The Age Factor in Second Language Acquisition Introduction There are many factors that affect second language acquisition (SLA). For example, SLA is affected by the role of the mother tongue, the role of gender differences, the role of personal differences and the role of age differences. The role of age differences is one of the most important factors that affect SLA. It is often claimed that children learn faster than adults. The younger the learner of a foreign language, the more effective the learning process will be. Nowadays, many countries are trying to introduce English for younger learners. They believe that the younger the learners are, the better the learning English process will be. The United Arab
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There are many researchers who have examined the relationship between the age factor and the proficiency in the language. An example is Weber-fox and Neville (1996), (quoted in Birdsong, 1999). They tested a large group of Chinese-English bilinguals. These participants were divided into groups based on the age at which they were immersed in English. They were tested on both comprehension and speaking abilities. They found that the performance (comprehension and speaking) of children is better than the performance of adults. So the study ended with the younger the learners are the better they are in acquiring the language. Another example is Johnson and Newport (1989, 1991), (Quoted in Hakuta, Bialystok and Wiley, 2003). They have argued that" there is a strong age-related decline in proficiency for languages learned prior to puberty (defined as 15 years old) and random variation in achievement among individuals who are exposed to a second language later in life"
Accounting for Age Differences in SLA There are many explanations that have tried to account for the age difference in SLA. These are the neurological explanation (or the critical period hypothesis), the cognitive explanation, the affective factors explanation and the input explanation. In my project, I will talk about the neurological explanation only because as Hakuta, Bialystok and Wiley (2003) indicated that the critical period is a popular way of