Effects of age of learning, family, and social environment on attitude and proficiency in EFL among Taiwanese adults

Yi-hui Chen, Purdue University


There is a growing tendency in Asia for English instruction to be implemented in the early years of primary schooling. Although arguments for this large-scale curriculum change often center around the “earlier-the-better” assumption, second/foreign language development is far more than a classroom-wise task – it must be regarded from a comprehensive perspective that entails the political, educational, cultural, familial and social dimensions of language learning and teaching. It is believed that further investigations should be made to uncover how early onset of learning over the long run would affect language outcomes and experiences along with a number of crucial and distinct factors in a given socio-educational context. In this vein, the purpose of this study is to shed light on the role of age of onset in Taiwan, where a series of reforms have markedly lowered the starting age of English learning through both formal and informal trainings. In order to gain a better understanding of the issues addressed, the mixed methods approach was carried out to quantitatively and qualitatively explore Taiwanese learners’ EFL proficiency and attitudes in relation to age of onset, informal exposure, and parental as well as social factors. The findings suggest that age of onset has a significant bearing on language proficiency and attitude, but the relationship may be mediated or outweighed by other factors related to types of instruction received, frequency of informal exposure, parental involvement and support, and opportunities of language and cultural communications at the social level. The conclusions provide important implications for the effects of age of onset in second/foreign language development, and may lay the basis for local authorities and educators to review and tailor the elementary EFL education policy according to the current learning situations in Taiwan.




Roberts, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Linguistics|Foreign language education|Sociolinguistics

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