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Second Language Acquisition In Adopted Child

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In recent years, adopting a child is becoming a widespread situation. However, sometimes couples do not adopt kids from their own country; they adopt kids from other countries. This situation can be confusing for older children since everything changes for them such as culture, society, social environment, and the most important one; language. Children are exposed to a new language, and probably their native language will eventually be forgotten. For instance, a six-year-old Turkish child was adopted by a Canadian family whose name is Ayça has moved to Canada. She will learn other languages such as English, French. At first thanks to her brain plasticity, she will probably learn other languages easily. She will be exposed to the language in her daily life, at school, at home and interact with native speakers. That’s why she probably will have native-like pronunciation. However, in this period her Turkish development ceases and as time progresses she will forget it. Adopting a child who is in his/her early ages from a different country might be difficult for a child’s development but, on the other hand, his/her adaptation to the second language will be much easier than the adult learners’. It makes a child bilingual or multilingual because he/she already has a mother tongue. To understand a child’s L2 development we can consult Nativist, Cognitivist and Socialist views. What will happen in the initial, intermediate and final state according to these views? What will happen to his/her mother tongue?

According to Nativists and Noam Chomsky, we have an innate capacity for language learning. We are born with an ability to learn a language. We can understand some specific rules in language and this set of rules named as Universal Grammar. The places we born such as; villages or big cities, and the languages that we speak are not important. All children encounter the same language learning order. However, there is a critical period. According to the Critical Period Hypothesis, we have a device in our brain named as LAD “Language Acquisition Device.” We have to use it up to puberty; otherwise, it loses its function and language acquisition becomes impossible. For example, Genie was a thirteen-year-old girl was raised isolated from society, and nobody communicated with her. Her family had kept her in a room for thirteen years, and they did not talk to her. After she had got rescued scientist tried to rehabilitate her. She learned some basic vocabulary and syntax structures, but she could not learn correct grammar structure. Ayça is a six-year-old, and she has brain plasticity. She is monolingual, but after moving to Canada, she will learn other languages. Her L2 acquisition follows her L1 acquisition. In the initial state, she has underlying knowledge and innate capacity. In the intermediate state, according to Contrastive Analysis, there is a habit formation, Stimulus- Respond-Reinforcement, and transfer. She will transfer her L1 to L2, but the transfer can be negative or positive. In positive transfer, she correctly uses L1 structures in L2, but in negative transfer, L1 interferes with her use of structures that will be inappropriate. Her learning will progress with feedbacks. In this process her aptitude and motivation is also important factors for her L2 development. Finally, in the final state, she will have multilingual competence. In order to work through her L2 acquisition we have to look at different levels of acquisition. Firstly, she will learn lexicon, the meaning of words, pronunciation and word combinations. Her phonology will develop simultaneously with her lexicon. She will learn intonation patterns, syllable structure and speech sounds. For morphology, according to Morpheme Order Studies, there is general order for acquisition, and she acquires L2 word structure subconsciously. After that, her grammar development will occur as mentioned before that there is the Universal Grammar. UG is a set of principles that contain parameters. However, while learning grammar structure, there will be the poverty of stimulus; in other words, lack of input since hearing all grammatical structures is impossible. However, Ayça’s brain will still be able to produce correct sentences. Nativists named this situation as a logical problem of language learning. Children’s knowledge goes beyond of their input and in this process they use their inter-language device. By the help of all information in her brain, she will try to create correct sentences. Firstly, she will start with word by word, and then she will rarely use morphemes. Finally, she will create correct grammatical sentences. She receives positive and negative evidence in this process. As for her Turkish, in this process, she will learn new culture, new languages and she will not use Turkish for communication. That’s why she will eventually forget it. Linguists say that in early ages, while L2 development is increasing, L1 competence decreases in the first three years in a different country (Rumbaut, 1998). Also according to other research, since their new families do not support their L1, and usually children are not using it in their new social environment, young international adopted children loses their L1 capabilities and they have only spoken L2(Gindis, 1991). I think because of Ayça’s age, she will easily adapt to her new environment, Canadian culture, and new languages. She is in a critical period, and she is going to acquire the language from native speakers; that’s why she will be a native speaker. In the initial state, she already has L1 knowledge; she can transfer it to L2. Because of her innate capacity and with the help of Universal Grammar she will learn lexicon and grammar structures easily. In the intermediate state, she takes input from her new parent and peers that she stores in her inter-language device, and she will use them. In the final state, she will be multilingual. In this process her Turkish competence decreases gradually. According to Nicholadis and Grabois, when the exposure of language stops, acquisition will cease (2002).

Ideas that are located in our brain might be specialized for language learning. Our language learning mostly occurs in left hemisphere, because of the core in our left lobe, however; it is not localized in a specific area. On the contrary, our right hemisphere more dominant in second language acquisition and all this learning process is the cognitive process. According to Cognitivists, L2 acquisition is an automatic process, such as; learning math or riding a bicycle. Cognivists symbolise our brain to a computer. Cognitivists say that acquisition and learning are not distinct mental processes, they are the same processes of perception, memory, and generalization and contrary to Nativist, they assume that there is no specific device like “Language Acquisition Device.” Ayça will learn L2 like any other knowledge system, and rather than innate capacity, her social environment is effective on her language learning. Her L2 emerges from her interaction with the environment. According to Ellis, a functionalist, usage-based model of language is the most suitable analysis (1997). This approach clearly states that in learning, as in theoretical analysis, language and its function must not be separated from each other. Language and semantics are snafus; that’s why we need functional, naturalistic, communicative situations for learning. Language learning requires effort like another complex. The cognitive approach based on IP “Information Processing” that deals with the mental process including language learning and use. L2 learning is the acquisition of complex cognitive skills. They claim that language is a hierarchical set of skills and Ayça’s second language develops with practice and repetition. Like Morpheme Order Studies Cognitive approach has the Multidimensional Model. According to this model, Ayça acquired certain grammatical structure in an advancing sequence. Firstly, she will learn words, but they are not related to rules. After that, she will learn lexical items, such as; the numbers and gender of nouns, and then she will begin to categorize them. Finally, she will produce grammatical sentences. Also, Ayça’s linguistic performance includes “mapping” between form and function. Forms are lexical items, and their functions are grammatical. For example, the word bee whose phonetic form is /bi:/, the function is the meaning of black and yellow flying insect. In the sentence “Bees are flying” when we look word order “bees” before and “flying” after auxiliary form. The inflection ‘-s’ also form and its function is to demonstrate that there is more than one bee.

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In Connectionist perspective, the learning process takes place in our brain. As Ayça is exposed to the repetition of input, her L2 will develop. According to Harrington, characterizing learning in local domains of processing, such as; phonological, lexical and morphological level, Connectionist approach is highly successful. As for her Turkish competence, according to Niemeier, children are using the first acquired forms with easy structures both of the languages and it last until they reach more complex structures (1990). That’s why Ayça will use code-switches. She combined her mother tongue “Turkish” and new languages at first. Then, when she learns more complex structures in her new languages, she ceases the use of Turkish, and she forgets it. I think Cognitive view is inadequate to explain some situations, such as; the logical problem of language learning. They claim that our language emerges from interactions with the environment, communication with people, but as it is mentioned earlier, it is almost impossible that hear all grammatical sentence structures just by listening or speaking. For instance, in Inuit Society who live in the Arctic that does not interact with their children until children speak on their own when they grow up. Although this communication is lacking interaction, children learn a language and speak on their own. That’s why I agree with the Nativist Approach; it is possible because of our innate faculty. We have an innate capacity to learn a language, and we do not need intense communication for language learning.

According to the Socialist view, our knowledge system including the language occurs with social interactions. As a result of the social interactions, we share our thoughts and communicate with a language community in which people share the common language. In this situation, Ayça is a member of different language community because she is multilingual. In this chapter, we will look at how she acquired her L2 by interacting with other people. According to Lantolf and Thorne, our neurobiology is a critical element for higher order thinking, the most critical forms of our activities developed with social interactions (2006). To state in other words, communication with other people is a necessary condition in the development of thinking. That’s why Ayça needs active social interactions with her parents and peers. She must learn new culture and other aspects of her new languages, and it happens with relations. She must be a part of her new communities. Park states that Social Theory gives us a chance to focus on understanding language that is used in context, linguistic and attitudinal changes and their processes, also cultural understandings that happen in the processes of L2 learning (2005). In social interactions, Ayça will use her gestures, mimics and languages itself to understand native speakers and to explain her own emotions, ideas and experiences. However, sociolinguistics claim that there were varieties such as learners itself, different speakers of a language, and Ayça’s development processes may be different from other children. In the initial state, she needs comprehensible input and interaction. Both inputs’ quality and quantity are important. In intermediate state, at first, Ayça will use foreign language communication in her speech. Her parents help her with interactional modifications and make direct or indirect corrections. It is essential because with the help of this correction and feedbacks she can require the native competence. Direct correction may be negative feedback for Ayça, because correcting directly can be firm for her age and this affects her learning process.

However in indirect correction, as it is stated before with the help of interactional modifications, her parents can support her L2 development. Repetition, paraphrase expansion, and elaboration can give examples of indirect feedbacks. With the help of these interactions, she develops her L2. In the final state, she becomes multilingual. Another view in the Social context is Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory. According to this theory, social interactions are not only ease to learning but also force acquisition. These are interpersonal interactions that happen between people. For example, interactions between Ayça and her parents happen in Zone of Proximal Development. Her parents help her development in L2 through scaffolding. Not only her parents but also her peers help her, but it will not occur without Ayça’s active participation. According to Lightbown and Spada, if she/he takes the correct input from an adult or a peer, a child may be able to complete more cognitively demanding tasks (2006). Zone of Proximal Development is seen as a symbolic area where a learner and conversational partner ¬build knowledge, construction of knowledge among learners in interaction with partners or in private speech. Also in Ayça’s intrapersonal interactions, in another words; her inner speech, communication happens in her mind helps to delevop her L2. I think because of micro and macro social factors, Ayça has difficulty in learning L2. However, the support of her social environment she can deal with these struggles. As for Socialist view actually, it is logical, but in my opinion, it can be supporting view because it defends the importance of social interaction with people, but we can learn a language from other authentic resources on our own.

To sum up, this paper examines different approaches to same case. Among through Nativist, Cognitivist and Socialist approaches I think the most logical one is Chomsky’s Nativist Approach. Nativists say that humans born with the innate capacity I agree with that we can learn a language. Ayça already has a Turkish competence when she adopted, and she was in the critical age to language learning. She has brain plasticity to language learning. She can make a positive transfer from her L1 to L2. She will learn the language from Native speaker; that’s why she has native-like pronunciation. In the initial state, she has an L1 and innate capacity for L2 learning. She has cognitive development and real-world knowledge. In the intermediate state there will be a negative or positive transfer she will take input and store them in her inter-language she will take feedback and instructions. In the final state, she developed native linguistic competence.

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Second Language Acquisition In Adopted Child. (2022, February 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 24, 2023, from
“Second Language Acquisition In Adopted Child.” Edubirdie, 18 Feb. 2022,
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