Learning a new language is a process that takes time. Although most people believe that younger learners are more adept in blossoming as proficient multilinguals, there is much ambiguity surrounding the best age for language education and the exact age at which a new language should be introduced. Often the rate at which a person is able to pick up a second language depends upon the total language environment he or she is exposed to. For example, a child with French as the first language could progress positively with English if the second language is taught regularly as a part of the school curriculum. However, there are exceptions to every language learning theory and the way it is taught. Mature and young learners learn languages differently.
What Critical Period Hypothesis (CPH) Says About New Language Education
According to the principles of this theory, language learning skills are at their peak when the learner is young and has just attained some degree of proficiency in their native language. However, just how young the learner should be, is highly debatable. Some experts opine that by the age of 6 to 7 years, a learner comes to the climax of learning a new language. After this age, the ability to progress through a foreign language diminishes. Scholars from another group argue that this learning phase continues up until the learner has reached adolescence. Whatever the ideal age is, it is clear that children are better capable in mastering a language quicker than grownups. However, this doesn’t help at all in identifying a well demarcated age or even an age bracket.
How learners go through the fabric of a language
For both young and mature language learners, the style of grasping a new language differs. Young language learners understand a different tongue better through cue cards, picture books, audiovisual aids, and language learning tools. They are able to read, speak, write, and understand a foreign language simultaneously with their native vernacular. Adults, on the other hand, are at an advanced stage of language development and follow a different learning curve. Older learners accept a new language better through association than direct learning. They use word and phrasal representations to gradually build their way through an unknown language. Here language development takes place through correlation, interpretation, and translation.
Need based language learning
Young learners are often short on language skills since they are required to manage two or more languages at the same time. This usually has to do with better school grades and admissions. Many adults learn a second language as a supplement to the native tongue or as the language of communication. This has to do with earning professional competitiveness, travel, and increasing social interactions. Hence besides the proper age, the purpose of learning also determines the level of proficiency.
It is a practice to localize the second language learning age in the primary years of a person’s life (for example up to the age of 7) since during this period, the child is sharper at perfecting pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary. However, different learners show different language adaptation levels and their methods too vary.