Five Stages of Second Language Acquisition

It can be difficult to learn a second language.

Mechanisms for second language acquisition

Each language has its own rules for writing and speaking the language correctly. Individuals trying to learn a language may blur the lines between the different sets of rules.

Learners of second languages also have to deal with anxiety and fear when learning a new language. This can affect their ability to learn it well or how easy it is.

Ann E. Oliveri is a teacher with over 30 years experience teaching English second language (ESL). She describes second language acquisition in a learning continuum. The person learning a language “progresses” from having no knowledge to becoming proficient at the language.

Five stages in second language acquisition

Oliveri and Judie, another ESL teacher, have identified five stages in second language acquisition, as originally proposed by Stephen Krashen. These are the following:

1. Silent/receptive

This stage can last anywhere from a few hours to several years, depending on how long the learner is willing to put in. This stage is where new language learners spend most of their time learning vocabulary and practicing pronunciation. They may engage in self-talk but they don’t usually speak the language fluently or with real understanding.

Language educators are divided on this stage. Ana Lomba does not believe that second-language learners are completely silent when they are in the first stage of learning. Lomba says that speech is essential in language acquisition and that learners can excel at language acquisition when they use what they have learned.

2. Production in the early stages

This stage can last approximately six months and language learners usually acquire a comprehension of at least 1,000 words. They might also be able to understand some words and form short phrases even though they may not be grammatically correct.

3. Speech emergence

This stage is where learners can acquire a vocabulary up to 3,000 words and learn how to communicate using short phrases, sentences and questions. While they may not be perfectly grammatically correct at this stage, it is an important one that allows learners to improve their comprehension and start reading and writing in the second language.

4. Intermediate fluency

This stage can last up to a year after speech emergence. Typically, learners have a vocabulary of up to 6,000 words. They are able to communicate both in writing and through speech with more complex sentences. This is when learners start thinking in their second language. It helps them improve their proficiency in it.

5. Continued language development/advanced proficiency

Most learners take at least two years to reach this stage. It can take up to ten years to master the second language in all its complexities. For fluency, second language learners must have regular opportunities to communicate and engage in conversations in their second language.

Consistency and practice are the keys to learning a language and improving your writing and speaking skills. To improve their fluency and confidence, students must communicate with others in the language. Haynes also suggests that students continue to work with their classroom teachers on specific content areas related to the new language, such as writing, history, and social studies.