Learning A First Language As A Second Language Essay

Learning A First Language As A Second Language Essay

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Learning a first language in childhood is an experience that all normal functioning humans undergo. Learning a second language after childhood, however, is an experience which not everyone attempts or succeeds in. The question of whether learning one’s first language as a child is the same as learning subsequent languages as an adult is one that interests psychologists, scientists and linguists alike. Although in many respects the acquisition process of children learning their first language and adults learning their second, third or fourth language is similar, overall there are striking differences between the manner in which these two groups do so, which mean that the process is not essentially the same across both these groups.


Throughout the twentieth century many theories attempting to explain the process undertaken by children learning their first language, with the theory of imitation, theory of child-directed speech, and theory of reinforcement being only some of the theories proposed. However, each of these theories fails to explain all the complex factors involved in language learning, which is why theory of Universal Grammar is the most accepted hypothesis around the world today (Fomkin et al. 2014, pp.229-304). The theory of Universal Grammar argues that the understanding and knowledge of a language is not entirely learned after birth, but that rather there is a degree of innateness as language is a part of the genetic framework. This theory goes on to explain that the developmental stages of learning a language are universal to all humans and that the amount grammar people gain knowledge of is mostly undetermined by linguistic life experience. These hypotheses that the theory of Universal Grammar make are proven...


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...rst language as a child and a second, third, or fourth language as an adult, it is clear that the processes are not essentially the same, despite there being some similarities. This is because in first language acquisition the process occurs alongside the development of the brain and relies on innateness found in early childhood for language attainment. However, in second language acquisition as an adult, the process of learning relies largely on the transferring of knowledge from the first language to the second, with only a small amount of innateness remaining. These fundamental differences mean that the overall process of learning a language for the first time as a child and for subsequent times as an adult is different. This indicates to the necessity of further research on second language acquisition, in order for adults to be as proficient as possible.

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