Critical period for learning language longer than thought

  • A large internet study has concluded that language-learning ability remains strong until about 17-18, however, to achieve native proficiency, you should start before age 10.

It’s long been speculated that there’s a critical period for learning a new language, but the specifics are a matter of debate. It is difficult to follow a sufficient number of language learners through their years of learning. But a new study has got over that difficulty by using the ability of Facebook to get vast numbers of people, who represent many stages of learning.

The study involved a 10-minute quiz on English grammar, after which users were asked to reveal their current age and the age at which they began learning English, as well as other information about their language background. Complete data was received from 669,498 people (both native and non-native English speakers).

Testing a number of computational models to see which was most consistent with the results, the researchers concluded that grammar-learning ability remains strong until age 17 or 18, at which point it drops. This is a much longer period than previously thought.

However, the study also found that it is nearly impossible for people to achieve proficiency similar to that of a native speaker unless they start learning a language by the age of 10. There wasn’t much difference between those who started learning the language at birth and those who began at 10, but if you start learning after 10, you don’t have a long enough time before reaching 18, to achieve the proficiency of native speakers.

It’s not clear, however, that these differences necessarily have to do with physiology. It still may be social or cultural, given that people’s lives customarily change at that age. Perhaps it’s simply a matter of how much time and effort you are able to devote.

The quiz was designed to be entertaining enough to go viral (in which it succeeded!), and included questions that used grammatical rules most likely to trip up a non-native speaker, as well as questions designed to reveal which dialect of English the test-taker speaks (acceptable grammar can vary by dialect).

Do note that this is only about learning to the standard of a native speaker! It emphatically does not mean that you can’t learn a language as an adult!

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-05/miot-csd042718.php

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-05/bc-bwf043018.php

Reference: 

Related News

The role of sleep in consolidating memory is now well-established, but recent research suggests that sleep also reorganizes memories, picking out the emotional details and reconfiguring the memories to help you produce new and creative ideas.

A study involving 120 toddlers, tested at 14, 24, and 36 months, has assessed language skills (spoken vocabulary and talkativeness) and the development of self-regulation. Self-regulation is an important skill that predicts later academic and social success.

Reports on cognitive decline with age have, over the years, come out with two general findings: older adults do significantly worse than younger adults; older adults are just as good as younger adults.

The study involved 13 patients and 14 controls, who listened to either spoken lyrics or lyrics sung with full musical accompaniment while reading the printed lyrics on a screen.

An imaging study reveals that different brain regions are involved in learning nouns and verbs. Nouns activate the left

While most foreign language courses try hard to provide native speakers, a new study shows that adults find it easier when the teacher speaks it in the same accent as the student.

Because Nicaraguan Sign Language is only about 35 years old, and still evolving rapidly, the language used by the younger generation is more complex than that used by the older generation. This enables researchers to compare the effects of language ability on other abilities.

Like human faces, infants are predisposed to pay attention to words. Now a new study shows that they learn concepts from them from a very early age.

Perhaps we should start thinking of language less as some specialized process and more as one approach to thought.

Pages

Subscribe to Latest newsSubscribe to Latest newsSubscribe to Latest health newsSubscribe to Latest news