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An experiment is carried out to determine the viability of age as an influential factor in second language learning. The experiment also aims to understand the aptitude of the English language among foreign-born adults in the United States. The author uses data collected from the U.S census bureau to assert his argument that age is indeed a potent entity that predisposes the acquisition of English as a second language.
However, the author attributes the level of proficiency in the second language to social and demographic factors such as exposure, education and the duration of residence in the United States. In using historical census data, the author is able to access a wide range of research material and supportive information to reinforce his hypothesis. Census data is acquired through the archives and the author has no personal contact with his subjects.
A sample population of foreign-born Chinese, Spanish and French native speakers with a minimum of ten years residency in the United States was selected (Gillian 555). Their ability to speak English was the dependant variable in the experiment and this ability was grade in three categories of ‘Good”, “Poor” and “Fair” (Gillian 555- 578).
Details of Experiment method and procedure
The information pertaining to the research was obtained from data collected during the 1991 national census conducted in the United States (Gillian 555). Three census questions on language attributes were used to effectively allocate the grades to each of the responses given during the census. The streaming questions were, “Which was your former country of residence? – Is it your birth country?”, “At what age did you immigrate to America?-how old are you now?” and “what is your primary or first language (L1)?” (Gillian 559).
These streaming questions allowed the author to identify native speakers of any non English language even though they were reported to use English as the only spoken language during the census.
The author points out that, other researchers have had great difficulty when attempting to classify non-native English language speakers in census or survey data due to that fact that researchers assume that all immigrants born in selected countries learned a particular majority-based language in childhood (Gillian 561). The author used regression models which reconcile assumptions of linearity and parametric curve appropriation even though the initial step up was measured as trivial (Gillian 561-562).
The author took precaution to exclude immigrants who speak only English due to the possibility that they might be fluent in English (Gillian 560). The degree in which the analysis sample was abridged increased with the age of the immigrants to determine the impact of residency on the proficiency and application of the English language (Gillian 564). The author proceeded to search for discontinuities in the deterioration of English proficiency on the age at immigration with the variable ranging from the ages of 15 to25 years (Gillian 566).
Summary of findings
The author conclusively deduced that immigrants who speak English only and their fellow citizens who speak both English and a minority language have an average age at immigration and also have a comparable educational background (Gillian 568). The exclusion of immigrants who spoke only English during the time of the census therefore helped accentuate the findings that identified age to be inversely proportional to the proficiency in English among adult immigrants (Gillian 568).
The analysis sample population used was therefore in actual fact truncated with the dependent variable being their proficiency in English. In addition, the predetermined 10-year range engulfing the probable age of immigration for approximately all of the respondents effectively therein marginalized the occurrence of divergence to the overall curve (Gillian 572).
Additionally, the author’s analytical scope is founded on the implicit assumptions that the dependent variable is deliberated at the hiatus point which is primarily predisposed to age and the assumption that second-language learning is more or less likely to be complete within 10 years depending on the exposure and academic achievements (Gillian 573).
These assumptions are unequivocal due to the fact that these actualities are not outweighed by the statistically dependent discontinuities accounted for in the regression English proficiency on age of immigrants (Gillian 573).
Furthermore the author revealed that Immigrants with a non-English first language are more prone to using English as the primary language as they continue to take residence in the United States. The duration of residence is apparently positively correlated with age amongst mature immigrants (Gillian 574).
The author revealed that the discontinuities in the deterioration of English proficiency on the age at immigration were of considerable importance on a statistical scale. The effects were substantially significant although the small increments to the amount of explained variance were considered to be inconsistent (Gillian 575-576).
The author’s findings provided support for the overall relationship between migration and English proficiency as positively correlated, and his approach attributes a high percentage of the association to the linear relationship and consequently there is a limit to the amount of additional discrepancy that can be elucidated by discontinuities (Gillian 578).
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Gillian, Stevens. “Age at immigration and second language proficiency among foreign-born adults.” Language in Society Journal, No. 28 (1999): pp 555-578. Print.