the Critical Period Hypothesis

Articles in English

(According to Wikipedia, the Critical Period Hypothesis is the subject of a long-standing debate in linguistics and language acquisition over the extent to which the ability to acquire language is biologically linked to age.)

 In the United States, in 1970, a girl named Genie was rescued at the age of 13 after living in harsh conditions without receiving normal parenting from her parents. At the time of the rescue, intellectual abilities were diagnosed as far behind, and the left brain was also found to be not functioning properly. Despite having been taught English by scholars for four years after the rescue, Genie eventually failed to learn English. Does this Genie case support the “the Critical Period Hypothesis” ? the answer is no.

 This example does not support the Critical Period Hypothesis. The reason is that she had a dysfunctional Brain. Intelligence, or brain problems, means that learning ability is significantly impaired compared to ordinary people’s brains, and if so, learning English does not normally work because the brain has problems in the first place.

 Another example is Korean education authorities introduced English education from the third grade of elementary school more than 20 years ago (1997). They recently seriously considered ways to advance the start of English education to the first grade of elementary school. One of the most critical logical reasons for the introduction of early English education policies is “the Critical Period Hypothesis.” Does the Critical Period Hypothesis have a validity of determining the timing of early English education in Korea? The answer is no as well.

 It is not appropriate to determine the timing of early English education based on the Critical Period Hypothesis because there may be a correlation in improving skills if children learn a foreign language for a long time, but learning a foreign language unconditionally when they are young could have many side effects.

 It can be a hindrance to acquiring a native language. Therefore, at an early age, the acquisition of the mother tongue should be carried out generally so that cognitive and emotional development could be achieved, and the brain, which enables logical and abstract thinking, could develop normally.
Besides, children who learn a foreign language might refuse to study other educational subjects if they experience agony in the process. Adults will be able to speak a foreign language smoothly after practicing to speak the language even though they did not start to learn a foreign language at an early age.

 For these reasons, the Korean government has to change its educational policy. Therefore, I recommend an improvement plan for this. First, Considering the ratio of learning a foreign language in the overall curriculum rather than when learning a foreign language starts.  Second, Setting goals and purposes for learning a foreign language.


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