Factors Affecting English Language Acquisition

Instructor: Matthew Hamel

Matt has degrees in Journalism and Business and has taught a variety of courses at high schools and universities around the world.

English language acquisition is an involved and complex process. This lesson provides teachers with an overview of how to identify and relate to the patterns and stages of language acquisition.

Factors Affecting English Language Acquisition

The factors that affect English language acquisition include:

  • Cognitive learning styles and strategies
  • Cultural background
  • Exceptionalities
  • Prior experience with English
  • Level of education
  • Teacher expectations
  • Classroom environment
  • Level of literacy in the student's primary language

This lesson gives a brief description of each of these factors and offers teachers key take-away points designed to aid student progress.

Cognitive Learning Styles and Strategies

Each student absorbs knowledge and learns new skills differently. Consequently, it is extremely difficult to accommodate the learning style of every student, particularly in larger classes. To mitigate this problem, it's important to provide students with a variety of learning activities and methods that incorporate different content delivery styles and approaches.

One effective strategy is to create ample opportunities for students to voice both their recommendations and concerns. Who knows better how they learns than the students themselves? Basically, an open mind and flexible lesson plans can go a long way in helping to adapt to various academic environments.

Cultural Background

A student's cultural background can impact many aspects of their English language acquisition. Some students may find that the language they speak at home is not the same language they use at school. Due of this, they may not have sufficient time to improve their listening comprehension skills or to practice speaking outside of the school setting. In order to increase exposure to English, it's important to provide students with ample opportunities to share their cultural backgrounds, differences and similarities with each other.


No doubt, there are students that have a natural aptitude for languages, just as others may have innate abilities in sciences or the arts. An environment in which they are not challenged, or feel that progress is coming too slowly, can hamper the development of exceptional students. To avoid this, it's vital to identify the learners who are progressing quickly and provide them with additional learning opportunities. This can be accomplished with the use of small groups, after school clubs, or optional activities during free time.

Prior Experience with English

Many English language students have never had a native English-speaking teacher. Because of this, their previous English training may have focused primarily on memorizing vocabulary words and standard grammatical forms. While this approach can be initially help a students' learning, it does little to improve their conversational skills and or real life English applications of the language. Regardless of a students' language proficiency, giving them ample opportunity to speak aloud and share ideas is the most effective way to mitigate any prior deficiencies.

Level of Education

The assumption that teaching adults is easier is not always correct. No matter the age or education level of a student, the key ingredients to successful language acquisition are a strong desire to learn and a willingness to allow the process to happen. Not everyone learns at the same speed, so previous academic accomplishments, particularly if those accomplishments were achieved in a language other than English, are not always a good indications of a students' ability to acquire English skills.

Obviously, it's vital to adjust your teaching style and lesson plans to fit the level and needs of your students. If the prior educational experience of a student can be utilized, it should be. However, don't be overly concerned if their previous experience is not applicable to the content you are currently teaching.

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