The Myths of First and Second Language Acquisition
Myth #1: You can learn a second language the same way you learned your first language.
Human beings begin learning and processing their native language at or before birth. During the first few years of acquisition, children are being flooded with language at least 30% of their waking hours (according to the Multilingual Children’s Association). Through this comprehensible input, children learn the sounds, patterns, and meanings of their native language. The exposure and practice continue until children master the essentials around age six and beyond.
Second language learners are not usually given the same amount of time, practice or comprehensible input as children learning their native language. With only three to four hours of truly engaged contact on a weekly basis, second language learners cannot rely on intuition to develop linguistic knowledge (sounds, meanings, and grammar) of a language.
Myth #2: Children are better at learning languages than adults.
The general myth that adult learners can never become as fluent in a language as a child learning a language is based completely on the perceived value of native speaker accent. Prior to puberty, language function occurs throughout the entire brain allowing for greater change and development in phonetic production. However, at or around puberty, language function materializes to the left side of the brain, limiting the learner’s ability to create and distinguish new sounds.