The impact of age and exposure on bilingual development in international adoptees and family migrants
A perspective from Holocaust survivors
This paper addresses the long-term effects of being exposed to a language early in life for a limited period of time, as is the case in international adoptees. Recent findings are divided as to whether such a situation will lead to sequential monolingualism or whether speakers do remain bilingual to some extent, although they cannot readily access their vestigial first language (L1) knowledge. Similarly, it has been debated whether a complete switch in language use will provide a qualitative advantage for second language (L2) learning. The present paper investigates L1 and L2 proficiency among German Jews who escaped from Germany at ages 9–15 years either on a Kindertransport, to be placed in English speaking foster families, or in the company of their family. The results suggest that age plays a more important role than context in both L1 retention and L2 development.
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