1st language vs. 2nd language acquisition ?The acquisition of language ?is

'The acquisition of language 'is doubtless the greatest intellectual feat any one of us is ever required to perform.''

Regardless of where we come from in the world we all have the innate ability to use language. In the early stages of our lives we will actively seek out ways of interacting with our parents through various methods such as babbling.

Over the past 50 years three theoretical approaches to explaining how early language development takes place, namely, behaviourist, innatist and interactionist approaches.

It was Noam Chomsky, who in 1983 proposed that language development should be described as 'language growth,' because the 'language organ' simply grows like any other body organ.

The vast majority of people are not exposed to 2nd language learning until they are teenagers or adults. Adults join language courses and use internet resources to study, but this is clearly not the same as having the constant interaction experienced by a child. Activities associated with learning a second language have traditionally been used in language teaching schools and tend to result in knowledge 'about' the acquired language studied. Very few adults seem to reach native ' like proficiency in using a second language.

An issue that incorporates both first and second language learning acquisition is that of the civilizing of a young girl in the 1970's known as Genie.

Genie had been kept in a darkened room and had not been spoken to by either of her parents since infancy. When she was found, she had no language skills whatsoever and could only whimper. After psycholinguists coached her and over a lengthy period of time, she did eventually acquire some language. For example 'big teeth,' 'little marble'and'two hand.' However, with regards to first language acquisition, it can be said that Genie failed to learn the kind of grammatical principles that, according to Noam Chomsky, distinguish the language of human beings from that of animals. For example, she could not grasp the difference between various pronouns, or between active and passive verbs. In that sense, she appeared to suffer from having passed the critical period (that occurs up until the age of 5) when children learn the principles of grammar and fluency of speech. Like 2nd language acquisition Genie can, in some ways be compared to the difficulties facing language learners. For example problems forming sentences and pronouncing words.

In general, 2nd language acquisition is affected by a persons natural aptitude, their intelligence, personality along with their motivation and attitude towards their target language. People have many different reasons for acquiring a second language so much so that in 1972 Robert Gardner and Wallace Lambert coined the terms integrative motivation to refer to language learning for personal growth and cultural enrichment, and instrumental motivation for language learning for more immediate or practical goals.

In conclusion of this first and second language acquisition both have important physiological and psychological elements that are essential in forming the basics in the way we communicate with each other on a day to day basis. Whether is be to understand how to read a book, to hold a conversation or to write a story we all need to understand the formula.


1. 'The civilizing of Genie' by Maya Pines (From Teaching English through the Disciplines: Psychology, Loretta F. Kasper, Ed., Whittier, 1997)

2. 'How languages are learned' by Patsy m. Lightbown. Oxford university press, (1999)

3. 'An Introduction to Language.' By Victoria Fromkin, Robert Rodman & Nina Hyams. (2003)

4. 'The study of Language.' George Yule. Cambridge University press (1996)