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Linguistics: Second Language Acquisition Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: Mar 22nd, 2020


Several factors determine second language acquisition in children. Among the factors are age, the role of parents, amount of exposure to a second language, and cross-linguistic factors. I chose to analyze this article because it puts these factors in the context of two Turkish boys trying to acquire Italian. I also settled on it because its theme is the central objective of my course, second language acquisition.


The title of the article A Longitudinal Study of two Boys’ Experiences of Acquiring Italian as a Second Language: The influence of Age. It reports on the experiences of two boys aged 8 and 5.

The researcher uses letters A to refer to the elder brother and E to refer to the younger brother. They move from Turkey to Italy, where they enroll in the second grade and pre-school respectively (Peçenek, 2010). The researcher asks their mother to help her in observing their behaviors in the process of acquiring Italian. She and the researcher study the boys for four years.

The researcher carried out a longitudinal study on the two boys and used the ecological method of data collection in gathering both the qualitative and quantitative aspects of their acquisition of Italian. She and EK, the boys’ mother, made their observations in the boys’ social contexts: school, home and when playing with their friends.

The study revealed that E mastered Italian faster than his elder brother (Peçenek 2010). His teachers were impressed with his progress as early as the first week in school. He participated in class discussions and spoke freely with his friends when playing with them. He was also fond of code-switching between Turkish and Italian.

By the end of the four years, his mastery of Turkish had significantly deteriorated while that of Italian had tremendously improved. On the other hand, his elder brother was very reserved for a whole year (Peçenek 2010). He could not answer questions in class or talk when playing with his friends. His parents hired a tutor to help him learn Italian faster. He showed improvement within a few months.

Precisely, he could translate Italian into Turkish, participate in class discussions and speak to his brother in Italian (Peçenek 2010). However, he feared to talk to the researcher and his mother in Italian. He always replied in Turkish whenever they spoke to him in Italian. By the end of the research, he was comfortable with both Italian and Turkish, unlike his younger brother who lost his fluency in Turkish and became more proficient in Italian the more he stayed in Italy.


I think this article handles too many details that readers are likely to lose track of the main theme. It gives too many conflicting theories in an attempt to explain the characteristics the two boys show as they struggled to learn Italian. Worse still, the writer appears to be speculating most of the things she discusses in the article. For example, she is not sure whether A’s silence is a result of the lack of vocabulary or the fear of interacting with a new culture.

She should have narrowed down on a few theories to help her solve such dilemmas. It is also not apparent whether she favors Vygotsky’s assertion that children acquire language in a social context or Chomsky’s theory that argues that children have a natural ability to learn any language (Peçenek 2010). She should at least have stated in the conclusion whether she follows any of the theories she mentions in her work.


I find the conclusion that cognition impacts the development of language in children useful. This finding helps understand why children improve their language proficiency as they grow from one stage to the other.

The research has also revealed that older children are more likely to know a language faster than younger ones because their cognition is fully developed. This information is new because very few people have explored this field. Many people always use Chomsky’s assertion that the LAD is more influential in young children compared to older ones.


The article presents several aspects that are critical for the acquisition of a second language. Precisely, it demonstrates the effect of parental support, the degree of exposure to a second language, age, and cross-linguistics aspects. It emerges that younger children acquire language faster due to their lack of fear of making mistakes.

The research also reveals that sufficient support from parents and lengthy exposures to the target language helps children acquire L2 faster. In the article, the two boys are in the same social environment: they go to the same school, play with the same friends and have enough support from their parents.

However, the elder brother takes long to know Italian while his younger brother takes only a few months. This finding reveals that older children are in a position to know second languages faster than younger ones. However, the opposite of these expected results happens due to the older children’s fear to make mistakes and mingle with friends from different backgrounds.


Peçenek, D. (2010). A longitudinal of two boys’ experiences of acquiring Italian as a second language: The influence of age. International Journal of Bilingualism, 15(4), 268-290.

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