The Starting Age and Ultimate Attainment of English Learning in the Palestinian Context

  •  Raghad Dwaik    
  •  Adnan Shehadeh    


The starting age of foreign language learning has been a controversial issue since the second half of the 20th century. Despite this long time, definite answers have not been found regarding the different aspects of the age issue, i.e., its influence on rate, route and ultimate attainment. Many researchers have explored the influence of age on the rate of language acquisition, its route and the level of ultimate attainment reached by the students. This study explores the third dimension, i.e., the level of ultimate attainment and compares this dimension between a group of students who started learning English from the first grade and another group which started learning English in the fifth grade, i.e., around the onset time of puberty. 1846 students participated in the study and the percentage of females among them was 40%. All participants sat for an English test that measured their competence in reading, writing, speaking, and listening as well as grammar and vocabulary. Results show that first grade starters had a significant advantage over fifth grade starters only in vocabulary and reading comprehension. As for grammar and writing, no significant differences were found between the two groups, yet a higher mean was achieved by the late starters. When it comes to the aural-oral skills (listening and speaking), no significant differences were detected between the two groups. It was noticed, however, that the mean of the fifth grade starters was slightly higher in the listening skill while the mean of the first grade starters was higher in speaking.

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