Under controlled conditions, a study has indicated, adults turn out to be better than children at acquiring a new language skill.
Sara Ferman of Tel Aviv University, Israel and Avi Karni from the University of Haifa, Israel, devised an experiment in which 8-year-olds, 12-year-olds and adults were given the chance to learn a new language rule. In the made-up rule, verbs were spelled and pronounced differently depending on whether they referred to an animate or inanimate object.
"The adults were consistently better in everything we measured," New Scientist quoted Ferman as saying.
When asked to apply the rule to new words, the 8-year-olds performed no better than chance, while most 12-year-olds and adults scored over 90 per cent. Adults fared best, and have great potential for learning new languages implicitly, said Ferman.
The results were presented at the International Congress for the Study of Child Language in Montreal, Canada.