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Online Language Learning: Learning Or Acquisition?

Language acquisition and learning language may seem to be identical terms in the first utterance, but when we carefully observe or listen to the linguistics, these two are surely different things.

Innate ability in children to learn language

We all must have noticed and in fact, experienced it our daily lives that when we were children, there was no one who taught us the basics, concepts or grammar of our mother tongue. It is the meaningful interaction with our parents and people around us that made us speak when were may be four or five. May be this is why none of us seem to be shocked when we see a five or six year old child speaking without being taught anything. They express their ideas and thoughts quite well according to the grammar and vocabulary they are acquainted with. Their utterances show their superb command over the language with the intricate patterns and rules of the language. The crux of the entire thing is that it is because of the exposure to the meaningful communication that helps them acquire their first language without any systematic studies.

Meaningful conversation is important

When it comes to second language, it is also learned almost the same way. It is generally school teachers of children who teach them their second language. Though, rules and grammar are emphasized upon at this time also, but the focus is still on meaningful interaction and communication. That is to say, it is basically the natural communication that helps a person and teachers are very much conscious of this fact. The main point of focus is therefore on ‘what is being said?’ than ‘how it is being said?’ So, when the children improvise with the course of time, the emphasis gradually shifts to the grammatical part. We can say that students who are learning get exposed to a lot of ‘on the job’ training when they communicate with their classmates and this is what helps them improve.

Problem with adults in learning a language

Conversely, when we consider adult students, they tend to completely ignore the aspect of communication and mainly focus on the repetitions, patterns, grammar, drillings, memorization and other such things. In fact they do not even have any human interlocutor to communicate with; probably this is the reason why they end up being confused in most cases. The courses they engage in are mainly the ones that do not give them any chance of meaningful interaction. It is just like the commonly found language courses through CDs. This makes them only mug up things and pronounce them as a parrot, but when it comes to communicating with a human being, they are bewildered and don’t know what to say. Hence, we should all understand that it is the real and meaningful communication and not the grammar and other rules that can make you speak a language.

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