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1st language vs 2nd language acquisition The mystery of how people can learn languages has interested people for thousands of years. I must say that, myself, I have been interested by this subject for a long time. That is why I decided to do my research on the suggestion fifteen: First language versus second language acquisition. But before being able to compare these two different processes, we need to understand what they are separately. First of all, what does first language acquisition mean? It is the process by which infants and children learn their native language. There are several theories that professionals developed in order to explain how first language acquisition works. One of the theories stand out from the others and suggests the innateness of certain linguistic features. In other words, children would be born with an innate capacity to learn languages. This theory divides the learning process into different stages. The first stage is the "Pre-speech" where the child learns to pay attention to speech, intonation and rhythm way before they begin to speak. The second stage is called the "Babbling stage" and would start when the child is a few months old. During this stage, the baby start making sounds but can't come up with real words until he or she moves on to the third stage; which is also referred to as the "One word stage". Then the child start to combine words and by two years old, he can form small sentences of a few words. By the age of six, the child mastered his native language regardless of his talents and abilities. Secondly, we need to understand what second language acquisition refers to. It is the process by which children and adults learn an additional language (other than their mother-tongue). It does not only refer to a second language but also to the learning of a third, fourth or subsequent languages once the first language is established. Many factors will influence the speed to learn a second language. The learner's age for example, it is proven than children have an easier time learning than adults, nonetheless it takes a lot of practice. Here are some other factors that influence the learning speed: the language spoken at home, the exposure to the foreign language, the learner's motivation and the reasons that pushed someone to learn a new language. For instance to go to a better school, to communicate with a friend, for work or simply as a personal challenge. Now that we understand what are the first and the second language acquisition processes, let's take a look at the differences between them. First of all the overall success is totally different. Children will normally achieve a perfect mastery of their native language while it is very unlikely to achieve perfect mastery in a second language. The success is guaranteed for the first language but very rare when studying a foreign language. Also there is very little variation in the way of learning a first language while on the other hand, second language students use a variation of routes when learning. Fossilization, which is a sort of stagnation in secondary language acquisition that cannot be overcome, only occurs when studying a foreign language. Finally instructions play a major role in second language acquisition but are not as important when learning a first language. To conclude, I believe the difference between first language and second language acquisition is quite important. I was really interested in this subject because I actually went through the process of learning a second language myself. Where I am from, French is the first language and through my school years and even after I graduated, I studied English. I know how much time and energy is needed to learn a second language and even today, despite my efforts, I can't pass completely for a native english speaker. It would be interesting as a further research to do a study on the best way to teach a second language. Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language_acquisition http://pandora.cii.wwu.edu/vajda/ling201/test4materials/ChildLangAcquisition.htm http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_language_acquisition http://www.asha.org/public/speech/development/second.htm http://homepage.ntlworld.com/vivian.c/SLA/L1%20and%20L2.htm