Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton May 23, 2019

Factors in language learning after 40: Insights from a longitudinal study

Olga Kozar and Lynda Yates

Abstract

This study seeks to identify differences in language learning progress and experiences among 24 adult migrants, who arrived to Australia after the age of 40. The results suggest that age per se was not a reliable predictor of language learning progress. Instead, the initial English level of participants when they arrived to Australia, opportunities to use English and prior level of education were associated with considerable language learning gains. For example, participants who had a higher initial English level were able to find jobs that required them to perform a range of oral and written tasks across different domain, which further improved their level, while participants who had a low initial level were mostly unemployed. Another common factor we noted among participants with high and reasonable gains but not among those who made little progress was a proactive attitude and the use of a range of language learning strategies beyond the classroom. The study also revealed differences in age construal among participants with high and reasonable gains and those who did not improve.


Note

[Correction added after online publication 19 July 2017: 3rd paragraph of the introduction, 3rd paragraph of the ‘Perspectives on age’, 7th paragraph of the ‘Perspectives on age’ and 1st paragraph of the ‘Adult immigrants and language learning’ were edited to improve the text.]


Appendix 1: Semi-structured interview guide

  1. A greeting.

  2. Catching up about what participants have been doing since the last interview.

  3. The compilation of a language map and questions about language use in the identified domains.

  4. Family (e. g. Tell me about your family and who lives at home with you? What languages do you use with whom and why? What do you find most difficult about using English with your partner?).

  5. Work (e. g. Where do you work? How did you find the job? What languages do you use at work with whom and for which tasks? What do you find most difficult about using English at work?).

  6. Education (e. g. Are you doing courses at TAFE/studying at university? What are you studying? How did you find out about the course? What do you find most difficult about language use at TAFE/university?).

  7. Social networks (e. g. Tell me about who you spend time with? How did you meet them? What languages do you use with them? Do you have Australian friends? How much contact do you have with people back in your home country?).

  8. Religious practices/other activities (e. g. Tell me about other groups you belong to? How did you find out about them? What languages do you use? Do you volunteer?).

  9. Question prompts that aim at eliciting longer stretches of talk:

  10. I’d like to hear what you think about Australia.

  11. What do you like about Australia?

  12. What don’t you like about Australia?

  13. Imagine a friend is moving to Australia. What advice would you give them?

  14. I’d like to hear you talk about the future. What are your plans and dreams for the next five years?

  15. Settlement success (e. g. Do you want to become an Australian citizen? Why/why not? Do you feel at home in Australia? What do you need to have to feel at home?).

  16. Participants’ self-rated language assessments.

  17. Language learning practices (e. g. Tell us about anything that you do to learn English outside of class? Do these things help? Which skills are most important and why?).

  18. AMEP (e. g. What did you like/not like about AMEP? How did AMEP help you with your pathway/developing a social network? What did you learn at AMEP? What did you think about the settlement topics you talked about in class?).

  19. Closing

Appendix 2

NameCohortGenderProgress Self-assessmentProgress through CSWEProgress to no interpreterSpoken proficiency ratings
ShintaBFemalenoneSame levelNN/A
Li MingAFemalenoneSame levelNN/A
Yoo-JinBFemaleSomeSame levelYN/A
CharlesAMalev. positive2 levels + further studyN/A+1.3
AbrarAFemalev. positiveAll CSWE + further studyN/AN/A
ShanBFemalesome, but feels -ve1A to 2B, then LLNPN/A+0.75
KiranBMaleNoneSame levelNN/A
AlinaAFemaleSomeSame levelN/A−0.25
Xiao MeiAFemaleSomeSame level + further studyN/A−0.5
RajaBMaleSome, slightSame levelNN/A
KrishnaBFemaleNoneSame levelNN/A
KanchaBMaleNoneSame levelNN/A
DbchaterBMalev. positiveSame level (quit)N/AN/A
SadewaBMaleNoneSame levelNN/A
IreneAFemaleNoneSame levelNN/A
LeoAMaleSomeSame level, then tutorNN/A
IndiraBFemaleNoneSame levelN/AN/A
AkbarBMaleSomeSame levelNN/A
SarahAFemalepositiveAll CSWE + further studyN/AN/A
BeatrizAFemaleNoneSame levelN/A−0.13
TakumiBMaleSomeOne level + further studyNN/A
BimaBMaleNoneSame levelNN/A
LudmillaAFemaleSomeAll CSWE + further studyYN/A
Li Li LinAFemaleSomeone level + further studyYN/A

[Correction added after online publication 19 July 2017: 10th cell of column ‘Progress Selfassessment’ was change to ‘Some, slight’ and the last cell of column ‘Name’ was changed to ‘Li Li Lin’.]

References

Allender, S. C. 1998. Adult ESL learners with special needs: Learning from the Australian perspective. Washington: Office of Educational Research and Improvement.Search in Google Scholar

Alley, D., K. Suthers & E. Crimmins. 2007. Education and cognitive decline in older Americans results from the AHEAD sample. Research on aging 29(1). 73–94.10.1177/0164027506294245Search in Google Scholar

Andersson, F., M. Garcia-Perez, J. Haltiwanger, K. McCue & S. Sanders. 2014. Workplace concentration of immigrants. Demography 51(6). 2281–2306.10.1007/s13524-014-0352-3Search in Google Scholar

Ardila, A., F. Ostrosky-Solis, M. Rosselli & C. Gómez. 2000. Age-related cognitive decline during normal aging: The complex effect of education. Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology 15(6). 495–513. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0887-6177(99)00040-2Search in Google Scholar

Baker, W. 2010. Effects of age and experience on the production of English word-final stops by Korean speakers. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition 13(03). 263–278.10.1017/S136672890999006XSearch in Google Scholar

Bandura, A. 1977. Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological review 84(2). 191. doi: 10.1037/0033-295x.84.2.191Search in Google Scholar

Bandura, A. 1997. Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: Worth Publishers.Search in Google Scholar

Bandura, A. 2010. Self-efficacy the corsini encyclopedia of psychology. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0836Search in Google Scholar

Batha, K. & M. Carroll. 2007. Metacognitive training aids decision making. Australian Journal of Psychology 59(2). 64–69.10.1080/00049530601148371Search in Google Scholar

Beaudoin, M. 2011. Are memory self-efficacy and memory performance related? A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin 137(2). 211–241. doi: 10.1037/a0022106Search in Google Scholar

Bellingham, L. 2005. Is there language acquisition after 40? Older learners speak up. In P. Benson & D. Nunan (eds.), Learners’ stories: Difference and diversity in language learning, 56–68. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Benson, P. 2013. Teaching and researching: Autonomy in language learning. London: Routledge.10.4324/9781315833767Search in Google Scholar

Bialystok, E., F. I. Craik & M. Freedman. 2007. Bilingualism as a protection against the onset of symptoms of dementia. Neuropsychologia 45(2). 459–464.10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2006.10.009Search in Google Scholar

Birdsong, D. 2009. Age and the end state of second language acquisition. In W. Ritchie & T. Bhatia (eds.), The new handbook of second language acquisition, 401–424. London: Emerald Group Publishing.Search in Google Scholar

Birdsong, D. 2014. Dominance and Age in Bilingualism. Applied Linguistics. doi: 10.1093/applin/amu031Search in Google Scholar

Bongaerts, T. 1999. Ultimate attainment in L2 pronunciation: The case of very advanced late L2 learners. In D. Birdsong (ed.), Second language acquisition and the critical period hypothesis, 133–159. London: Lawrence Erlbaum.Search in Google Scholar

Chiswick, B. R. & P. W. Miller. 2001. A model of destination-language acquisition: Application to male immigrants in Canada. Demography 38(3). 391–409.10.1353/dem.2001.0025Search in Google Scholar

Craik, F. I., E. Bialystok & M. Freedman. 2010. Delaying the onset of Alzheimer disease Bilingualism as a form of cognitive reserve. Neurology 75(19). 1726–172910.1212/WNL.0b013e3181fc2a1cSearch in Google Scholar

De Bot, K. & R. W. Schrauf. 2009. Language development over the lifespan. New York: Taylor & Francis.10.4324/9780203880937Search in Google Scholar

DeKeyser, R. 2012. Interactions between individual differences, treatments, and structures in SLA. Language Learning 62. 189–200. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9922.2012.00712.xSearch in Google Scholar

DeKeyser, R. M. 2000. The robustness of critical period effects in second language acquisition. Studies in Second Language Acquisition 22(04). 499–533.10.1017/S0272263100004022Search in Google Scholar

Derwing, T. M., M. J. Munro & R. I. Thomson. 2008. A longitudinal study of ESL learners’ fluency and comprehensibility development. Applied Linguistics 29(3). 359–380.10.1093/applin/amm041Search in Google Scholar

Derwing, T. M. & M. J. Rossiter. 2003. The effects of pronunciation instruction on the accuracy, fluency, and complexity of L2 accented speech. Applied Language Learning 13(1). 1–17Search in Google Scholar

Elmeroth, E. 2003. From refugee camp to solitary confinement: Illiterate adults learn Swedish as a second language. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research 47(4). 431.10.1080/00313830308593Search in Google Scholar

Flege, J. E. 2009. Give input a chance. In Piske & Young-Scholten (eds.), Input matters in SLA, 175–190. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.10.21832/9781847691118-012Search in Google Scholar

Flege, J. E. & S. Liu. 2001. The effect of experience on adults’ acquisition of a second language. Studies in Second Language Acquisition 23(4). 527–552.10.1017/S0272263101004041Search in Google Scholar

Flege, J. E., I. R. MacKay & T. Piske. 2002. Assessing bilingual dominance. Applied Psycholinguistics 23(04). 567–598.10.1017/S0142716402004046Search in Google Scholar

Flege, J. E., G. H. Yeni-Komshian & S. Liu. 1999. Age constraints on second-language acquisition. Journal of Memory and Language 41(1). 78–104.10.1006/jmla.1999.2638Search in Google Scholar

Foulkes, C. 2012. Australia’s boat people: Asylum challenges and two decades of policy experimentation, Migration Policy Institute, available http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/australias-boat-people-asylum-challenges-and-two-decades-policy-experimentationSearch in Google Scholar

Geronimo, J., S. Folinsbee & J. Goveas. 2001. A research project into the settlement needs of adult immigrants with limited literacy skills in their first language who have settled in the Greater Toronto Area. Submitted to the Canadian Multilingual Literacy Centre. Retrieved on April March 22, 2007.Search in Google Scholar

Granena, G. & M. H. Long. 2013. Age of onset, length of residence, language aptitude, and ultimate L2 attainment in three linguistic domains. Second Language Research 29(3). 311–343.10.1177/0267658312461497Search in Google Scholar

Herd, P. 2010. Education and health in late-life among high school graduates: Cognitive versus psychological aspects of human capital. Journal of Health and Social Behavior 51(4). 478–496.10.1177/0022146510386796Search in Google Scholar

Ioup, G., E. Boustagui, M. El Tigi & M. Moselle. 1994. Reexamining the critical period hypothesis. Studies in Second Language Acquisition 16(01). 73–98.10.1017/S0272263100012596Search in Google Scholar

Jia, G., D. Aaronson & Y. Wu. 2002. Long-term language attainment of bilingual immigrants: Predictive variables and language group differences. Applied Psycholinguistics 23(04). 599–621.10.1017/S0142716402004058Search in Google Scholar

Jia, G. & D. Aaronson. 2003. A longitudinal study of Chinese children and adolescents learning English in the United States. Applied Psycholinguistics 24(01). 131–161.10.1017/S0142716403000079Search in Google Scholar

Kavé, G., N. Eyal, A. Shorek & J. Cohen-Mansfield. 2008. Multilingualism and cognitive state in the oldest old. Psychology and Aging 23(1). 70.10.1037/0882-7974.23.1.70Search in Google Scholar

Khoo, S. E., G. Hugo & P. McDonald. 2008. Which skilled temporary migrants become permanent residents and why? 1. International Migration Review 42(1). 193–226.10.1111/j.1747-7379.2007.00118.xSearch in Google Scholar

Kinginger, C. 2008. Language learning in study abroad: Case studies of Americans in France. The Modern Language Journal 92(s1). 1–124.10.1111/j.1540-4781.2008.00821.xSearch in Google Scholar

Kinginger, C. 2009. Language learning and study abroad. London: Palgrave Macmillan.10.1057/9780230240766Search in Google Scholar

Kinsella, C. & D. Singleton. 2014. Much more than age. Applied Linguistics 35(4). 441–462. doi: 10.1093/applin/amu032Search in Google Scholar

Krueger, N. & P. R. Dickson. 1994. How believing in ourselves increases risk taking: Perceived self‐efficacy and opportunity recognition. Decision Sciences 25(3). 385–400.10.1111/j.1540-5915.1994.tb01849.xSearch in Google Scholar

Lamendella, J. T. 1977. General principles of neurofunctional organization and their manifestation in primary and nonprimary language acquisition1. Language Learning 27(1). 155–196.10.1111/j.1467-1770.1977.tb00298.xSearch in Google Scholar

Lan, W. 2005. Self‐monitoring and its relationship with educational level and task importance. Educational Psychology 25(1). 109–127. doi: 10.1080/0144341042000294921Search in Google Scholar

Lenet, A., C. Sanz, B. Lado, J. Howard Jr & D. Howard. 2011. Aging, pedagogical conditions, and differential success in SLA: An empirical study. In C. Sanz and R. Leow (eds.), Implicit and explicit language learning: Conditions, processes, and knowledge in SLA and bilingualism, 73–84. Washington: Georgetown University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Lenneberg, E. 1967. Biological foundation of language. New York: Wiley.10.1080/21548331.1967.11707799Search in Google Scholar

Long, M. (2005). Problems with supposed counter-evidence to the critical period hypothesis. International Review of Applied Linguistics in Language Teaching 43(4). 287–317.10.1515/iral.2005.43.4.287Search in Google Scholar

MacIntyre, P. D. & C. Charos. 1996. Personality, attitudes, and affect as predictors of second language communication. Journal of Language and Social Psychology 15(1). 3–26.10.1177/0261927X960151001Search in Google Scholar

Magogwe, J. M. & R. Oliver. 2007. The relationship between language learning strategies, proficiency, age and self-efficacy beliefs: A study of language learners in Botswana. System 35(3). 338–352.10.1016/j.system.2007.01.003Search in Google Scholar

Marinova-Todd, S., D. B. Marshall & C. E. Snow. 2000. Three misconceptions about age and L2 learning. TESOL Quarterly 34(1). 9–34.10.2307/3588095Search in Google Scholar

Maurer, J. 2011. Education and male-female differences in later-life cognition: International evidence from Latin America and the Caribbean. Demography 48(3). 915–930.10.1007/s13524-011-0048-xSearch in Google Scholar

McDonald, J. L. 2000. Grammaticality judgments in a second language: Influences of age of acquisition and native language. Applied Psycholinguistics 21(03). 395–423.10.1017/S0142716400003064Search in Google Scholar

Mills, N., F. Pajares & C. Herron. 2007. Self‐efficacy of college intermediate French students: Relation to achievement and motivation. Language Learning 57(3). 417–442.10.1111/j.1467-9922.2007.00421.xSearch in Google Scholar

Moyer, A. 2004. Age, accent, and experience in second language acquisition: An integrated approach to critical period inquiry. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.10.21832/9781853597190Search in Google Scholar

Moyer, A. 2007. Empirical considerations on the age factor in L2 phonology. Issues in Applied Linguistics 15(2). 109–127.10.5070/L4152005087Search in Google Scholar

Moyer, A. 2014. Exceptional outcomes in L2 phonology: The critical factors of learner engagement and self-regulation. Applied Linguistics 35(4). 418–440. doi: 10.1093/applin/amu012Search in Google Scholar

Muñoz, C. 2012. Intensive exposure experiences in second language learning. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.10.21832/9781847698063Search in Google Scholar

Muñoz, C. & D. Singleton. 2011. A critical review of age-related research on L2 ultimate attainment. Language Teaching 44(01). 1–35.10.1017/S0261444810000327Search in Google Scholar

Nakatani, Y. 2005. The effects of awareness‐raising training on oral communication strategy use. The Modern Language Journal 89(1). 76–91.10.1111/j.0026-7902.2005.00266.xSearch in Google Scholar

Oxford, R. L. 2003. Language learning styles and strategies: Concepts and relationships. IRAL 41(4). 271–278.10.1515/iral.2003.012Search in Google Scholar

Oxford, R. L. 2013. Teaching & researching: Language learning strategies. London: Routledge.10.4324/9781315838816Search in Google Scholar

Park, J. S.-Y. 2011. The promise of English: Linguistic capital and the neoliberal worker in the South Korean job market. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism 14(4). 443–455.10.1080/13670050.2011.573067Search in Google Scholar

Peirce, B. N. 1995. Social identity, investment, and language learning. TESOL Quarterly 29(1). 9–31. doi: 10.2307/3587803Search in Google Scholar

Penfield, W. & L. Roberts. 1959. Speech and brain mechanisms. Princeton: NJL Princeton University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Ramage, K. 1990. Motivational factors and persistence in Foreign language study*. Language Learning 40(2). 189–219.10.1111/j.1467-1770.1990.tb01333.xSearch in Google Scholar

Rebok, G. W. & L. J. Balcerak. 1989. Memory self-efficacy and performance differences in young and old adults: The effect of mnemonic training. Developmental Psychology 25(5). 714.10.1037/0012-1649.25.5.714Search in Google Scholar

Roberts, C. 2010. Language socialization in the workplace. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics 30. 211–227.10.1017/S0267190510000127Search in Google Scholar

Ross, D. 2013. The effects of age and memory on the ability to adjust to novel (artificial) dialect forms for L1 Spanish speakers. Retrieved from https://www.ideals.illinois.edu/bitstream/handle/2142/42580/AgeMemoryEffects.pdf?sequence=2Search in Google Scholar

Salthouse, T. A. 2009. When does age-related cognitive decline begin? Neurobiology of Aging 30(4). 507–514.10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2008.09.023Search in Google Scholar

Schmidt, R. 1983. Interaction, acculturation, and the acquisition of communicative competence: A case study of an adult. In N. Wolfson & E. Judd (eds.), Sociolinguistics and language acquisition, 137–174. Berkeley: Newbury House.Search in Google Scholar

Schmidt, R. 2012. Attention, awareness, and individual differences in language learning. In W. M. Chan, K. N. Chin, S. Bhatt & I. Walker (eds.), Perspectives on individual characteristics and foreign language education, 6–27. Boston: De Gruyter.10.1515/9781614510932.27Search in Google Scholar

Schneider, W. 2008. The development of metacognitive knowledge in children and adolescents: Major trends and implications for education. Mind, Brain, and Education 2(3). 114–121.10.1111/j.1751-228X.2008.00041.xSearch in Google Scholar

Ter-Minasova, S. G. 2005. Traditions and innovations: English language teaching in Russia. World Englishes 24(4). 445–454. doi: 10.1111/j.0883-2919.2005.00427.xSearch in Google Scholar

Torres, S. 2006. Elderly immigrants in Sweden: ‘Otherness’ under construction. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 32(8). 1341–1358. doi: 10.1080/13691830600928730Search in Google Scholar

Veenman, M. V. J. 2005. Relation between intellectual and metacognitive skills: Age and task differences. Learning and Individual Differences 15(2). 159–176. doi: 10.1016/j.lindif.2004.12.001Search in Google Scholar

Yates, L. 2010. Language training and settlement success: Are they related? Sydney: AMEP Research Centre, Macquarie University. Retrieved from http://www.ameprc.mq.edu.au/docs/LanguageTrainingSettlement_.pdf.Search in Google Scholar

Yates, L. 2011. Interaction, language learning and social inclusion in early settlement. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism 14(4). 457–471.10.1080/13670050.2011.573068Search in Google Scholar

Yates, L., A. Terraschke, B. Zielinski, E. Pryor, J. Wang, G. Major, M. Radhakrishnan, H. Middleton, M. Chisari & V. Williams Tetteh. 2015. Final report: AMEP Longitudinal Study 2011–2014, Sydney: Linguistics Department Macquarie University.Search in Google Scholar

Yates, L., & E. Pryor. 2013. Fact Sheet 3: Building confidence outside the classroom – preparing learners. Series: Building confidence in the classroom and beyond. Professional development resource. Retrieved from http://www.neas.org.au/wp-content/uploads/Building-Confidence-Fact-Sheet-3.pdf.Search in Google Scholar

Yates, L., M. Chisari & E. Pryor. 2013. Fact Sheet 4: Building confidence in the community. Series: Building confidence in the classroom and beyond. Professional development resource. Retrieved from http://www.neas.org.au/wp-content/uploads/Building-Confidence-Fact-Sheet-4.pdfSearch in Google Scholar

Zahodne, L. B., M. M. Glymour, C. Sparks, D. Bontempo, R. A. Dixon, S. W. MacDonald & J. J. Manly. 2011. Education does not slow cognitive decline with aging: 12-year evidence from the Victoria Longitudinal Study. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society 17(06). 1039–1046.10.1017/S1355617711001044Search in Google Scholar


Note

[Correction added after online publication 19 July 2017: Yates, L. (2010) and Yates, L et al. (2015) have been added to the reference list.]


Published Online: 2019-05-23
Published in Print: 2019-05-26

© 2019 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston