Children’s and adults’ initial phonological acquisition of a foreign language
This study compared children’s and adults’ L2 perception and production in the first hours of exposure to a foreign language. A total of 10 German children and 19 German adults performed a phoneme discrimination task and a sentence imitation task in Polish at two testing times. Exposed to a comparable input, the adult learners were found to perceive Polish sibilant contrasts more accurately than their child counterparts and to maintain this advantage over a two-week-long instruction. However, the two groups did not differ in their developing ability to produce the tested sibilants. A great deal of inter- and intra-individual differences in both learner groups was also attested. Our findings suggest that young L2 instructed learners are not necessarily better and/or faster perceivers and producers of novel language sounds than adult L2 instructed learners, who are able to discriminate a range of novel sibilant pairs even after very limited L2 exposure.
Keywords: L2 speech perception, L2 speech production, child-adult differences, L2 phonological development, foreign language instruction, controlled input
Published online: 25 November 2019
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