Are Some Languages Really More Difficult to Learn? Maybe Not

11:00am - 12:00pm PST

Convention Center - Room 1A

Presented at: ACTFL 2015

This presentation critically investigates the idea that some languages are harder to learn or that they take more time for English speakers to learn. We begin with an investigation into how authors in published academic journals and writers of popular blogs and web sites characterize language difficulty and what evidence they use to support their claims. This will be followed by a discussion of how the field of second language would consider the various claims. We will consider issues of transfer, learnability, universals, and the effects of writing systems on second language acquisition. The presentation will end by arguing that issues of difficulty are complex and that claims have been misused. We then present a research agenda suggesting how we can better study the issue.