The age-eclipsing effects of environment and input on L2 attainment in instructional contexts

19th November 2018 : 17:00 - 18:30

Category: Public Seminar

Research Group: English Medium Instruction

Speaker: Professor Dr Simone E Pfenninger (Associate Professor of Psycholinguistics and Second Language Acquisition) and Professor Dr David Singleton (Fellow Emeritus, Trinity College Dublin; Professor Emeritus, University of Pannonia; Visiting Professor State University of Applied Sciences, Konin)

Location: Department of Education, Seminar Rooms G/H

Convener: Dr Heath Rose

2018/19 Public Seminar Series Event

Despite contrary research findings, many lay people still claim that starting second language (L2) instruction early yields linguistic advantages. This assertion is again undermined by a five-year longitudinal study conducted in Switzerland testing English language skills of 636 secondary-school students, who had all learned Standard German and French at primary school, but only half of whom had had English from age 8, the remainder having started English five years later. The results suggest that age-related attainment effects are overshadowed by other effects, yielding diverse outcomes according to individual differences, and contextual effects mediating L2 outcomes. An earlier age of onset (AO) proved beneficial only for children reared as biliterate simultaneous bilinguals receiving substantial parental support, as opposed to monolinguals and non-biliterate bilinguals (simultaneous or sequential); these latter failed to profit from their earlier AO. These issues require studies which explore what underlies SLA age effects and investigate how learning contexts shape processes of L2 development.

About the speakers

Simone E. Pfenninger is Associate Professor of Second Language Acquisition and Psycholinguistics at the University of Salzburg. Her principal research areas are multilingualism, psycholinguistics and individual differences (e.g. the age factor) in SLA, especially in regard to quantitative approaches and statistical methods and techniques for language application in education. She is co-editor of the Second Language Acquisition book series for Multilingual Matters and statistical advisor to the EuroSLA Studies book series. In 2015 she received the Mercator Award and in 2018 the Conrad Ferdinand Meyer Prize for outstanding research.

David Singleton is Emeritus Fellow at Trinity College Dublin, Emeritus Professor at the University of Pannonia and Visiting Professor at the State University of Applied Sciences, Konin. He served as Secretary General of the International Association of Applied Linguistics  (AILA) and as President of the European Second Language Association (EUROSLA). He is co-author of Key Topics in Second Language Acquisition (2014) and of Beyond Age Effects in Instructional L2 Learning (2017), and co-editor of the Multilingual Matters SLA book series. In 2015 he received the EUROSLA Distinguished Scholar Award and in 2017 was awarded Honorary Membership of AILA.