Age and the acquisition of English as a foreign language
María del Pilar García Mayo; María Luisa García Lecumberri
Written production is a linguistic manifestation which reflects accurately the degree of linguistic proficiency attained by foreign-language students (Horning, 1987). The main goal of this paper is to analyze the impact of the age factor on the written production in a foreign language (English as an L3). The sample was made up of bilingual students belonging to three age groups (11-, 15-, and 17-year-olds) who had the same time of exposure to the foreign language. This study undertakes three different analyses: (i) A holistic analysis in which the communicative aspect of the linguistic production is examined (Jacobs et al., 1981); (ii) A quantitative analysis including the measures of fluency, complexity and accuracy (Wolfe-Quintero, Inagaki & Kim, 1998); (iii) An error analysis based on James (1998).
Both the holistic and quantitative analyses showed that the older students significantly outperformed the younger ones; the error analysis revealed that each age group made different types of errors. Thus it can be concluded that the cognitive stage exerts a significant influence on the written production in the foreign language