Beyond Age Effects in Instructional L2 Learning Revisiting the Age Factor Author: Simone E. Pfenninger, David Singleton

Paperback - 288 pages
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21 Apr 2017
Second Language Acquisition
Multilingual Matters
234 x 156


This book constitutes a holistic study of how and why late starters surpass early starters in comparable instructional settings. Combining advanced quantitative methods with individual-level qualitative data, it examines the role of age of onset in the context of the Swiss multilingual educational system and focuses on performance at the beginning and end of secondary school, thereby offering a long-term view of the teenage experience of foreign language learning. The study scrutinised factors that seem to prevent young starters from profiting from their extended learning period and investigated the mechanisms that enable late beginners to catch up with early beginners relatively quickly. Taking account of contextual factors, individual socio-affective factors and instructional factors within a single longitudinal study, the book makes a convincing case that age of onset is not only of minimal relevance for many aspects of instructed language acquisition, but that in this context, for a number of reasons, a later onset can be beneficial.


This expansive, longitudinal study constitutes a major contribution to the ongoing debate over age in SLA. Through careful and sophisticated analyses, Pfenninger and Singleton present convincing evidence that late SLA confers specific linguistic, cognitive and affective advantages. Practitioners, policy makers and researchers alike will find many new insights here from which to question the ‘earlier is better’ mantra.

- Alene Moyer, University of Maryland, USA

This book makes a major contribution to the field of instructed second language learning. Paying particular attention to methodological issues, the book goes beyond age effects to show the multiple ways in which internal and external factors may affect the learners’ processes and outcomes. The book also provides very rich and timely insights for foreign language education.

- Carmen Muñoz, University of Barcelona, Spain

This is a balanced and perceptive study that approaches a topic of interest to us all, drawing on fresh evidence and careful analysis. The authors investigate the impact of both learner-internal and -external factors applying state of the art statistical modelling, and their results are of great relevance for both researchers and policy makers.

- Raphael Berthele, University of Fribourg, Switzerland

Author Biography:

Simone E. Pfenninger is Assistant Professor of Psycholinguistics and Language Acquisition at the University of Salzburg, Austria. Her research interests include multilingualism, psycholinguistics and the age factor in SLA and she is co-editor (with Judit Navracsics) of Future Research Directions for Applied Linguistics (2017, Multilingual Matters).

David Singleton is Professor of Applied Linguistics at the University of Pannonia, Hungary and Fellow Emeritus, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland. He has published widely on second language acquisition, multilingualism and lexicology and is co-author (with Vivian Cook) of Key Topics in Second Language Acquisition (2014, Multilingual Matters).

Readership Level:

Postgraduate, Research / Professional

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