Issues in Language Acquisition and Learning

Linguists distinguish between language acquisition and language learning. We acquire language during which we are unaware of grammatical rules. This happens especially when we acquire our first language. Language learning on the other hand is the result of direct instruction in the rules of language and usually have a basic knowledge of the grammar.

Issues in Language Acquisition and Learning (First Language):

Competence and Performance
Competence refers to one’s underlying of a system, event, or fact; non observable ability to do something. In reference to language, competence is the underlying knowledge of the system of a language –its rules of grammar, its vocabulary, and all the pieces of a language and how those pieces fit together. Performance is the overtly observable and concrete manifestation or realization of competence. It is the actual doing of something. It is the actual production (speaking, writing) or the comprehension (listening, reading) of linguistic events.

Nature or Nurture?
Nativists contend that a child is born with an innate knowledge of a language, and that this innate property is universal. However, it hasn’t been proven that there are “language genes” in our genetic information. Environmental factors cannot be ignored. What is that innate knowledge of a language that “nature” provides us with? And what is that knowledge “nurtured”, internalized and learned from the environment and by teaching? Evidence has been found that there are common patterns of linguistic and cognitive development across a number of languages and that human beings are “bio-programmed” to proceed from stage to stage and “bloom” when it is time.

Research has shown that echoing is a particularly salient strategy in early language learning and an important aspect of early phonological acquisition. However, the semantic data is not noticed. It has been observed in foreign language classes that rote pattern drills evoke surface imitation where the repetition of sounds doesn’t lead students to have the vaguest idea of what they are saying. Children, however, perceive the importance of the semantic level of language, so if they imitate the surface structure of the language, they won’t be able to understand what they are imitating.

Children like to play with language just as they do with other objects and events around them. Children’s language seems to be a key to language acquisition. When talking about practice, it is thought of as referring to speaking only. But we can also think of comprehension practice.

The speech that young children hear is primarily the speech heard in home, and much of that speech is parental speech or the speech of older siblings. Children, after consistent repeated of telegraphic speech in meaningful contexts, eventually transfer correct forms to their own speech. For example, from saying “dat John” to “that’s John”. It is clear from more recent research that adult and peer input to the child is far more important than nativists earlier believed.

Issues in Language Acquisition and Learning (Second Language):

Situational Factors
Can be defined as external factors of learners that mainly refer to the environment that can influence the second language learning. It includes the social environment, home environment, school environment, class environment, and so on.

Learner Difference
Second language acquisition research generally refers to learners who start to learn another language or the additional language, at least some years after they have started to acquire their first language. Learner differences have been one of the factors widely discussed in second language acquisition. This is because learner differences are significant in determining the development of the learner.
Some learners could not achieve the level of competency due to differences.

Learner Processes
Learner processes could be divided into two which are cognitive and linguistic strategies. The cognitive strategies are often referred as learner strategies, it is a process where the learner consciously or unconsciously acquires the language through the activities such as memorizing. As for the linguistic strategies, it is a process involving universal principles of grammar with the learner is innately endowed.

Linguistic Output
It refers to the language produce by the learner. In linguistic output, the aspect of errors is emphasized. This is because errors are the most important source of determining the developmental level of a learner. This is why Error analysis occurred in the first place.

Can policies be developed for the learning of languages in developing countries?

In many developing countries of the world it is necessary for young people to learn at least three languages, namely their mother tongue, that is spoken in the home, the national language that is spoken throughout the country in which the students live, and a foreign language, that is rapidly becoming English in non-English speaking countries in order to obtain the benefits of globalization and engagement in trade.

Learning foreign language as a curriculum?

Of considerable importance for foreign language learning is the use of the foreign language for a substantial part of the teaching time in the classroom, with a corresponding reduction, but not elimination of the use of the national language. Student’s has aspirations to understand a spoken foreign language that contributes more to listening achievement than to while aspiration to learn to read the foreign language contributes more to reading performance.


Shuangshuang W. (September 2015). Issues in Second Language Acquisition since the 1990s. University of Adelaide, Shannon Research Press.
Keeves J. (2007). Issues in language learning. Shandong Normal University, Jinan, China

Limacher U. (2016) Language acquisition versus language learning. Retrieved from
R. Ellis (1989) Key issues in second language acquisition. Retrieved from
Bilash O. (May 2009) Competence versus Performance. Retrieved from of Bilash/competencyperformance.html

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