The Process of Learning a Second Language

Instructor: Laura Gray

Laura has taught at the secondary and tertiary levels for 20+ years and has a Ph.D. in Instructional Design for Online Learning.

In this lesson, the five-step process of learning a second language is listed and described extensively. In addition, the length of time that it takes to go through each stage is presented.

Another Language. Really?

Yes, really. There are multiple benefits to learning a second language. As someone who lives in a country where the language spoken is not my native language, I fully understand the importance of second language acquisition. And it isn't always easy, especially for adults. In this lesson, I will discuss the five stages of second language acquisition and tell you why it is necessary to go through each stage. It's kind of like learning to scoot as a baby, and then to crawl, and then to walk. To get to the end result, you have to go through all of the stages.

The Five-Stage Process

1. The first stage of learning a second language is called preproduction. This happens when you are just hearing the language spoken on a regular basis and are just learning the very basics. Preproduction typically lasts for a few months. When you're in this stage, your comprehension of the language is minimal. You come to understand some words and phrases and are able to nod 'yes' or 'no,' and you do a lot of drawing pictures or talking with your hands. You really and truly feel like a stranger in a strange land. But don't worry--this, too, will pass.

2. The second stage is called early production. You know how to use some words, and you can respond to yes/no and either/or questions. You might even be able to string two or three words together to make yourself understood; however, your confidence level is still pretty low, and you are in no way 'comfortable' with the language yet. This stage can last from about six months to a year.

3. The third stage in this process is called speech emergence. By this time, you can put together a few phrases, and you have pretty good comprehension, even though you might not be able to say the things you'd like to say yet. You might even have a few sentences in your arsenal. Despite this emerging language, you still make lots of pronunciation and grammar mistakes, which is really fine, because that is expected at this level. This stage lasts anywhere from 1 to 3 years (see, it really is a lengthy process).

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