This book is a comprehensive treatment of the literature on second language acquisition in childhood. There is increasing interest in this area and a number of collections of readings have appeared, dealing with various aspects of the topic. There is, however, no general overview of the field for the interested professional reader. The present book is intended to fill this gap.
Like many people, I became interested in how children acquire a second language through my own children. We lived in Germany for three years when our children were very young, and I was impressed with how they could make sense out of English and German and could produce the two languages in their speech. I began to read the professional literature on bilingualism and second-language acquisition and was struck by the sense of excitement that permeated the field. It seemed to me that the excitement that marked research on first-language acquisition in the 1960s had spread to the field of second-language acquisition. There were important breakthroughs on a number of fronts. New and stimulating ideas were providing researchers with a wide range of hypotheses for empirical scrutiny. Moreover, I found some surprises in the older literature. The problem was that the literature, old and new, was relatively inaccessible to the non- specialist. There was a definite need to make the findings available to educators, psychologists, and psycholinguists.
My first attempt in this direction was an article that appeared in the Psychological Bulletin ( McLaughlin, 1977) in which I itemized some misconceptions about second-language acquisition that have been perpetuated in popular (and sometimes professional) literature. A more detailed treatment