1st vs 2nd language acquisitionMany different theories exist pertaining to the acquisition of a native language and a secondary language. There are various amounts of similarities and differences when the two are compared. This paper will focus more on the differences, namely: The speaker’s ego, the speaker’s social maturity and the speaker’s muscle coordination.
Achieving fluency of a native language happens during infancy in all but extremely rare cases. The age is estimated to be nearly five years old when a child becomes fluent in their mother tongue. Between birth and five years old, an infant is in a much different state of mind than someone even at the age of seven years old, who is working to gain fluency in a second language. An infant is extremely self-centered because there is no perception of what the outside world is at this point. Therefore, when an infant begins to put together words by deducing meaning and mimicking sounds there is no thought of embarrassment. Juxtaposed with a seven year old or even an adult, there is a strong realization of the world around them, which equates to self-identity and, in essence, self-esteem. Learning a second language will come wrapped in anxiety and cautiousness; therefore, it will take more work to overcome these obstacles.
The social maturity of a speaker differs between native and secondary language acquisition. Though an infant may have an advantage due to lack of self-awareness, the infant has a disadvantage because everything is new. Learning a first language is not only stringing words and sentences together, but understanding what words actually are, how speaking and listening work, and how to translate ideas into language. Anyone learning a secondary language is already aware of these aspects as they discovered them through the acquisition of their native language. Language meaning is then understood through the native language and transferred into the secondary language.
In keeping with this idea of transferring meaning, it is important to note that certain languages, such as languages in the same language family, will have similar constructs. This makes it easier to learn. It can be very difficult to realign these constructs as languages of different language families often require. Younger learners have an easier time reorganizing meaning between languages; whereas, older learners find this quite difficult as they have had much more experience in their current language method and have become set in their ways.
One other point of difference between native and secondary language is muscle control. There is an assortment of oral muscles involved in producing sound. When an infant grows up, he or she learns to create the sounds of the native language and practices these sounds over and over for years. When a second language is being learned, the learner’s muscles may be required to make new sounds. It is theorized that after a certain age it is impossible to sound like a native speaker because of it. For example, in english
the sounds of the letters “l” and “r” take years to form and Korean speakers have a difficult time differentiating and making these sounds. The regulation of muscle control varies in all languages. For instance: in spanish
the tongue is rolled, and in Arabic many sounds are produced further back in the speaker’s throat. As there are many variations of sounds, correctly recreating a specific sound can take years to master.
The first and second language acquisition may have a lot of similarities, but there are differences that stem largely from the age of the speaker. Hard work and determination are the best way to overcome differences such as those cited above.
I referenced the following cites while researching this topic: