Acquiring & forgetting a second language : a study of three children aged 5-11 years

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

This investigation is concerned with what three children remembered or had forgotten of a second language after an interval of two years. An in-depth study, consisting of recognition and recall tests, was made of 13-year-old identical twin girls and their 9-year-old brother, who previously had been English/French bilinguals. A phenomenological approach was taken, which included the children's reaction to the tests, and their description of the personal framework within which the learning and forgetting had taken place. The findings, which are suggestive due to limited data, are: first, cognitive and maturational differences between the children caused the twins to retain more recognition and active recall of French than their brother; second, the twins showed a surprising difference in their recognition of French, pos9ibly caused by affective factors; third, all three children showed strongest recognition in the area of semantics, while in recall they retained phonology best; fourth, in the tests, habit memory and episodic memory were more durable than semantic memory. The investigation is a first step towards understanding how children forget a language in which they have been submersed.

Bibliography: pages 333-356.