After struggling with learning a second language, Rebecca decided to do a social science fair project on foreign language learning to investigate whether age or gender affects the ability of middle school students to learn a 2nd language.
Age 14/Grade 9
Title: Does Age or Gender Affect the Ability to Learn a Second Language?
There are six thousand human languages, and all have their own sounds, grammar, and written symbols. Learning a first language seems effortless, as even a one year old can speak meaningful words. By the time he finishes high school, that same child will have learned five thousand new words each year.
Yet, learning a second language after early childhood is much more difficult. Much research has looked at the best time and way to teach a second language. The purpose of this study was to look at whether age or gender affected the ability of middle school students to learn a second language. Given the research, the hypothesis was that females would be more successful than males, and that younger children would be more successful than older ones.
The second language chosen to study was Hebrew, as no one tested was familiar with this language. Six different Hebrew words were chosen. A video was made teaching the spoken word and sight recognition of the written word. All students were exposed to the same video and follow up quiz. The quizzes were scored and the results were analyzed.
Results of the science fair project on foreign language learning showed that although males did better than females in their ability to learn the second language, both groups did poorly. When analyzed by age, eighth graders did better than seventh or sixth graders, but all groups did poorly. The data was analyzed further, by breaking the quiz down into the spoken word verses written word parts. All groups did better with learning the spoken word over the written word, but all groups still did poorly.