There are many factors believed to extensively affect the learning of second language of which one of the key factors includes age. Several discussions have been staged for the purposes of finding appropriate age recommended for learning foreign language.
Different ideas have been proposed by various stakeholders as well as scholars of suggest that age before start of adolescents is the best stage for learning foreign language. However, learning foreign language is regarded as an important skill recommended for all people. Great controversy has occurred concerning the time to start learning and teaching second language prompting many suggestions from scholars.
Despite their many suggestions, learning of the second language, still posses some great challenge to the society. Rate of learning whether of the first or second language varies widely from one person to the other. However, entire process of learning is considered to be influenced greatly by age factor (Chavez, 2006).
Extensive research has been done in the process of determining appropriate age to start learning a second language. Timing varies from individual to individual and also environmental influence is a contributing factor.
Generally, it is believed that the best time for learning foreign language is at childhood stage. Research reveals that those who learn second language in their childhood stages before puberty amidst native speakers normally speak the foreign language naturally with native’s accent (Chavez, 2006).
Robinson (1998), asserts that children within learning institutions who undertake foreign language as a subject usually records excellent results within other academic domains. On the same note Lee (1996), builds on the evidence that much cognitive gains are realized in the process of learning foreign languages at childhood age.
Some researchers believe on the fact that it takes considerably longer time for an individual to attain proficiency in second language within institutional setting. Learning second language at early stage presents students with high chances of achieving high levels within their education (Hass, 1998).
According to Curtain and Pesola (1988), it is important to find enough reasons as to why language programs should be incorporated within school curriculum. Programs guiding on the use of languages should be designed to satisfy specific solutions required within learning institutions (Curtain and Pesola, 1998).
The level of proficiency plays a role in obtaining positive results based on the knowledge on important dimensions within the global world such as economic, social as well as political. There is also proficiency gained through advanced levels attained based on language skill and understanding of the cultural set-up.
Children are known to have open approach towards various ideas which demands global understanding hence making learning of foreign language important channel used for expanding intercultural beliefs. Psychologists reveal that most children attain their development stage at ten years of age (Lambert and Klineberg, 1997).
This can be utilized to expand their thinking faculties hence expanding their freedom of exploring expansive wealth of values within the present world. Generally, there is an observation that many scholars and researchers still doubt the contribution of cognitive as well as the non-cognitive factors in the determination of various factors influencing second language proficiency amongst individuals.
Additionally, these scholars have also largely doubted the validity of such studies that the cognitive as well as non-cognitive factors may manipulate the factors surrounding recommended stage for learning second language (Clauss-Ehlers, 2008).
According to Knudsen (2004), language has several components such as phonology, lexicon, morphology, pragmatics amongst others which are acquired independently of each other. Development of each component depends on various multiple critical periods experienced by each person.
All these processes depend entirely on wide range of neural networks as well as structures occurring through experiences. As a matter of belief, children are known to learn second language more easily and faster than adults. This is based on the assumption that pre-mature brain contains higher degree of accommodating neural plasticity compared to mature brain of adults.
Neural differences inhibit ability of adults to learn second language. However, there are some aspects of language that are quickly and resourcefully picked by older learners as compared to young learners. This can be seen in the efficiency in oral communication that adults portray compared to children because of cognitive maturity and enhanced learning capabilities.
Consequently, younger learners become more proficient in languages in the long-run despite older learners who seem quicker only in the short-run. Various literature agree to the fact that age presents an important factor having remarkable impact on the ease and speed of grasping second language, despite lack of agreement on specific age.
However, alongside age several considerations are made including feelings, emotions, environmental set-up and culture (Knudson, 2004).
The study will look at the relationship between age and the level of proficiency in learning second language. The age factor is divided into two stages; childhood and adulthood.
The researcher will use the survey instrument to collect data and make inferences regarding proficiency levels based upon English assessments. A survey instrument will be preferred because of the expense, convenience, and rapidity in return time (Creswell, 2003).
The undertaking of this study will focus on language understanding based on level of fluency in pronunciations and reading abilities, tests scores within learning institutions will also be used. The purpose for using sequential transformative strategy is to adequately serve the theoretical perspective of the researcher.
There is possibility of giving high quality results based on the use of sequential transformative method. The process allows for adequate understanding of the various processes undertaken through the study (Creswell, 2003).
Ethnography as form of qualitative design will be used whereby the researcher shall describe and interpret both shared and learned patterns such as values and language proficiency amongst people of same culture (Creswell, 2003). By including Ethnography as well as sequential transformative the threat to validity will be minimal.
Due to the current status of globalization, it is important for individuals to learn languages apart from their native language. This can be done best at specific stages in life which ultimately allows for proficiency.
This research tends to answer the question on the best stage individuals should learn foreign languages. Should children be taught foreign language? If yes, which age is appropriate for learning foreign/second language?
Significance of the study
This study is important in defining teacher-student roles hence assists institutions in working out effective patterns on individual relationships within native communities. Quantitative data collected will result in a number of tests. Such data will help define the dimension of the problem. The data will reveal level of proficiency of students based on their performance.
The researcher will act as an advisor to participants during language lessons hence assisting them in areas of need. Finally, the researcher will conduct interviews and ask particular questions concerning participant’s background life and aspirations.
In this section, the research design will be addressed and the study of the relationship between age and ability to learn foreign language. A foundation for the research study will be provided through questions provided and the research design. Mixed method research approach will guide this study in the direction most conducive with the participant’s backgrounds.
Quantitative research method will be used to ensure accurate data concerning the dimension of the problem. The results of the quantitative phase will reveal the level of proficiency in use of second language amongst individuals from particular community.
Qualitative method will assist in providing in-depth analysis of participants’ backgrounds, aspirations, fears and motivations. This part of the study will help come up with ideas concerning factors influencing learning of the second language.
These comprehensive data will help work out specific educational techniques and programs which will address the problem. Therefore, the mixed method used will address all the research questions within the present study.
Participants for this study will be chosen from different learning institutions. Research and discussion will prove on how best participants can rhyme under the method of sequential transformative strategy based on strong cultural influence within native background and classroom.
Parallel and similar experiences with the researcher will also be included. Choosing of children and adults will be based on a range of courses from special needs to advanced, this allows for the opportunity of observing participants with similar social backgrounds yet differing rate of learning. The fact that the researcher is also the instructor will ensure that the same methodology is used in each classroom.
The participants will be chosen by race and gender irrespective of social background and age. The majority of the participants will come from middle-class families living in the neighborhood. The data analysis will be derived from three courses: small group inclusion, average English course, and Advanced Placement Literature & Composition.
Major focus of the study will be on language classes since such courses are rarely chosen by majority of students. It is important to focus on these classes as they suggest a comprehensive picture on the level of adult’s academic aspirations and difficulties since language courses are regarded as more challenging for specific age groups.
The problems and achievements during language classes can be generalized. Such generalization will help in understanding major challenges encountered by adults and effective strategies used by successful students within the same line of study. There is high probability that various participants have quite different motivations.
Some of the participants plan to continue their studies and wish to excel in language proficiency whereas some are not keen on the same. There will be profound need of understanding motivations underlying various group stages and their responses to second languages. Focus will also be made on those individuals lacking confidence or who are not ambitious enough.
The instrument that will be used to measure performance for language courses will be the End of course tests (EOCT). This state assessment will be administered to participants towards the end of their junior year of high school. The tests will be administered onsite, collected by administrators, and submitted to the state for scoring.
The EOCT is aligned with the 11th grade American Literature common core curriculum. The purpose of the tests will be to assess the specified content knowledge and students skills. Application of such detailed research results enables provision of relevant information which can be used in identifying student’s potential areas, hence the method recommended for learning institutions.
Journal of observations will be included to address participant’s attitude and participation, as well as interviews. Research journal will document each stage of the present study. The journal will contain a section of personal opinion.
This will help differentiate between facts, assumptions and researcher’s personal opinion, which, in turn, will help to avoid possible bias. Survey will be administered to participants after the results of the EOCT are reviewed. The survey will measure students’ attitude and participation in language courses within particular institution. The participants will be given the survey in an envelope to complete at their residence.
The data collection process will begin with a request to be submitted to institution’s administration for the purposes of conducting and collecting data. And at the same time disclosures of tests and surveys results of individuals involved in the research study. The results will serve as the pre-test and post-test data for participants.
A committee consisting of an administrator, Advanced Placement coordinator, and researcher will be established. For the initial meeting, rules and time lines will be established of which the whole research will be undertaken within a period of 19 weeks.
The researcher will pull all participants from class rosters obtained from Literature & Composition courses, two collaborative courses; and one small group course. Participants will be accorded code names for confidentiality purposes; this will be stored in computer database locked by password.
Approximately two teachers will be responsible for teaching adult and children language courses. Subgroups will be based upon students’ language courses. The students involved in this study will receive both classroom instruction in English using the district curriculum, Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) and interventions that will include differentiated instruction and small group tutorials.
The participants will have their strengths and weakness in second language courses identified during the initial phase of the research study. The CCSSI will offer a standard-based classroom, differentiated instruction, and more collaboration with the classroom.
The state assessment test, EOCT, is considered reliable because this test is aligned with the state’s curriculum. The EOCT test is taken at the end of students’ eleventh grade year. The data from this test will be used as a pre-test to determine students’ academic prowess in English courses.
The participant’s growth will be measured by comparing the students’ data from pre-test and post-test scores and the change in scores will be used to address research questions.
The qualitative survey will be used to measure individual’s participation and attitude, as well as knowledge of rudimentary English concepts. The survey is a way of engaging participant’s comprehension to the pre-test and post-test performance results.
Setting and Sample
Sequential transformative and Ethnographic designs will allow the opportunity to observe and interact with the participants and not only mark behaviour and learning patterns, but learn the level of influence one’s background, age and environment has on their ability to learn. Subsequently the use of quantitative-to- quality approach using: social science theory, qualitative theory, advocacy worldview will be used.
This quasi-experimental mixed method study using a quantitative pre- and post-test control group design will compare the performance of adults and children from institution set-up. The participants will be enrolled in three classes. The participants will not be divided into other smaller groups as environment and community due to the importance attached to natural settings.
Each group will participate in the standard based classroom which focuses on scaffolding for student comprehension. Results of the participants will be compared with the overall results of the End of the Course Test (EOCT). The participants’ results will also be evaluated in terms of state requirements. This will help understand effectiveness of the formal testing and impact of this testing on individuals.
Table 1: Proposed Timeline for the research
|Between 1st to 5th week||Desk research|
|5th and 7th week||Qualitative fieldwork involving interviews and observation|
|8th week||Presenting reports from both qualitative and desk research|
|9th week||Development of questionnaire|
|10th week||Pilot study|
|11th week||Pilot debriefing|
|12th to13th week||Quantitative stage|
|13th to 14th week||Processes of Coding and data preparation|
|16th week||Compilation of the report|
|17th to 19th week||Presentation of final report|
For the purposes of ensuring that observations are accurate and comprehensive, a research journal will be used where all stages of the study will be depicted in detail. The research journal will also contain interview transcripts. Notably, apart from interviews, additional group or individual meetings may be included in the process. Transcripts of these meetings will also be included into the research journal.
The meetings will help obtain more insights into participants’ ability on second language fluency. An observational journal will be utilized whereby all participants’ profile and progress will be noted. The threat to validity may be posed by the researcher’s personal experiences and background.
Such incident requires external auditor for the purposes of validating results. The purpose is to study and understand the best stage recommended for learning of the second/foreign language.
Reliability and validity
Triangulation method will be one of many methods used to gather data, observations, and interviews for validity, as well as clarification of researcher bias and participatory modes of research. Clarification of researcher is crucial and may be the main threat to quality. Owing to this, documenting actions of the participants, as well as using participatory modes will help maintain integrity of the study.
Protection of participants
Permission will be requested from the institutions where data shall be collected before gathering any data for this research study. Participants will be required to sign a consent form for the purposes of protecting their rights for participating in such research. This will be done before undertaking in-depth interview. At the same time interview may be transcribed for security reasons.
Prior to selecting the study group, the administrator will be informed of the rationale for the study. The institution will be selected based on standards to which they offer language courses.
Various changes in demographics and proximity for the researcher will be considered. A part from individuals, institutions will benefit from this particular study since they will be able to connect stage and individual capabilities in grasping foreign languages
Potential Limitations of the Study
The researcher will be deeply involved based on personal experiences within classroom and entire native environment. This will ensure that participants are well understood based on underlining behaviour exhibited in the classroom. Interesting data should be obtained from 2nd grade until middle school since this is representation of age before puberty.
Methodology applied for classroom courses involves first hand information. Learning environment will be handled with equal seriousness based on academic standards expressed by participants. The classroom should be considered as a comfortable learning zone for both children and adults.
The relationship between participants and researcher will be considered as that of instructor and nurturer. It will be important to enquire about participant’s background and goals for the future.
The researcher will fulfill several roles for the present research. First, he will continue being a teacher conducting class lessons and at the same time observes participant’s progress assessing their overall performance.
This is important as to understand what makes students perform well or poorly in foreign languages, it is important to understand how exactly participants are performing. It is also necessary to observe participant’s behaviour during classes.
The teacher has a great opportunity to observe students within their natural settings. It is possible to observe whether participants cooperate, or whether they assist one another during learning lessons. There will also be need of observing interpersonal communication during classes.
Informed consent forms will be sent for parents/guardians to agree to their children’s participation. The participants’ information will not disclose names of the students involved with the study. A disclaimer form will be given to all participants to sign before they commit to the study.
This form acknowledges the rights of the participant for protection of data collected, as well as their right to be excluded from the study at any time. At the same time, student data will be collected from institution’s generated list and names assigned codes for the purposes of protecting the rights of the participants.
Proposed Method of Analyses
Other methodologies will be applied in this study. For instance, the use of quantitative approaches, utilizing the logistical regression strategies and retention will be applied. In a typical study, there is much importance in taking note of both dependent and independent variables within such context for the purposes of conducting comprehensive statistical analysis of the concerned factors.
For example, in some investigations, the independent variables have been categorized into four basic sets (Rivers, 2008). For instance, childhood influences, comprising of parental education as well as adolescent and adulthood stages which may form the first independent variable in the study.
Consequently, testing the competencies and analyzing other cognitive factors influencing children and adult’s capabilities might also be used as an independent variable (Gibson and Krohn, 2013).
Data analysis will also include qualitative design, which will include: a focus group, observations, and interviews used for accessing children and adult skills in the use of second language. The EOCT test will measure individual performance after three years of learning second language.
A multiple baseline design will be used to compare the pre-test and post-test results. Ethnographies fieldwork usually involves participant observation, informant interviewing, and artifact collection focused towards understanding cultural knowledge that group members use to make sense of their everyday experiences with acquired languages (Gibson and Krohn, 2013).
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