Access to childhood language memory: Implications for cognitive development

Terry Kit-fong Au

in Access to Language and Cognitive Development

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199592722
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731488 | DOI:
Access to childhood language memory: Implications for cognitive development

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This chapter examines how memories that are acquired by overhearing a second language during early childhood are tacitly retrieved in adult age and influence cognitive development. It describes a study of adult learners of Spanish/Korean who had spoken Spanish/Korean as their native language before age six and only minimally, if at all, thereafter until they began to re-learn the language after age thirteen years. They were compared with native speakers, childhood (over)hearers, and typical late-second-language (L2)-learners of Spanish/Korean. Although far from native-like, childhood speakers of Spanish reliably outperformed childhood overhearers and typical late-L2-learners on measures of grammar. Both childhood speakers and overhearers spoke Spanish with a more native-like accent than typical late-L2-learners. The chapter also explores access to very early linguistic experience by focusing on adults adopted under age twelve months from Korea by families in the United States. The findings suggest early learning about ambient language can be accessed in adulthood upon re-learning. Thus, research into the re-learning of long-disused childhood languages turns out to have much to offer.

Keywords: second language; overhearing; early childhood; Spanish language; Korean language; language re-learning

Chapter.  6941 words. 

Subjects: Developmental Psychology

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