THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN AGE AND SECOND LANGUAGE PRODUCTIVE ABILITY

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Abstract

This study examines the relationship between certain aspects of the second language acquisition process and age. An oral production test was developed to assess the ability of nonnative English speaking children to produce standard English morphology and syntax. The test was administered to approximately 200 children (ages 6–15) who were learning English as a second language in American public schools. The results of this testing were used to examine the relationship between age and 1) the rate of acquisition of certain English grammatical structures and 2) the order of acquisition of these grammatical structures.

The results indicated that there was some relationship between age and rate of learning. Among children exposed to English the same amounts of time, the older children scored higher on the morphology and syntax subtests, whereas the younger children received higher ratings in phonology. There were, however, no major differences observed in the order in which children of different ages learned to produce the structures included in the test. These results suggest that there is a difference in the rate of learning of English morphology, syntax and phonology based upon differences in age, but that the order of acquisition in second language learning does not change with age.

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