1st language vs 2nd language acquisitionStu Jay Raj was once quoted as saying the following:”When I get really stuck into a language though, I eat, drink, sleep, and breathe the language.” This statement rings true with regard to language acquisition. Which of the two it pertains to is the question at hand. In order for us to do a brief analysis of the two, it is pertinent that we have a clear understanding of the definition of each respectively.
Language acquisition is the process of learning a native language or a second language. First Language acquisition or native acquisition is the manner in which, often children pick up their mother tongue without any specific introduction to it. On the other hand second language acquisition is the process by which people learn a second language. Many studies, psychological and scientific in nature, have been done to understand the human mind and the manner in which it retains certain information.
It has been argued that first language acquisition pertains more to young learners
of a native language while second language acquisition pertains more to adult learners studying a second language. While developing cognitively children use their experiences, interactions in social situation and surroundings to change and modify their language usage. Children’s use of language proves how much they understand and comprehend native language. When children are learning their first language there tends to be very little instruction or lessons needed. The child learns from their surroundings and interactions with others. The child develops an understanding and begins to make his/her own corrections while speaking. It is here that Krashen’s theories are well recognized, implying that first language acquisition has more to do with stable order acquisition, informal situations and natural feel for grammar. Most countries around the world tend to teach their youth to be bilingual at a young age. In South Africa young learners are taught their first and second language as of the age of 8 or 9, increasing bilingualism immensely.
Learning a second language is much different, and most learners might never be as fluent as they are in their native language. Krashen summarized such learning to be based on four fields which lends it to differ from first language acquisition. These are mainly that second language acquisition seems to take place in formal settings such as classrooms with focus on grammar rules. It is far more conscious that native language learning and highlights grammar rules and not fluency. The most likely reason for this is argued to be because these learners are mostly adults, very few of whom able to master a second language. Structured lessons, repetition and regular error corrections are often required for a second language learner to progress where as first language learners naturally learn to correct themselves.
I believe language acquisition will continue to be examined for a while as there is still much to learn. It is one of the reasons most studies recently focus on learners of a younger age, how their minds’ develop and grasp language. I feel that children acquire their native language based on external factors such as their surroundings, parents and daily exposure to the language where it occurs at a different age for second language learners, posing greater challenges that may lead to demotivation and stagnation. It would thus be of a greater advantage for language acquisition to occur from as young an age as is possible.
2.Cook, Vivian. ?First and Second Language acquisition?Comparing First and Sceond Language Acquistion by Vibian Cook. 1969. 8/6/2006
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