On the Significance of the Age Factor in Language Attainment: A Synthesis and Novel Evidence from Morocco
Keywords:Age differences, second/foreign language, language attainment, young and adults.
The aim of the following study is to explore the interrelatedness between second/foreign language attainment and the learner’s age. The interest in this study grew for two fundamental reasons. First of all, although there have been many investigations dealing with the link between the learners’ age and their second/foreign language attainment, the findings from the research continue to be inconsistent and inconclusive (Pfenninger & Polz, 2018; Kroll & De Groot, 2009). Additionally, the equivocal nature of the findings is related in part, to the failure of most of these studies to examine this relationship under adequately controlled conditions (Nikolov & Djigunović, 2006). This paper attempts to undertake the central question at multiple levels of analysis among Moroccan learners of different age groups being subject to the same teaching and learning conditions. More interesting perhaps is that although much research has been undertaken to explore the significance of the age factor in language learning, this topic is still an uncharted area of research in the Moroccan educational context, and very little is known about it. Our concern here is to disclose the interrelatedness between the learners’ age and their success or failure in language attainment. Drawing on data comparing young and older learners’ attainment levels in English as a foreign language, the results prove very convincingly that young language learners tend to surpass their older classmates, though not significantly at different levels of analysis, but more substantially at one particular level pertaining to the language skill of reading. Another more central objective of this paper is to draw the attention of language teachers and educationalists in general to the importance of the young-adult difference in language learning and to delineate some of the pedagogical implications for the teaching and learning of languages in Moroccan elementary schools.
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