Many books on English Methodology treat learning and acquisiton synonymously. But I think they are different.

Some professors I know say that they are different. Some others say they overlap and they are dificult to differentiate. Some others say that children belonging to native speaking areas acquire their language and others only learn it.

What is the difference between learning and acquisition?

Do acquisition and learning take place lifelong?


You can "learn" a language like Spanish in the sense of memorizing lists of vocabulary and conjugation charts. To some extent, it also means learning academic content words and sentence structures. You cannot necessarily hold a conversation or understand it beyond the textbook, though. On the other hand, many native speakers never "learn" their own language in that they do not apply formal spelling and grammar rules consistently.

To "acquire" a language means that you communicate in meaningful ways and comprehend spoken media and written literature. It does not mean that you can understand or explain its grammar rules or pass an academic course. You can, however, get by comfortably in non-academic situations.

  • Are these your definitions or did you get them from somewhere? Any reference on this topic?
    – AML
    Sep 5 '19 at 10:53
  • I took college courses in Linguistics and Education. I don't remember the specific sources, but I figured the difference between language learning and language acquisition was common knowledge in those fields.
    – K Man
    Sep 5 '19 at 20:27

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