Published online by Cambridge University Press: 10 June 2021
Language learners beyond early childhood are rarely expected to attain near-native or native-like abilities in the target language (L2), yet some do. This introductory chapter defines what has been termed gifted language learning (GLL), and introduces in broad strokes why it may be difficult to acquire another language after the “sensitive” period - coinciding approximately with puberty, if not well before. The introduction makes clear that while we seek to understand the relevant intrinsic and innate factors for the extraordinary success of exceptional L2 learners, we advance a principled interest in learner agency and decision-making, in context.
As outlined here, each chapter in this book digs deeply into the evidence across disciplinary lines to better understand the phenomenon of giftedness in general, and its applicability to language acquisition beyond the “critical period.” What are its foundations? What is the nature of the evidence to support current theory? How can these constructs be integrated in a more holistic way to advance the research? Every chapter’s analysis summarizes these critical questions in the hopes of finding important convergences across somewhat scattered agendas. Methodological recommendations are also provided to help move GLL theory and research forward.