CoverAcknowledgements1. Language and Identity1.1. What Is a Speech Community?1.2. Coercive vs. Collaborative Relations1.3. Language Minority Stories2. Who Are English Learners?2.1. Reflection Model2.2. Inclusive Pedagogy2.2. Makoto Critical Incident2.3. Assumptions to Rethink about English Learners2.4. Critical Learning Domains3. Understanding Theory3.1. Communication, Pattern, and Variability 3.2. Five Curriculum Guidelines3.3. Indicators of Instructional Conversation (IC)3.4. Indicators of the Standards for Effective Pedagogy3.5. Standards for Effective Pedagogy3.6. Examining Current Realities4. Input4.1. Input and Native Language Acquisition4.2. Input and Second Language Acquisition4.3. The Interdependence Hypothesis4.4. The Threshold Hypothesis4.5. Vocabulary Development and Language Transfer4.6. Text Modification5. Interaction5.1. Code Switching and Interaction5.2. Characteristics of Modifications for Interaction5.3. How Can Teachers Help Second Language Learners Begin to Communicate?5.4. Classroom Routines and Participation Structures5.5. We Can Talk: Cooperative Learning in the Elementary ESL Classroom6. Stages of Development6.1. Proficiency Levels Defined7. Errors and Feedback7.1. Points to Remember About Errors7.2. Effective and Appropriate Feedback for English Learners8. Types of Proficiencies8.1. Fostering Second Language Development in Young Children8.2. Instructional Conversation in Native American Classroom 8.3. Student Motivation to Learn8.4. Language Learning Strategies: An Update8.5. Three Misconceptions about Age and L2 Learning9. Types of Performances9.1. Understanding BICS and CALP9.2. The Order of Acquisition and The Order of Use9.3. Schumann's Acculturation Model9.4. Implications From the Threshold and Interdependence Hypotheses9.5. Lily Wong Fillmore’s Cognitive and Social Strategies for Second Language Learners10. Classroom Practices and Language AcquisitionIndex

Three Misconceptions about Age and L2 Learning

Variability Reading E
Age has often been considered a major, inverse factor for success in learning a second or foreign language. However, researchers have committed three types of errors in making this claim: (1) misinterpretation, (2) misattribution, and (3) misemphasis.




Children pick up languages quickly.

Older learners are generally faster and more efficient in the initial stages of L2 learning.


Differences in brain activation patterns between children and adults during language learning explain language proficiency differences.
No link has been established between L2 learning and the state of neural networks. It is possible that adult and child learners localize their learning differently without showing different learning


Group comparisons show adults are not capable of achieving nativelike proficiency in a second language.
Some adult learners have outperformed early learners. Cognitive, motivational, and environmental factors are more important than
age. Most adults fail to engage in ways that lead to high levels of success.


  1. "Age does influence language learning, but primarily because it is associated with social, psychological, educational, and other factors that can affect L2 proficiency, not because of any critical period that limits the possibility of language learning by adults” (p. 28).
  2. Foreign language teaching in the early grades “will be able to cover only half as much material in a year as the middle school course, which in turn will progress much more slowly than the secondary or university course” (p. 28).
  3. In the early grades, “L1 instruction is more important than L2 for ultimate literacy and academic achievement in the L2” (p. 29).
  4. “Children in late-exit bilingual programs do better than those in early-exit programs” (p. 29).
  5. “Children who arrive as immigrants in U.S. schools in later grades show better academic performance than those who start in kindergarten” (p. 29).
  6. “Children who start learning English after the early elementary years, even as late as during high school, can become nativelike speakers” (p. 29) with highly motivating, well-structured learning environments.


Marinova-Todd, S. H., Marshall, D. B., & Snow, C. E. (2000). Three misconceptions about age and L2 learning. TESOL Quarterly, 34 (1), 9–34.

Adapted with permission from:                                                                                             

Teemant, A. & Pinnegar, S. (2007). Understanding Langauge Acquisition Instructional Guide. Brigham Young University-Public School Partnership. 

Suggested Citation

& (2019). Three Misconceptions about Age and L2 Learning: Variability Reading E. In (Ed.), Principles of Language Acquisition. EdTech Books.

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