Defining Second Language Acquisition

By Vandana Singhal

Second language acquisition and learning defined as learning a language, which is different from your native language. Second Language acquisition is a long process, which includes several stages.

Second Language Acquisition

Language is the method of expressing ideas and emotions in the form of signs and symbols. These signs and symbols are used to encode and decode the information. There are many languages spoken in the world. The first language learned by a baby is his or her mother tongue. It is the language, which he or she listens to from his or her birth. Any other language learned or acquired is known as the second language.

Definition of Second Language Acquisition

The definition of second language acquisition and learning is learning and acquisition of a second language once the mother tongue or first language acquisition is established. Second language acquisition or SLA is the process of learning other languages in addition to the native language. For instance, a child who speaks Hindi as the mother tongue starts learning English when he starts going to school. English is learned by the process of second language acquisition. In fact, a young child can learn a second language faster than an adult can learn the same language.

Second Language Acquisition and Learning

Though most scholars use the terms “language learning" and “language acquisition" interchangeably, actually these terms differ. Language learning refers to the formal learning of a language in the classroom. On the other hand, language acquisition means acquiring the language with little or no formal training or learning.

If you go to a foreign land where people speak a different language from your native language, you need to acquire that foreign language. It can be done with little formal learning of the language through your every day interaction with the native peoples in the market place, work place, parks or anywhere else. This is true for learning spoken language.

Ways to introduce the second language

A second language can be acquired at any time after a child has developed language skills. A second language is often called the target language while the native language is known as "L1."

The second language can be introduced in following ways -

  • introduced by speakers of the second language
  • introduced as a second language that is part of the curriculum at school

Teaching Second Language

There are several things to consideration when teaching a second language. These factors may include the language spoken at home, the willingness of the learner, the reason to learn the second language (i.e., learning at school, for work, to talk to friends or others).

Though all the students of second language acquisition go through the same stages of learning, the period of learning varies. Students can learn better by responding to pictures and visuals. Attention to listening comprehension and building a receptive and active vocabulary is essential.

More about Second Language Acquisition

The definition of second language acquisition and learning describes the process of understanding, speaking and writing another language fluently. The ability to communicate in a second language is becoming an essential skill in today's world.


"Second Language Acquisition Q&A" 2011 -

Haynes, Judy, "Stages of Second Language Acquisition" -