Friday, February 24, 2012

Critical Period Hypothesis

For several decades linguistics tried to come up with a conclusion how human beings are able to acquire one or more languages. They succeeded in the explanation of the language acquisition and the language learning as two entirely different things. Language acquisition usually refers to the mother tongue or to the first language that we are exposed as children. The language acquisition is connected with one phenomenon called the Critical Period Hypothesis, which was and still is an interesting life stage for investigating. 

The term critical period refers to a critical phase of life between the age of two and before beginning of the puberty when each individual is able to acquire the first language. After this critical period the acquisition of the first language is far more difficult and will never reach the perfect status of acquired language. On the other hand Critical Period Hypothesis aims to investigate the reasons between first language acquisition and second language acquisition. Many researchers believe that there is a critical period in each human’s development in which second language learning may occur to certain level that the individual may become able to speak the additional language as a native speaker.  It is believed that after the period of puberty it is nearly impossible for each individual to acquire the second language to a higher degree of proficiency. Over the past few decades the researchers perform a lot of studies in order to see how valid this hypothesis is. Some of them confirm the existence of the critical period and some dismiss the same. The main question is does the Critical Period Hypothesis really exist?