I could dare to say that most of people like to learn a new language in a so called "natural way", that is reading and understanding basic dialogues with little to no grammar that is getting bigger as the course goes on.

I think there are another group of people who like to understand from the beginning what is really going on "inside" the language.

Is there any study or statistic telling that these two groups actually exist, or on the contrary, only the first or the second method is the only effective one?

Put another way, are there different personality types that enable some people to learn languages more easily one way, and others to learn them another way?

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    I think with some rephrasing, this would be a good question. Essentially, it's asking whether some people can learn better through grammar first, as opposed to vocabulary first. That's a valid question that can be empirically answered, imho.
    – Numeri
    Apr 6, 2016 at 15:08
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    @SMSvonderTann I said people who learn a NEW language, so that first group cannot be "Native speakers".
    – Nicolás
    Apr 6, 2016 at 15:27
  • @Numeri Can you propose some rephrasing?
    – Nicolás
    Apr 6, 2016 at 15:27
  • @Nicolás Sorry, I don't have time now. Just focusing on being answerable by a scientific study, or something similar, might help.
    – Numeri
    Apr 6, 2016 at 15:30
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    Briggs Myers en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myers%E2%80%93Briggs_Type_Indicator has identified 16 personality types that learn things, including languages, in different ways. This question can be answered objectively by citing this study. I vote to reopen, and would pose such an answer.
    – Tom Au
    Apr 7, 2016 at 14:40

2 Answers 2


From what I recall, Steven Krashen mentioned a general number like 5% of people who learn well in traditional grammar based language classes. He also argues that something like 95% of people can acquire a second language in a natural way, if such a method is made available to them, but is not generally available in language classes. Perhaps 95% of language teachers who learned as a second language the language that they teach would be from the former group, the people for whom grammar based language teaching works. Can't find a citation for the figures but his view is clearly in favor of the natural method, not the grammar based. See for example this paper of his. http://sdkrashen.com/content/articles/seeking_a_justification_for_skill-building.pdf

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    Krashen's language acquisition theory - especially his non-interface position between learning (e.g. explicit grammar rules) and acquisition - is highly relevant to this question, so I don't understand the downvote. But the answer would have been stronger if it had discussed arguments for the non-interface position instead of trying to find statistics.
    – Tsundoku
    Aug 10, 2016 at 12:08
  • The question above is: "Is there any study or statistic... ?" Because language learning is a huge task, which takes hundreds of hours, it can be difficult to address the question via studies or statistics except anecdotally. Linguists or people who are interested in grammar can surely benefit from it more than Krashen isn't against learning grammar, he's against it out of context. See pop-up grammar. sdkrashen.com/content/articles/… Do what motivates you to keep doing it for hundreds of hours. Aug 12, 2016 at 16:36

In 1974, E. Hatch ("Second language learning - universals" in: Working Papers on Bilingualism, 3) made a distinction between "data-gatherers" and "rule-formers". Data-gatherers tend to focus more on the development of fluency rather than accuracy, while rule-formers adopt a more analytic, rule-based approach.

A study by Suzanne Graham (Effective Language Learning, 1997) found that problems can arise when a data-gatherer is encouraged to take a more analytical approach to grammar learning (e.g. the German case system). On the other hand, learners who had been categorised as rule-formers later appeared to have developed elements of data-gathering.

One of the most influential theories about explicit learning or instruction (which includes grammar rules) and language acquisition, is Stephen Krashen's theory. Krashen claimed that "learning" (i.e. from formal instruction) and "acquisition" are separate; when you acquire a language in a classroom, this is not the result of formal instruction but of the comprehensible input provided by the teacher. This extreme position is also known as the "non-interface position" (i.e. no interface between formal instruction and language acquisition). (Stephen Krashen uses "acquisition" as a technical term; for example, native speakers acquire their first language in a natural way. So in Stephen Krashen's view, acquisition can occur without "learning".) According to Krashen, learning and "Conscious Learning" can happen only when specific conditions are met (see e.g. his KOTESOL 2011 paper.)

(Note that Krashen's non-interface position, though influential, does not represent anything like a consensus in second language acquisition theory. See for example Rod Ellis' weak interface position.)

Another interesting publication in this context is Grammar and Its Teaching: Challenging the Myths by Diane Larsen-Freeman.

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    I found that there are some good links on @Christophe Strobbe's profile that will be of interest for someone seeking to characterise different types of language learners (particularly good ones or polyglots). cstrobbe.github.io/languagelearning Aug 12, 2016 at 16:48

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