The Age of Second Language Acquisition
The human language is a unique phenomenon in how powerful and indispensable tool it is for people. Although verbal communication constitutes only a small fraction of interpersonal interaction, the nature and the origin of language have always haunted human minds, which resulted in thousands of volumes of scholarship. Nowadays, we know that any language is dynamic and constantly evolving. We have traced the roots of nearly all the languages in the world, but one question has stubbornly remained open: what is the best age for language acquisition? In this day and age, in today's multilingual, multicultural, and globalizing world, answering this question is becoming a matter of top priority; whether this riddle is resolved determines whether we will be able to get rid of language barriers. This literature review is based on 8 scholarly articles, published in academic journals, that focus on the importance of age in language acquisition. The purpose of the review is to cast light on the major controversies in this field, as well as highlight the existing gaps in respective research.
Of the plethora of linguistic theories devised to determine the perfect age for language acquisition, the Critical Period Hypothesis has been the most controversial and thus the most debatable. Formulated in by Penfield and Roberts in 1959, it suggests that there is a period of time (from early childhood to puberty) when learning a language occurs naturally and unconsciously. Correspondingly, once that period is over, one cannot learn a language without conscious effort and diligence. Some scholars defend this hypothesis fervently; others dismiss it as a serious oversimplification. Despite decades of study, to scholarly consensus has been reached as to whether age can influence one's capacity to learn a language. A 2013 study conducted in Turkey attempted to establish whether learning foreign languages is easier at an early age (Gursoy & Akin, 2013). The study involved 84 children from aged from 10 to 14; the data was gathered via questionnaires and analyzed with Cronbach's alpha .876. The results indicate that 10-year old children tend to be less anxious in learning a foreign language, which enables them to practice a new language extensively, without fear of looking stupid for mistakes. Thus, low levels of anxiety were associated with faster language acquisition.
The factor of stress in language acquisition was addressed in a 2013 study, covering an experiment conducted in South America. This 5-year study included 1509 students, who were administered listening and speaking tests (Billak, 2013). The results did not reveal major discrepancies in the participants' listening skills: all the students showed a comparable auditory perception of the language. However, it was determined that language acquisition can be impaired because of unhealthy emotional atmosphere in the class. However, when put in proper conditions, the participants were able to grasp a foreign language rapidly. This idea was further promoted by Lucia-Larissa Palea and Simona Bostina-Bratu (2015) in their article; they suggested that youngsters can excel at a given language if they are …