What is second language acquisition?

What is second language acquisition?

What is second language acquisition?



Second language acquisition refers to the process through which individuals learn and acquire a language that is not their native tongue. It is a complex and multifaceted process that involves various factors, including cognitive abilities, social interactions, and exposure to the target language. Understanding second language acquisition is essential for educators, researchers, and learners themselves, as it can inform teaching methods, curriculum development, and language learning strategies.

Theories of Second Language Acquisition

Several theories have been proposed to explain how individuals acquire a second language. One prominent theory is the Behaviorist theory, which suggests that language learning is a result of stimulus-response associations and reinforcement. According to this theory, learners acquire language through imitation, repetition, and positive reinforcement.

Another influential theory is the Innatist theory, which emphasizes the role of innate language acquisition devices in language learning. This theory, proposed by linguist Noam Chomsky, suggests that humans are born with a predisposition for language and possess innate grammatical structures that facilitate language acquisition.

Additionally, the Cognitive theory posits that language learning is a cognitive process that involves mental processes such as attention, memory, and problem-solving. This theory highlights the importance of learners’ cognitive abilities in acquiring a second language.

Factors Affecting Second Language Acquisition

Several factors can influence the process of second language acquisition. One crucial factor is age. Research suggests that younger learners tend to acquire a second language more easily and achieve higher levels of proficiency compared to older learners. This phenomenon, known as the Critical Period Hypothesis, suggests that there is a biologically determined period during which language acquisition is most effective.

Another factor is the learner’s motivation and attitude towards learning the second language. Learners who are highly motivated and have a positive attitude are more likely to engage in language learning activities, practice regularly, and persist in their efforts to acquire the language.

The learner’s first language background also plays a role in second language acquisition. Languages that are similar to the target language in terms of grammar, vocabulary, or phonetics may facilitate the acquisition process. On the other hand, learners whose first language is significantly different from the target language may face additional challenges.

Methods and Approaches in Second Language Acquisition

Various methods and approaches have been developed to facilitate second language acquisition. One commonly used approach is the Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) approach, which focuses on developing learners’ communicative competence through real-life language use. This approach emphasizes meaningful interaction, authentic materials, and task-based activities.

Another approach is the Audio-Lingual Method, which emphasizes the repetition and memorization of language patterns through drills and dialogues. This method aims to develop learners’ oral proficiency and accuracy through intensive practice.

In recent years, technology has also played a significant role in second language acquisition. Computer-assisted language learning (CALL) programs, online language courses, and language learning apps provide learners with additional resources and opportunities for practice.


Second language acquisition is a complex process that involves various factors, theories, and approaches. Understanding how individuals acquire a second language can help educators design effective language teaching methods, develop appropriate curricula, and support learners in their language learning journey. Factors such as age, motivation, and first language background can influence the acquisition process, while theories like Behaviorism, Innatism, and Cognition provide different perspectives on how language learning occurs.

In conclusion, second language acquisition is a fascinating field of study that continues to evolve as researchers uncover new insights into the process. By exploring the theories, factors, and methods involved in second language acquisition, we can enhance our understanding of this intricate process and support learners in their quest to acquire a new language.


– Krashen, S. (1982). Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition. Pergamon Press.
– Lightbown, P. M., & Spada, N. (2013). How Languages are Learned. Oxford University Press.
– Ellis, R. (2008). The Study of Second Language Acquisition. Oxford University Press.
– Chomsky, N. (1959). A Review of B. F. Skinner’s Verbal Behavior. Language, 35(1), 26-58.