Myths and Misconceptions of Second Language Learning

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Children learn second languages quickly and easily.
False. Research comparing children to adults has consistently demonstrated that adolescents and adults perform better than young children under controlled conditions (e.g., Snow & Hoefnagel-Hoehle, 1978).
The younger the child, the more skilled in acquiring a second language.
False. Some research argues that the earlier children begin to learn a second language, the better (e.g., Krashen, Long, & Scarcella, 1979). However, research does not support this conclusion in school settings.
The more time students spend in a second language context, the quicker they learn the language.
False. Research, however, indicates that this increase exposure to English does not necessarily speed the acquisition of English.
Children have acquired a second language once they can speak it.
False. For school-aged children, proficiency in face-to-face communication does not imply proficiency in the more complex academic language needed to engage in many classroom activities.
All children learn a second language in the same way.
False. Effective instruction for children from culturally diverse backgrounds requires varied instructional activities that consider the children’s diversity of experience.

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