The Effects of Learning a Second Language in Adulthood

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Being able to speak more than one language is proving to be a valuable skill in modern society. Many children across the world are at least bilingual, leaving many American parents wondering if they too, should learn to speak another language. While this debate remains ongoing, many adults are seeking to learn a second language either to communicate with a new client base or to attain higher status within a corporate setting.

Most Americans learn a second language in adulthood. Many public schools do not begin teaching second languages until high school, and all college students must study a foreign language in order to graduate from the university. Another population within the United States that is learning a second language are those immigrating from other countries, particularly Mexico. Most of these immigrants who are learning are adults, their children will not have to deal with learning a second language because they will most likely learn two languages, English and Spanish.

For the purposes of this paper, I have defined adulthood as including any person who is at or above the age of eighteen, because there is so little research on language learning in early adulthood versus middle or late adulthood. It is not possible to find studies about particular divisions of adulthood that have been verified by subsequent research trials, so I have included research about all ages of adulthood. Throughout this paper, I will discuss the major aspects of the body of research literature that separates adult second language learning from that of natural bilingual persons, including full immersion into the language, biological and neurological factors, the structure of both the native and second languages, age of acqui...

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