Effects of age on pronunciation acquisition

 

Abstract

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In the process of teaching foreign
languages, numerous factors affect the success of learners. One factor of this
field which has always created great concern is the impact on age on learning
foreign languages. That is, learners and teachers have always raised this
question in mind: Does the ability of learning a foreign language, increase or
decrease to increasing age? Accordingly, in this paper, the relationship
between the learner age and success in the process of learning a foreign
language discussed. But the main element that focused is pronunciation. As well
as learner physiological factors suggest that there is a significant negative
correlation between the aging process and foreign language proficiency and
learning. Therefore, considering the appropriate age for language learning,
improves the efficacy of the system of teaching foreign languages. In the other
hand Pronunciation is an important part of foreign language learning since it
directly affects learners ‘ communicative competence as well as performance.
Limited pronunciation skills can decrease learners ‘ self-confidence, restrict
social interactions, and negatively affect estimations of a speaker’s
credibility and abilities. So the article surveys the relationship between age
and pronunciation.

Keywords: age, pronunciation, foreign languages, physiological factors, learners

 

The Importance
of Pronunciation

 

As individuals,
we always learn to speak earlier than learning
to read and write. Learning a language means to performance the sounds, utterances,
and the words properly and correctly. One of the general
goals in the L2 learning,
maybe the most important one, is to speak the target
language accurately and fluently like native speakers. When we talk to other people in English, the first
thing they notice, which can create a good impression of the quality of our language
ability, is our pronunciation. Poor
and unintelligible pronunciation will make unpleasant and
misunderstanding for both speakers and listeners. In
addition, it is clear that limited pronunciation skills will make learners lose their self-confidence and
result in the negative influence of learners
to estimate their credibility and abilities (Morley,
1998). Lund (2003) pointed out, “pronunciation
is the only aspect of language that calls for a close
interaction between the cognitive and physiological processes. In acquiring new sounds we are also dealing with a complex
reorganizing of the articulately processes “(p. 16).

 

 

Accuracy and Fluency

 

We often think
of pronunciation teaching in terms of helping students
achieve accurate pronunciation so that their production of
sounds, stress, rhythm, and intonation begins to match an ideal pattern. But accuracy is only one part of good pronunciation. Fluency in producing sounds and other aspects of
pronunciation is equally important.
The two don’t always go together. For example, many
students learn to produce a new sound
correctly when they’re concentrating carefully and saying it alone or in a single
word. When they need to use the same
sound in conversation, however, it’s
much more difficult to keep producing
it correctly they can’t pronounce the
sound fluently. After all, in
real-world speaking, pronunciation is just one among many things that students
have to think about. Vocabulary, grammar, the ideas they want to express, and the appropriate degree of politeness
and formality also occupy their attention. It’s hard to use pronunciation accurately and
fluently at the same time. Because of this, when we’re
practicing pronunciation, we should include
some activities that emphasize pronunciation fluency-speaking smoothly and easily, even if not
all the sounds are perfect along with activities
that emphasize accuracy-producing sounds
correctly. Both accuracy and fluency
are important in pronunciation, just as they are in
speaking in general, and both deserve attention and
practice.

 

The Importance
of age

 

We’ve all
observed how easily babies and very young children learn languages. They just seem to absorb
the sounds and words they hear around them and little by little, learn to
imitate them accurately. Linguists call this time in a child’s life, lasting up to the age of about 12 to 14 years, the
critical period for language acquisition. Children can learn the
sounds of language more naturally than adults and can approach native speaker pronunciation,
but only if they are surrounded by the language and have many chances to hear
its pronunciation. Young children
who hear English only a couple of hours a week lose much by their learning
advantage. Effective pronunciation
learning is not limited to young children, however. Older
children and adults have their own strengths and can also
learn pronunciation well, even if they never sound quite
like native speakers. Adults are better able
to set goals and to practice purposefully. They can
understand more abstract explanations and analyze how sounds are produced and how the melody and
rhythm of a language sound. Adults
should not give up the hope of having easily intelligible pronunciation; they just have to reach their goal in a different way than children.

  

Child Advantage

Regarding the relationship between age and pronunciation,
several studies give advantage to children. Oyama (1976) found evidence for the
advantage of children over adults in second-language learning. He stated that
pronunciation is achieved better at earlier ages. Cochrane and Sachs (1979)
made a comparison between children and adults on imitation of Spanish words and
found children to be superior in imitative tasks and suggested that they may possess
some special aptitude for phonological acquisition. Guiora, Brannon, and Dull
(1972) believe that children’s advantage over adults is due to the fact that
they do not consider trying new sounds a risk and are not so worried about
social acceptance by peers, while adults feel more at home with their
established native language and have stress when trying to speak a foreign
language (FL) at the prospect of sounding foolish.

 

Adult Advantage

 

A number of studies regarding the
relationship between age and pronunciation give advantage to adults. Stern
(1976) believes that adult cognitive ability to reason is more important than
advantages children appear to have in pronunciation. Asher and Price (1967)
suggested an advantage for adults believing that the hierarchical nature of
process would be more easily understood by mature adults rather than by
children. A study conducted by Snow and Hoefnages-Hohle (1978) did not support
the “critical age” theory; in fact, the older group performed better than the
younger children. Rosenman (1987) concluded in his study that young English
speaking adults discriminate and are able.

 

 

Conclusions

 

Research
conducted on the teaching of foreign languages
suggests that children have a better
talent in foreign language spoken. Nevertheless, some scholars believe that children
aged between seven and nine, compared
to children aged between
four and six, speak better in pronunciation. Some also
believe that in the age of eight to fifteen, the process
of learning pronunciation improves. At an early
age, speech-forming organs are more flexible in terms of
the formation of a phonetic device in the production of sounds of foreign
language. Because the spelling is spontaneous, the organs
of speech production, such as tongue and mouth, are
controlled by the muscles. After maturation,
these motor skills drop and the phonetic output is similar to that of foreign language. All
results are a relative conclusion. Adequate knowledge of
the general features of foreign language,
such as mere syntax and sounds, makes older learners able
to recognize and produce foreign language
vocabulary through phonetic simulators close to native
speakers. As the phonetic system of
the two languages is more similar to each other, they can
be overwhelming. The similarity of phonetic
systems affects learning speed and thus better
pronunciation in a positive way.