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The Importance of Distinguishing Between Acquisition and Learning in Second Language Performance - Essay Example

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The Importance of Distinguishing Between Acquisition and Learning in Second Language Performance

Yet we are now seeing greater importance placed on these issues and in turn a better understanding of the multiple and varying difficulties that a student of second language acquisition can face.
Differentiating between learning and acquisition signifies that these factors have a special place alongside that of the traditional problems of language learning. It is important to highlight on the word 'alongside' because differentiating between the two should not mean that either takes predominance or that there should be some kind of theoretical showdown, but rather that each term find its proper place and do its proper job. By taking into consideration both acquisition and learning and making a differentiation between the two we are better able to understand all sides of second language learning.
To better understand the nature of the discussion around the manners with which we learn to speak a second language it is important to first define the terms we are using. First and foremost it should be noted that 'acquisition' and 'learning' aggregate significant meaning to the word language. Acquisition is defined as the act of acquiring or gaining something through one's own efforts and/or experience.1 Learning, on the other hand is defined as the act, process, or experience of gaining knowledge or skill, usually through schooling or studying.2 The term second language learning has traditionally been used to describe the process of learning a second language through formal instruction. For example, adults taking English classes are described as learning a language, not acquiring it.
In Krashen's (1981) theory of second language performance he works with the distinction between acquisition and learning.3 Second language performance would be the term that encompasses the two independent systems, the acquired system and the learned system. The former is described as being the product of the human subconscious and entails meaningful interaction, while the later is the product of formal instruction and results in conscious knowledge of the language.
In Krashen's input hypothesis he puts forth his theory on how one obtains the knowledge of a second language through language acquisition.4 He explains that an individual perks up along the natural order of learning a language. For example, if a learner is at a stage 'i', then acquisition takes place when he/she is exposed to 'Comprehensible Input' that belongs to level 'i + 1'. Different learners have different capacity and competence for seeking knowledge or absorbing new material. Since not all of the learners can be at the same level of linguistic competence at the same time, Krashen argues that natural communicative input is the key to designing a syllabus, ensuring in this way that each learner will receive some 'i + 1' input that is appropriate for his/her current stage of linguistic competence.5
Krashen's ground breaking work called to the forefront the long ignored area of psycholinguistics which focuses on the pivotal role feelings and sentiments play during the accumulation of a second language. At the core of his work is the belief that language acquisition does not require extensive use of conscious grammatical rules but rather meaningful interaction with the target language, what he calls a 'natural ...Show more


Learning a second language is not an easy task. Ask anyone who has done it and they will tell you it has been a long hard road of lessons and practise, of grammatical instruction and more than embarrassing attempts at utterance with native speakers. Not many people would describe the process as natural…
Author : ebailey
The Importance of Distinguishing Between Acquisition and Learning in Second Language Performance essay example
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