Language Learning Across the Lifespan

The details
Language and Linguistics
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Thursday 03 October 2024
Friday 13 December 2024
22 March 2022


Requisites for this module



Key module for

MA Q11012 Applied Linguistics,
MA Q110JS Applied Linguistics,
MA Q15012 Psycholinguistics,
MPHDQ15048 Psycholinguistics,
PHD Q15048 Psycholinguistics,
MLINQA15 English Language and Lingistics (Including Placement Year),
MLINQA16 English Language and Linguistics (Including Year Abroad),
MLINQQ14 English Language and Linguistics

Module description

This module provides an up-to-date overview of key topics in the area of additional language learning across the lifespan.
We will look at theories of language learning that broadly take a usage-based perspective and compare and contrast these with more traditional formalist approaches in order to highlight changes and new points of emphasis in current theorising in the field.
We will consider the role of explicit (conscious) and implicit (non-conscious) knowledge and processes in additional language learning and how these interact with characteristics of the individual learner, the learning context, and the linguistic input that constitutes the learning target. Importantly, we will look at the influence of these factors across the lifespan to pinpoint if and how language development differs in children, younger adults and older adults. In this way, we will capture current research trends that move beyond the traditional sample population of educated young adults and include hitherto under-researched groups such as third-age learners and low-educated learners.
In order to facilitate your own research endeavours that are expected as part of your MA course, we will also consider methodological questions such as the ways in which different types of knowledge and developmental processes can be measured in learners of different ages and abilities.

Module aims

The aims of the module are to
• introduce you to the assumptions of selected current theoretical approaches to additional language learning;
• familiarise you with the notions of explicit and implicit knowledge, learning and processes;
• show how these types of knowledge and learning dynamically interact with other factors, including characteristics of the learner, the learning context and the language aspects to be learned;
• develop your understanding of similarities and differences in language development in learners of different ages, including children and older adults;
• familiarise you with tools that are available to measure language knowledge and development in learners across the lifespan.

Module learning outcomes

On completing the module, you will have achieved
• an understanding of selected theoretical concepts and models in the field of additional language learning;
• an appreciation of the complexity, dynamicity and interconnectedness of factors influencing the language learning process at different points in the human lifespan;
• critical awareness of the challenges inherent in empirically researching language development in context;
• the practical ability to meet these challenges within the context of graduate-level work by means of identifying manageable research aims and choosing appropriate research tools.

Module information

The module will be delivered over 10 weekly two-hour sessions focusing on the following topics:
1. Learning additional languages: the theoretical landscape
2. L2/L3/Lx learning, bilingualism, multilingualism
3. Adult language learning
4. Explicit and implicit knowledge and learning
5. The learner and the learning context
6. The linguistic input: Are some (aspects of) language(s) more difficult to learn than others?
7. Child language learning
8. Metalinguistic awareness
9. Third-age language learning
10. Researching language learning across the lifespan

Learning and teaching methods

We will have one 2-hour class each week for 10 weeks. The module will draw on a combination of lecture-style input and student-centred seminar activities. Lecture-style input introduces theoretical concepts and models and provides an overview of key research findings. Seminar activities include exercises, pair- and group-work tasks, and discussion.



Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Quiz    30% 
Coursework   Assignment     70% 

Additional coursework information


Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Karen Roehr-Brackin, email: kroehr@essex.ac.uk.
Karen Roehr-Brackin
4.334; kroehr@essex.ac.uk



External examiner

Dr Troy McConachy
University of Warwick
Associate Professor
Available via Moodle
No lecture recording information available for this module.


Further information
Language and Linguistics

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