The importance of optimal age in acquiring foreign languages at school is discussed widely among researchers (Lambelet & Berthele, 2015). Children are considered to be more capable in learning languages than adults, particularly, when they learn the languages on its natural settings and it has a long-term effect. There is a period when the human brain is most sensitive to acquire input and accept a certain language which is called “critical period” (Yule, 2010) and this term is often connected with the age factor. One of the most popular examples to demonstrate critical age is the case of a 13 year old girl, Genie, who was isolated from social communication by her father ” (Yule, 2010). This case has long been interpreted that after a certain period, human being is not able to develop the language (Lambelet & Berthele , 2015). As a result, the theory has been criticized due its insufficient findings on emotional, physical, and cognitive factors that affect the language development. According to Lambelet and Berthele (2015) the critical period is only a possible factor which affects the age, but other factors related to age discrepancy in language learning should be analyzed as well. In addition, according to Singleton (2003) and other scholars, various investigations on children’s linguistic development do not provide evidence that language competence is impossible after a particular age. However, it was stated that language learning takes place comparably slower in older age, equal to that of children who acquire their mother tongue under convenient conditions (p.7). All these findings do not seem to provide enough evidence that human linguistic capacity is impossible after a certain period.
“Critical age” is discussed as the plausible impact in children’s acquiring languages, but due to the deficiency of research findings on other factors (emotional, physical, and cognitive factors) it cannot be considered as a good argument. Moreover, data above is less likely to provide reasons why human linguistic capacity cannot function appropriately after a particular age. So these findings suggest that human linguistic capacity is not limited to earlier ages, but can be developed throughout school time.
Lambelet, A. Berthele, R. (2015). Age and foreign language learning in school. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Singleton, D. (2003). Critical period or general age. In Garcia Mayo, M. & Lecumberri, M. (eds.), Age and the Aquisition of English as a Foreign language. Clevedon; Buffalo; Toronto; Sydney; Multilingual Matters, 3-22.
Yule, G. (2010). The Study of Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.