Second Language Acquisition Field

Second Language Acquisition Field

Second language acquisition has many important topics which serve as strategies for teachers to incorporate in a classroom. This is why there are books and scholarly articles written by authors and theorists today to define and describe such facts. It is necessary for the educator to know more about certain topics like the Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills or the Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency.

By knowing terms like these, a teacher can know how long it takes to develop language in certain grade levels. Society, culture, home, and school all play a role in a student’s identity and language development. Some children might need extra modifications during lessons and it is up to the educator to rearrange the way a subject is taught. Multilingualism means using two or more languages to speak amongst people and it is most commonly found in the United States (Kroll & Dussias, 2017).

Many people know more than one language and there have been positive cognitive benefits found behind it. As explained in the text, “six-month-old babies growing up in a bilingual environment are better than monolingual babies at rapidly forming internal memory representations of novel visual stimuli” (Kroll & Dussias, 2017, p.252). Babies who grow up in a multilingual home are able to capture images and words in two languages and when they hear the story they can know what it is about and connect the ideas. These children are also learning how to multi task with learning two languages.

A second benefit argued by Kroll and Dussias (2017) is that knowing two or more languages in older adults can reduce the risk of losing cognitive abilities or getting Alzheimer’s. This shows that by knowing more than one language a person can live longer and enjoy his or her life without suffering. This might be due to the fact that the brain uses all its parts to constantly switch word contexts and make up sentences during conversations.

A third advantage found to multilingualism is that it helps people in their social and job life. Kroll and Dussias (2017) report, “Having two languages will of course enhance opportunities for social interaction, for economic advancement, and for increasing intercultural understanding” (p.254). Being multilingual can help a person understand the store cashier during checkout time, speak to the doctor whenever they give them a diagnosis, or at a job interview in the future. Not everyone in the outside world can speak English so it is important to be attentive to this issue.

The second topic in the field of second language acquisition is language acquisition versus language learning. Language acquisition requires meaningful interaction in the target language—natural communication—in which speakers are concerned not with the form of their utterances but with the messages they are conveying and understanding. Error correction and explicit teaching of rules are not relevant to language acquisition (Krashen, 1981, p.1).This type of form means that students are learning a language without even knowing and they might be doing this by speaking to each other or playing games or doing different free time activities. However, language learning is “Thought to be helped a great deal by error correction and the presentation of explicit rules. Error correction, it is maintained, helps the learner come to the correct mental representation of the linguistic generalization” (Krashen, 1981, p.2).

In language learning students are aware of the skills they are learning. The teacher typically gives out worksheets and assignments to give correction on and they may be used as grades for students. During the learning, children have posters and examples of grammar rules to follow. This is set up for students to succeed and prepare for important state exams. The other topics to know are the Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS) which is known as the social language and the Cognitive Academic Language Profiency (CALP). As Cummins stated, “BICS refers to conversational fluency in a language while CALP refers to students’ ability to understand and express, in both oral and written modes, concepts and ideas that are relevant to success in school” (as cited in Khatib & Taie, 2016, p.382).

Children use BICS when talking to their friends and peers yet on the other hand they use CALP during classes while they learn important material. BICS is accomplished the fastest and takes 5 to 7 years for children from another country to understand it in terms of academic work in English (Khatib & Taie, 2016). It is vital for teachers to have students practice these different concepts and to give them time to develop adequately. A way that a teacher could use BICS in the class could be by having each student talk to their desk neighbor about how they spent the weekend or simply having ice breaker activities at the beginning of class. A way to use CALP could be by having students learn new vocabulary words during the week and to have them use it in a sentence out loud.

Another important fact the article mentioned was that not realizing the existence and difference in these two topics can led to unjust or wrong mental evaluations of bilingual students which results in them leaving the language support programs too early (Khatib and Taie, 2016). Every child should be ready for the day they exit a language program and it would benefit the child and the teacher in the years to come if he or she knew the skills correctly. The fifth term to know is known as the affective filter.

According to Lin, Chao, and Huang (2015), the affective filter “acts like an invisible wall between learners and input, interfering with and limiting the delivery of language input” (p.729). Therefore, the affective filter is one that can stop students from learning and it makes them score lower on tests. So if a student blanks outs and decides to not pay attention to the teacher while lecturing, then his or her affective filter is on high. It also states that having the desire to learn and be a good student is important for acquisition in anything (Lin et al., 2015). This is why teachers should constantly check in on students to make sure they are on track and to know the way that each student learns whether it is visually, auditory, or kinesthetically. Students will feel more comfortable when they see that the teacher cares.

According to Dulay and Burt, the affective filter can also be known as the “cognitive organizer” (as cited in Krashen, 1981, p. 110). The sixth term is the monitor model. The monitor model can be broken down into several parts. As stated by Krashen (1981), The first condition is that in order to successfully monitor, the performer must have time. In normal conversation, both in speaking and in listening, performers do not generally have time to think about and apply conscious grammatical rules, and, as we shall see later, we see little or no effect on the monitor. (p.3)If a person does not take time in something then the model is not in practice. The second condition is that the person doing the monitoring must be focused and on the lookout for mistakes to correct (Krashen, 1981).

This can make someone seem productive and responsible because they are trying to have everything correct and it saves them any trouble. The third condition is that “the performer needs to know the rule, he or she needs to have a correct mental representation of the rule to apply it correctly” (Krashen, 1981, p.3). In other words, the person should strive to know the topic and material that needs correction. An example would be when a teacher is helping a student finish a division worksheet. The seventh topic in the field of second language acquisition is the comprehensible input hypothesis.

The comprehensible input theory says, “for SLA to occur, language learners have to have exposure to comprehensible language input that includes language structures that are beyond their current level (i+1)” (Bahrani, Sim, & Nekoueizadeh, 2014, p.1716). This means that the learner has to be attentive to what he or she is learning and that with the right guidance they can achieve good learning and be successful. In this stage learners may not know all the answers but they are in the process of reading and saying new vocabulary words. Another interesting idea found is that modified input seconds the input hypothesis. Modified input means that a language way of learning is changed or made easier before students first see it in a lesson (Bahrani et al., 2014). This particular input is broken down into easier steps so that students are able to be comfortable while learning in class.

The eighth key term in second language acquisition is known as the critical period hypothesis. According to facts, “The concept of critical period in language acquisition was introduced by Penfield and Roberts firstly. They believed that human had a specific language acquisition phase, in which individuals could consciously learn a language without any outside distraction” (Ren, 2017, p.901). This means that people have a better chance of learning new things for a short period of time. For example, “Tomas Scovel thought children could master their first and second language before puberty because of strong plasticity. After puberty, plasticity will reduce with brain lateralization finishing so it is more difficult to learn the second language” (Ren, 2017, p.901).

The brain wears off as age increases and the energy to do so also does. As for second language acquisition, the critical period process is from two to twelve years (Ren, 2017). Humans have about 10 years to acquire as much language knowledge as they want and it may disappear after that. The ninth term relating to second language acquisition is interlanguage. The authors Bormanaki and Khoshhal (2017) define this term as, “the learner’s knowledge of target language that is gradually re-shaped as it more closely approximate to that language by the process of assimilation, accommodation and finally equilibration” (p.1003). This means that interlanguage is a way in which students use the knowledge they already know from their native language and transform it into knowledge for the new language they are trying to learn. The children may play around and mix the two languages they are learning. During this transition, children may start to know more about concepts and rules in English and they may say the same things other kids say in order to also participate in class activities (Cheatham & Ro, 2010).

Many students who are learning to speak and write in English may take a while to develop proper grammar and speech but seeing their friends talk in English motivates them to stay left behind. The tenth topic in the field of second language acquisition is language loss. Language loss means that, “As new English skills are developing, children may not receive the necessary support for home language development at home or at school. Consequently, they may lose skills in their home language” (Cheatham & Ro, 2010, p.20).

When teachers and staff do not place enough emphasis on the language children grew up with it may cause them to lose an opportunity to be multilingual and it takes away some of their identity that comes from their ancestors. According to Cheatham and Ro (2010), some children may still have the ability to speak in their home language and English and their ability to use English advances as a means to speak between their peers and socialize. Teachers may think that students are poor in the aspect of language since they are not using their home language as much as it is necessary.

Language loss is a big deal since the authors think the real goal of a program at school should never be to erase the home language. They authors suggest that the instructors should also want to increase the student’s ability to correctly use the native language’s grammar and syntax rules. Some recommendations given by the article is to use pretend-play in readings. For example, “These strategies should also relate meaningfully to children’s home experiences, which can be tapped through home visits; individuals who know the children’s language and culture well; and information gathered through conversations with children and families” (Cheatham & Ro, 2010, p.21). These types of activities get the children excited and they feel as though the teacher cares enough to visit their homes and interact with their family members.

Additionally, through this children are owning their education and having fun at the same time. The eleventh important topic is assimilation and the possible impact on second language acquisition. The authors Bormanaki and Khoshhal (2017) defined assimilation as, the collecting and classifying of new information. Schema has a paramount importance in this process and this is a notional representation of what an individual knows (or can do) and consists of discrete items of knowledge which are linked to each other by the common theme of the schema. (p.998)This can come to mean as adapting to a way of knowledge using prior knowledge. For example, when a group of students see skunk and call it a cat. The children are using the facts they already know to find out more about the animal (Bormanaki & Khoshhal, 2017).

This can have an impact on second language acquisition because students from different countries and languages go into class classifying certain things in various ways until they learn more about it during the lessons. Children can also use assimilation when learning syntax and grammar rules and they can use what they know to work their way up. The twelfth term is called acculturation and the possible impact on second language acquisition. The article defines this as, “The situation in which an individual brought up in a certain culture (and language or languages) comes in direct contact with a different culture (and language) creates conditions for acculturation” (Waniek-Klimczak, 2011, p.228-229). This can mean that a group of students come into a classroom with a variety of cultures and customs and interact with one another. This can have an impact on second language acquisition since every student is going to be different and it can make it either easier or harder to learn a new language.

Additionally, “As it is the amount of interaction with native speakers that is claimed to have a decisive impact on SLA, adopting the values and life-style of the target language group seems to guarantee success” (Waniek-Klimczak, 2011, p.230). An example of this would be how in the U.S. everyone celebrates Thanksgiving yet a student from Mexico may not know what that represents. Usually Thanksgiving comes to be familiar to every student due to the fact that some lessons talk about what it signifies and there are even extracurricular activities that involve celebrating it. The student will then be introduced to a new holiday and will be active in another country’s traditions.

The thirteenth final topic is social distance and second language acquisition. The meaning of social distance “refers to the cognitive and affective proximity of two cultures which come into contact within an individual. Distance is obviously used in an abstract sense, to denote dissimilarity between two cultures” (Brown, 1980, p.159). This means that two different cultures come together without having anything in common. This could make students feel out of place or misguided. According to Brown (1980), the greater the social distance between two cultures, the greater the difficulty the learner will have in learning the second language, and conversely, the smaller the social distance (the greater the social solidarity between two cultures), the easier the language learning situation. (p.160)

These statements show how social distance can affect second language acquisition and a student’s progress in learning new things. All of these terms are what contribute to an adequate education for students who are in the process of learning a second language or who are beginning their first. Sometimes a child can be neglected by the teacher not being involved in their culture or background and it is necessary for them to always go back and visit information. The topics mentioned also determine what kind of a student a child will be and the motives behind some of their actions. The Second language acquisition concept is something great to research and it has some facts that can change the world.


  1. Bahrani, T., Sim, T. S., & Nekoueizadeh, M. (2014). Second language acquisition in informal setting. Theory and Practice in Language Studies, 4(8), 1714-1723. doi:10.4304/tpls.4.8.1714-1723
  2. Bormanaki, H. B., & Khoshhal, Y. (2017). The role of equilibration in Piaget's theory of cognitive development and its implication for receptive skills: A theoretical study. Journal of Language Teaching & Research, 8(5), 996-1005. doi:10.17507/jltr.0805.22
  3. Brown, H. D. (1980). The optimal distance model of second language acquisition. Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, 14(2), 157- 161. Retrieved from
  4. Cheatham, G. A., & Ro, Y. E. (2010). Young English learners' interlanguage as a context for language and early literacy development. Young Children, 65(4), 18-23. Retrieved from
  5. Khatib, M., & Taie, M. (2016). BICS and CALP: Implications for SLA. Journal of Language Teaching & Research, 7(2), 382-388. doi:10.17507/jltr.0702.19Krashen, S. D. (1981). Second language acquisition and second language learning. Oxford, NY: Pergamon.
  6. Kroll, J. F., & Dussias, P. E. (2017). The benefits of multilingualism to the personal and professional development of residents of the US. Foreign Language Annals, 50(2), 248-259. doi:10.1111/flan.12271
  7. Lin, H., Chao, C., & Huang, T. (2015). From a perspective on foreign language learning anxiety to develop an affective tutoring system. Educational Technology Research and Development, 63(5), 727-747. doi:10.1007/s11423-015-9385-6
  8. Ren, J. (2017). Reflecting on the primary phonetic learning based on the critical period hypothesis in language acquisition. Theory and Practice in Language Studies, 7(10), 900-906. doi:10.17507/tpls.0710.11
  9. Waniek-Klimczak, E. (2011). Acculturation strategy and language experience in expert ESL speakers: An exploratory study. Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching, 1(2), 227-245. Retrieved from
03 December 2019
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