DO CHILDREN ACQUIRE FOREIGN/ SECOND LANGUAGE FASTER AND BETTER THAN ADULTS DO?

It is not very surprising when many people believe that young learners learn foreign / second language faster and better than adolescents or adults do. However, research findings show differently. Young children excel only when pronunciation is concerned. Older learners perform better on most aspects of acquisition. Harmer (2007) even said that young children learn second / foreign language faster and better is something of a MYTH. Research comparing children to adults has consistently demonstrated that adolescents and adults perform better than children under controlled situation.

But WHY many people are on that opinion?

First, a child doesn’t have to learn as much as an adult to achieve communicative competence. A child’s language is much simpler, shorter, and therefore he / she needs far less vocabulary. This may give us a sense that that child has master communicative competence. An adolescent or adult, on the other hand, requires much more vocabulary, longer and sometimes more complicated constructions because the idea that he/she needs to present. People usually expect that adult doesn’t only say “good, thank you, I like” etc. (only short prefabricated chunks). While, they seem to be very happy when see a young child can say those simple words and conclude that that young child has acquired communicative competence.

Learning a foreign / second language is as difficult for a child as it is for adults. It may even more difficult for children because children have less access to memory techniques and fewer learning / communication strategies that adults do.

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