International Journal of Applied Linguistics

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Maturational constraint or system preservation

There are a number of explanations for age effects such as learning conditions, biological factors and competition between learning mechanisms. This paper argues that there is a mental mechanism, system preservation device, which serves as a defense mechanism to preserve the L1, resulting in difficulties in adult second language acquisition. It develops together with the L1 and gradually makes learning a second language more difficult. The notion of system preservation may add further insight into concepts such as maturational constraints, fossilization, crosslinguistic influence and bilingual advantages for learning additional languages. Research into SPD could focus on experimental teaching that shifts some of the focus from the L2 to the L1 as flexing the L1 system may facilitate the acquisition of additional languages.

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