Scholarly article on topic 'Age Constraint on Foreign Language Learning in Monolingual Versus Bilingual Learners'

Age Constraint on Foreign Language Learning in Monolingual Versus Bilingual Learners Academic research paper on "Educational sciences"

CC BY-NC-ND
0
0
Share paper
OECD Field of science
Keywords
{"Foreign language learning" / "age constrains" / puberty / bilingual / monolingual}

Abstract of research paper on Educational sciences, author of scientific article — Maryam Tafaroji Yeganeh

Abstract This research aims at investigating the effect of age constrains and monoligualism/bilingualism on foreign language learning. In so doing, 50 Persian monolinguals and 25 Kurdish-Persian bilinguals were tested on a wide variety of structures of English grammar using a grammatically judgment task. The results demonstrated a strong advantage for learning in age up to puberty; moreover, at this stage there were no significant differences between monolingual and bilingual performances. But after puberty, the performance of both monolinguals and bilinguals was low but bilinguals’ performance was significantly higher than monolinguals.

Academic research paper on topic "Age Constraint on Foreign Language Learning in Monolingual Versus Bilingual Learners"

Available online at www.sciencedirect.com

SciVerse ScienceDirect

Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 70 (2013) 1794 - 1799

Akdeniz Language Studies Conference 2012

Age constraint on foreign language learning in monolingual

versus bilingual learners

Maryam Tafaroji Yeganeh

English Department of Ilam University, Ilam 69315-516, Iran

Abstract

This research aims at investigating the effect of age constrains and monoligualism/bilingualism on foreign language learning. In so doing, 50 Persian monolinguals and 25 Kurdish-Persian bilinguals were tested on a wide variety of structures of English grammar using a grammatically judgment task. The results demonstrated a strong advantage for learning in age up to puberty; moreover, at this stage there were no significant differences between monolingual and bilingual performances. But after puberty, the performance of both monolinguals and bilinguals was low but bilinguals' performance was significantly higher than monolinguals.

© 2012 The Authors . Published by Elsevier Ltd. Selection and peer-review under responsibility of ALSC 2012

Keywords: Foreign language learning; age constrains; puberty; bilingual; monolingual

1. Introduction

It has been supposed that learners acquire a language when they are aware of what they hear and what they read (Krashen, 1981, 1982).The main evidence that supports this, is "comprehension" or "input hypothesis". For example, in learning language, at the beginning level, students who are provided with more intelligible input constantly do better than students in classes that contribute less comprehensible input (Krashen 1982). A large number of experts believe that the acquisition of language is more effective than conventional foreign language learning (Lafayette and Buscaglia, 1985; Edwards et al., 1985; Hauptman et al., 1988).

On the other hand, there are number of research projects that show the effect of instruction on language learning. Some experts support the advantages of foreign language learning (Griva, Semoglou&

Corresponding author. Tel: +00 000 000 0000; fax: +00 000 000 0000 E-mail address: yeganeh.maryam@gmail.com

1877-0428 © 2012 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. Selection and peer-review under responsibility of ALSC 2012 doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.01.255

Geladari, 2010; Johnstone, 2002; Singleton, 1995). Research projects in the field of foreign language learning (FLL) are regarded as helpful means for young learners' foreign language learning, because some of them present both linguistic and personal advantage to the children in a safe, sound, and relaxing environment (Shin, 2006), and that such situation decreases young learners, stress and anxiety, thus it leads to more successful language acquisition (Mixon & Temu, 2006). Some believe FLL can happen as a enjoyable process (Ellis & Brewster, 2002) and in such a context learners are able to exercise their imagination and ingenuity (Haliwell, 1992).

It is crystal clear and of course there are tangible facts that all groups in all over the world speak at least one language. At the present time, more than 6000 spoken languages are used in the world. Moreover, human being has a sole aptitude to learn more than one language. A plethora of studies have done about learning language by bi- or monolingual learners. Hakuta (1990) confirmed that "Bilingualism can lead to superior performance on a variety of intellectual skills" (p. 7). The main focus of the current study is to aim to advance our understanding of the effect of bilingualism and monolingualism on children and adults' language development.

Besides what mentioned above, foreign language learning is one of the main concerns of a lot of scholars. A vast number of research projects have been done to show that learning the language is a process that has been influencing by a number of factors. One of the main important factors that have an effect on learning is age. There are remarkable data that have been taken into consideration as a support for this claim based on Lenneberg's Critical Period Hypothesis (Bailystok & Miller, 1999; Birdsong, 1992; Birdsong & Molis, 2001; DeKeyser, 2000; Flege, Yeni komshian, & liu, 1999; Johnson & Newport, 1989; McDonald, 2000; Murphy, 1997; Weber-Fox & Veville, 1996).

According to this hypothesis, language acquisition must take place early in life consequently nativelike mastery is supposed. After passing the critical period, age of acquisition is not believed to have an effect, and native-like performance is no longer supposed to be achievable (Birdsong, 2005). On the other hand, well-known scientists carried out remarkable projects to show the influence of age on foreign language learning (Ellis, 1990; Lightbown, 1984; Mitchell & Myles, 1998; Gregg, 1984; McLaughlin, 1987; Ellis, 1985; Terrell et al, 1997).

This research project is going to investigate the impact of age and multilingualism on FLL. It is important to find out that whether critical period has an effect on FLL in bilingual and monolingual learners or not

With regard to what has already been stated and based on the objectives of the research, the following research questions were sought to answer.

1. Is there any significant difference between the performances of monolingual learners in pre-puberty and post-puberty?

2. Is there any significant difference between the performances of bilingual learners in pre-puberty and post-puberty?

3. Is there any significant difference between performance of bilingual post-puberty and monolingual post-puberty?

4. Is there any significant difference between performance of bilingual pre-puberty and monolingual pre-puberty?

2. Method

2.1. Participants

Seventy-five college students aged from 18 to 30 participated in the study (36 male and 39 females). These students were investigated in this study in four groups. The first group was composed of twenty monolinguals who have taken an English course before the age of puberty. The second group included thirteen monolinguals who have taken an English course after puberty. Our third group was ten bilingual students who have taken an English course before their puberty. Last group was composed of fifteen bilinguals taken English course after puberty. These subjects were tested on a wide variety of structures of English grammar, using a grammatically judgment task.

2.2. Instrument

To assess students' proficiency in English language students were administered TOEFL proficiency test under the same condition. And a set of grammatical judgment task was also added to assess monolingual and bilinguals knowledge of English structure. The test was one of the already valid tests.

3. Procedure

The study was conducted during the first semester of 2011. The participants of each group were selected randomly among their societies. The process of applying tests to students was done in four sessions. One session was dedicated to each group to answer the questions. During each session of administering the tests students after receiving a brief introduction about the aim of the study, started to perform on the test. The process of applying tests to students. The time allotment and environmental condition was tried the most to be the same for all groups. Questions and problems of test takers were answered patiently during the test performance.

4. Findings and Analysis

The collected data through TOEFL proficiency test was analyzed with SPSS and the following results were obtained. After calculating means and standard deviations of the four groups in the study ( bilinguals learning English before puberty, bilinguals learning English after puberty, monolinguals learning English before puberty and monolinguals learning English after puberty) t-test was utilized for comparisons between groups. The results of these comparisons are illustrated in the following tables.

Tablel. Independent Sample t-Test Comparisons of two groups of monolinguals after puberty and

before puberty_

Groups Means SD t p

Monolinguals 25.6 442 4.93 0.002

Before puberty

Monolinguals 10.01 4.18 25

After puberty

The above table demonstrates that there is statistically significant difference between monolinguals who have taken English course before puberty and those who have taken English course after their puberty; consequently there is positive relationship between age constraint and foreign language learning. In other words, those monolinguals who have taken English course before puberty perform better on proficiency tests; consequently, the first null hypothesis of our study is rejected.

Table2. Independent Sample t-Test Comparisons of two groups of bilinguals before puberty and after puberty

Groups Means SD t p

Bilinguals

Before puberty 26.1 4.11 4.97 0.001

Bilinguals 16.78 3.93

After puberty

The above table shows that there is statistically significant difference between bilinguals who have taken English course before puberty and those who have taken English course after their puberty; consequently for bilinguals there is positive relationship between age constraint and foreign language learning for bilinguals. By the same token the second hypothesis of our study is also rejected since the pre-puberty English learners have performed better on the test.

Table3. Independent Sample T-Test. Comparisons of two groups of monolinguals and bilinguals before puberty_

Groups Means SD t p

Monolinguals Before puberty 25.6 4.42 1.827 0/78

Bilinguals After puberty 26.1 4.11

Table 3 shows that there is no statistically significant difference between bilinguals and monolinguals who have taken English course before puberty; consequently there is no significant difference in the results of both monolinguals and bilinguals who have taken English course before puberty. In other words, before the age of puberty being a monolingual or bilingual does not affect learners' achievement in foreign language learning. Based on this study the factor of multilingualism has not affected foreign language learning; consequently the third hypothesis of the study is not rejected.

Table4. Independent Sample T-Test Comparisons of two groups of monolinguals and

bilinguals after puberty_

Groups Means SD t p

Monolinguals 10.01 4718 423 0.001

After puberty

Bilinguals 16.78 4.13

After puberty

Table 4 demonstrates that there is statistically significant difference between bilinguals and monolinguals that have taken English course after puberty; consequently the fourth hypothesis is also

rejected. Based on the result of this table being a bilingual or monolingual is an effective factor in learning a foreign language after puberty. Compared to monolinguals those bilinguals who have taken English course after their puberty perform better on their English proficiency test and have greater achievement in learning process.

5. Conclusion

The t-test results showed that age and bilingualism have affected the students' achievements in learning a foreign language. The results of this study are in line with the CPH theory and many other studies conducted before. Many researchers have found that age constraint is an important factor in second and foreign language learning. By the same token, other studies have discovered that bilingualism has a positive effect on foreign language achievement (Eisentein, 1980; Ringbom, 1985; Thomas, 1988; Valencia & Cenoz, 1992; Zobl, 1993; Klein, 1995; Sanz, 2000). An interesting issue about the result of this study is the effect of bilingualism on language learning for students who have taken the English course after their puberty. Better performance of bilingual students on the test brings about interesting and challenging issue about the effect of multilingualism on foreign language learning. Since in the comparisons of bilingual learners and monolinguals before the age of puberty the difference was not significant but in after puberty the difference is significant we can claim that bilingual learners in conscious process of learning and maturity achieve more in compare to monolinguals. Although the certainty of such a claim is in need of more investigations and study over this issue.

References

Bialystok, E., & Miller, B. (1999). The problem of age in second language acquisition: Influences from language, structure and task. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition.

Birdsong, D., & Molis, M. (2001). On the evidence for maturational constraints in second language acquisition. Journal of Memory and Language.

DeKeyser, R. (2000). The robustness of critical period effects in second language acquisition. Studies in Second Language Acquisition.

Ellis, G., & Brewster, J. (2002). Tell it again! The new storytelling handbook for primary teachers. Essex: Pearson Education Limited.

Flege, J., Yeni-Komshian, G., & Liu, S. (1999). Age constraints on second language acquisition. Journal of Memory and Language.

Griva, E., Semoglou, K. & Geladari, A. (2010). Early Foreign Language Learning: implementation of a Project in a game -based context.

Haliwell, S. (1992). Teaching English in the primary classroom. New York: Longman.

Hakuta, K., & Diaz, R. M. (1985). The relationship between degree of bilingualism and cognitive ability: A critical discussion and some new longitudinal data. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Johnson, J., & Newport, E. (1991). Critical period effects on universal properties of language: The status of subjacency in the acquisition of a second language.

Johnstone, R. (2002). Addressing 'the age factor': Some implications for language policy. Strasbourg: Council of Europe.

Krashen, S. (1981). Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Learning. Oxford: Pergamon Press.

Krashen, S. (1982). Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Pergamon.

Krashen, S. & Terrell. T. (1983). The Natural Approach: Language Acquisition in the Classroom. Oxford: Pergamon.

Mixon, M., & Temu, P. (2006). First road to learning: Language through stories. English Teaching Forum.

McDonald, J. (2000). Grammaticality judgments in a second language: Influences of age of acquisition and native language. Applied Psycholinguistics.

Weber-Fox, C., & Neville, H. (1996). Maturational constraints on functional specialization for language processing: ERP and behavioral evidence in bilingual speakers. Journal of Cognitive Neurosciene.