W: Good morning, Dr. Harley. Thank you very much for coming on our radio talk. We know that you are an applied linguist specializing in second language acquisition.
W: So, today. We'll look at this issue. Now, first, Dr. Harley. Could you please tell us what is second language acquisition?
M: Well, second language acquisition is happens when a child or adult has already become competent at a language. Then, they attempt to learn another.
W: Ok, most people think, including me, it is difficult to learn another language. What are the reasons? Why is it so?
M: Well, there are a number of reasons for this. First, there have been research studies.
M: They have shown that some aspects of language learning especially syntax are more difficult beyond a certain age, say after around 12 years of age.
W: So, age plays an important role in language learning?
M: Yes. But that's not the only reason.
W: Oh, is that so?
M: Yes. For example, time and interest. Old children and adults often have less time and motivation to learn a second language.
M: Another is related to the similarities and differences between one's mother tongue and a second language.
M: We find that learners will experience difficulty when their mother tongue and the second language they are learning differ.
M: In general, the more idiosyncratic a feature is in a particular language relative to other languages, the more difficult it will be to acquire.
W: Perhaps this is the key issue. Differences between languages cause language learning problems.
M: Well, this may be one of the issues here, but this cannot be the whole story, as not all differences between languages cause difficulty. Let me give you an example.
M: Research has found that many errors by Czech speakers learning English were made on syntactic constructions in which the two languages do not differ.
W: Oh, really. The picture is more complicated than we've imagined.
M: Definitely yes. Each language learning situation is different. So reasons vary a lot from case to case.