, 2006)

22 C. Muñoz - Gala '07 Morphosyntax ES < LS Increase in morphosyntax gains around puberty years

23 C. Muñoz - Gala '07 In an instructed L2 learning setting do younger starters outperform older starters in the long-term?... in the long-term?

24 C. Muñoz - Gala '07... in the long-term? “… if the older learners’ advantage is mainly due to their superior cognitive development, no differences in proficiency are to be expected when differences in cognitive development also disappear with age.” (Muñoz, 2006: 34 )

25 C. Muñoz - Gala '07 …getting a clearer picture of age effects in a school setting …

26 C. Muñoz - Gala '07 Same amount of instruction different age at testing. BAF Project -Early starters < Late starters -In the long term, early starters may catch up but no long-term advantage > Late starters are more efficient learners

27 C. Muñoz - Gala '07 Different amount of instruction same age at testing -Early starters > Late starters in oral/aural skills -In the long term, late starters catch up to early starters in literacy skills Burstall (1975); Oller & Nagato (1974); Harley (1986); Swain & Lapkin (1986); Turnbull et al. (1998); …

28 C. Muñoz - Gala '07 Different amount of instruction same age at testing - When there is enough exposure, older starters show higher learning efficiency in literacy skills as well. - Are younger starters’ higher oral/aural skills an effect of their initial age of learning or of exposure/instruction? … Age effects or Time effects??

29 C. Muñoz - Gala '07 “… no explanation has yet been provided for why in school settings the additional time associated with an early headstart has not been found to provide more substantial long-term proficiency benefits.” (Harley, 1998)

30 C. Muñoz - Gala '07 Asymmetry 2: Age of acquisition Natural settings Age of acquisition = = beginning of significant exposure

31 C. Muñoz - Gala '07 Significant exposure “… to participate in social settings effectively dominated by the L2 ” (Stevens, 2006) = …learners are able to carry out a variety of speech acts over a wide range of situations and topics “... immersion in the L2 context ” (Birdsong, 2006)

32 C. Muñoz - Gala '07 Significant exposure? NO social settings dominated by L2 in which to participate learners are not able to carry out a variety of speech acts over a wide range of situations and topics NO immersion: 3-4 hours / week 1 hour / week? Instructed settings

33 C. Muñoz - Gala '07 Significant exposure? Previous instruction in home country? – No correlation found (Johnson & Newport, 1989, etc.) Exception (Urpunen, 2004) – Disregarded: ”insignificant” (White & Genesee, 1996)

34 C. Muñoz - Gala '07 Asymmetry 2: Initial point Instructed settings Age of acquisition = Beginning of insignificant exposure a valid index? point vs period

35 C. Muñoz - Gala '07 Asymmetry 3: Ultimate attainment UA = final product of L2 acquisition = +/- nativelikeness Final product entails cessation of learning that appears in spite of optimal learning conditions (including input that is neither quantitatively nor qualitatively limited). Han (2004); Han & Odlin (2006); Selinker & Lamendella (1979)..

36 C. Muñoz - Gala '07 Instructed settings The requirement of having optimal learning conditions (including input that is neither quantitatively nor qualitatively limited) is not fulfilled in foreign language learning. Asymmetry 3: Ultimate attainment

37 C. Muñoz - Gala '07 Natural settings: Length of time of residence → ultimate attainment in L2 (native-like) Snow (1983): 2 yrs > 5 yrs Slavoff & Johnson (1995): 3 yrs not enough Krashen et al. (1979): 5 yrs DeKeyser (2000): 10 yrs Asymmetry 4: Length of exposure

38 C. Muñoz - Gala '07 Asymmetry 4: length of exposure Instructed settings 10 years (14 h / day) = hours = weeks (4h / week) = 245 years …

39 C. Muñoz - Gala '07 Asymmetry 5: Learning mechanisms Natural settings “... automatic acquisition from mere exposure to a language may disappear after puberty …” (Lenneberg,1967: 176) “… between the ages of 6-7 and 16-17, everybody loses the mental equipment required for the implicit induction of the abstract patterns underlying a human language.” (DeKeyser, 2000)

40 C. Muñoz - Gala '07 “ the implicit acquisition processes … require massive amounts of input, that only a total immersion program can provide, not a program with a few hours of foreign language per week.” (DeKeyser, 2000) Implicit acquisition

41 C. Muñoz - Gala '07 Asymmetry 5: implicit vs. explicit Natural settings provide enough comprehensible input to make form-meaning mappings... suited for younger learners Instructed settings provide explicit instruction (“short-cuts”)… suited for older learners, but do not provide the amount and intensity of input necessary for implicit learning.

42 C. Muñoz - Gala '07 Conclusions

43 C. Muñoz - Gala '07 Contribution of studies in natural contexts The earlier the better

44 C. Muñoz - Gala '07 Overgeneralization The earlier the better in any situation and independently of learning conditions (exposure, pedagogical, etc.)

45 C. Muñoz - Gala '07 Contribution of studies in instructed contexts... provided it is associated with enough significant exposure - distributed intensively - and with opportunities for participating in a variety of L2 social contexts The earlier may be the better...

46 C. Muñoz - Gala '07... children need water like a sponge!

47 C. Muñoz - Gala '07 Research agenda To determine the amount of input required for an early start to be effective in promoting language learning To focus on the relative gains of different-age pupils with different types of time distribution The distinction between short-term and long- term benefits of starting at different ages The comparative study of the learning rate of different-age learners to inform educators about what to expect after n years of FL instruction from different-age learners (Muñoz, 2008)

48 C. Muñoz - Gala '07 Bibliographical references Birdsong, D. and Molis, M. (2001) On the evidence for maturational constraints on second- language acquisition. Journal of Memory and Language 44, Bley-Vroman, R. (1989) What is the logical problem of foreign language learning? In S. Gass and J. Schachter (eds) Linguistic Perspectives on Second Language Acquisition (pp ) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Burstall, C. (1975) Primary French in the balance. Foreign Language Annals 10 (3), DeKeyser, R. (2000) The Robustness of Critical Period Effects in Second Language Acquisition. Studies in Second Language Acquisition 22 (4), DeKeyser, R. (2003) Implicit and Explicit Learning. In C. J. Doughty and M. H. Long (eds) Handbook of Second Language Acquisition (pp ). London: Blackwell. Enever, J. (forthcoming). The status of the target language: contemporary criteria influencing language choices for early learners in England. In M. Nikolov (ed.) Contextualizing the Age Factor: Issues in Early Foreign Language Learning and Teaching. Flege, J. (1991). Age of learning affects the authenticity of voice onset time (VOT) in stop consonants produced in a second language. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 89, Fullana, N. (2006). The development of English (FL) perception and production skills: starting age and exposure effects.In C. Muñoz (ed.): Age and the Rate of Foreign Language Learning. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, Han, Z.-H. (2004). Fossilization in Adult Second Language Acquisition. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters. Han, Z.-H. and Odlin, T. (2005). ‘Introduction’ in Z.-H. Han and T. Odlin (eds): Studies of Fossilization in Second Language Acquisition. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, pp Harley, B. (1986). Age in Second Language Acquisition. Clevedon, Avon: Multilingual Matters. Johnson, J. and Newport, E. (1989) Critical period effects in second language learning: The influence of maturational state on the acquisition of English as a second language. Cognitive Psychology 21,

49 C. Muñoz - Gala '07 Krashen, S., Long, M., and Scarcella, R. (1979) Age, rate and eventual attainment in second language acquisition. TESOL Quarterly 9, Reprinted in S.D. Krashen, R.C. Scarcella and M.H. Long (eds) (1982) Child-Adult Differences in Second Language Acquisition (pp ). Rowley, Mass.: Newbury House Publishers. Lenneberg, E.H. (1967) Biological Foundations of Language. New York: Wiley. Long, M. (1990) Maturational constraints on language development. Studies in Second Language Acquisition 12 (3), Long, M. (2007) Problems in SLA. Lawrence Erlbaum. Muñoz, (2006) ‘The Effects of Age on Foreign Language Learning: the BAF Project’ in C. Muñoz (ed.): Age and the Rate of Foreign Language Learning. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, pp Muñoz (2008). Symmetries and Asymmetries of age effects in naturalistic and instructed L2 learning. Applied Linguistics Oller, J. and Nagato, N. (1974) The long-term effect of FLES: An experiment. Modern Language Journal 58, Singleton, D. (1995) A critical look at the Critical Period Hypothesis in second language acquisition research. In D. Singleton and Z. Lengyel (eds) The Age Factor in Second Language Acquisition (pp. 1-29). Clevedon: Multilingual Matters. Singleton, D. and Ryan, L. (2004) Language Acquisition: The Age Factor. 2nd edition. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters. Selinker, L. and J. Lamendella The role of extrinsic feedback in interlanguage fossilization: A discussion of “rule fossilization: A tentative model”. Language Learning 29/2: Skehan, P. (1998) A Cognitive Approach to Language Learning. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Slavoff, G. R. and Johnson, J. S. (1995) The effects of age on the rate of learning a second language. Studies in Second Language Acquisition 17 (1), Snow, C. (1983) Age differences in second language acquisition: Research findings and folk psychology. In K. M. Bailey, M. H. Long and S. Peck (eds) Second Language Acquisition Studies (pp ). Rowley, Mass.: Newbury House Publishers.

50 C. Muñoz - Gala '07 Snow, C. and Hoefnagel-Höhle, M. (1978) The critical period for language acquisition: Evidence from second language learning. Child Development 49, Stevens, G. (2006) The age-length-onset problems in research on second language acquisition among immigrants. Language Learning 56/4: Torras, M.R., Tragant, E. and García, M.L. (1997) Croyances populaires sur l’apprentissage précoce d’une langue étrangère. In C. Muñoz, L. Nussbaum and M. Pujol (eds). Acquisition et Interaction en Langue Étrangère 10, Turnbull, M., Lapkin, S., Hart, D. and Swain, M. (1998) Time on task and immersion graduates' French proficiency. In S. Lapkin (ed.) French Second Language Education in Canada: Empirical Studies (pp ). Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press. Urponen, M. I Ultimate Attainment in Postpuberty Second Language Acquisition. Boston University: Boston. White, L. and Genesee, F. (1996) How native is near-native? The issue of ultimate attainment in adult second language acquisition. Second Language Research 12 (3),


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