Starting age and other influential factors: Insights from learner interviews

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Carmen Muñoz

Abstract

The present study uses oral interviews with foreign language learners in search of influential factors in their language learning histories. The sample for the study was drawn from a larger sample of intermediate/advanced learners of English as a foreign language with a minimum of 10 years of exposure/instruction. The sample includes 6 early learners (range of starting age: 3.2-6.5) and 6 late learners (starting age: 11+). Half of them in each group were among those with the highest scores on two English language tests in the larger sample and half among those with the lowest scores on those same tests. A qualitative analysis of the interviews of these learners yields insights into their experience of foreign language learning and the role played in it by starting age and other significant factors, such as motivation and intensive contact with the language.

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Author Biography

Carmen Muñoz, ICREA Academia, Departament de Filologia Anglesa i Alemanya Universitat de Barcelona Gran Via 585, 08007 Barcelona

munoz@ub.edu
Carmen Muñoz is a Professor of Applied English Linguistics at the University of Barcelona, Spain. Her research interests include the effects of age and context on second language acquisition, young learners in instructed settings, individual differences, and bilingual/multilingual education. She has edited Age and the Rate of For- 405 eign Language Learning (2006, Multilingual Matters), Intensive Exposure Experiences in Second Language Learning (2012, Multilingual Matters), and the special issue Complexities and Interactions of Age Effects in L2 Learning: Broadening the Research Agenda (in Applied Linguistics, 2014). Her recent work has appeared in journals such as Language Learning, The Modern Language Journal, The International Journal of Applied Linguistics, Language Awareness, and Applied Linguistics.

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