Learning about Language Learning Theory

admin October 16, 2018

What is language learning theory in relation to second-language acquisition?

Language Learning Theory

To answer those wondering what language learning theory is, it’s a process examining how humans learn a language, with their inborn mechanism and with some external factors. Despite over 60 years of research into language learning theory of children, it’s still a mystery how they are able to segment words and syllables from the strings of sounds they listen to and acquire grammar skills to comprehend and produce language.

Skinner’s theory of language development through environmental influence was among the earliest theories, though Noam Chomsky criticized it later and put forward his universal grammar theory. Unlike Skinner’s theory of language development through input alone, Chomsky’s theory asserted that the idea of inherent biological, grammatical categories (like verb and noun) could help facilitate language development in children.

Successive studies followed these theories, and over the years, researchers have found that children might have used general cognitive and learning principles for processing language. When it comes to learning a second language, it’s important to understand cognitive theory of language learning. This theory considers language acquisition to be a logical and mindful thinking process involving the conscious use of learning strategies. These learning strategies involve ways to process information that enhance learning, comprehension, and retention of such information. This theory sharply contrasts the behaviorist approach to learning language, where it is seen as an automatic, unconscious one.

Developed by Stephen Krashen, the natural approach, or creative construction theory of language learning, is also crucial for second language acquisition. This theory is based on the assumption that language acquisition is innately determined. It also assumes that humans are born with a specific system of language. Teachers following this language learning theory, then, speak only the target language to provide students with input for acquisition while their students use either the language taught or their first language. The goal here is learning to use the language taught for performing tasks, sharing ideas, and solving problems.

How were you able to learn your second language? Let us know here in the comments section below. Reach me on my Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads to talk more about learning languages. Make sure to read up on interesting language learning theories on my blog,



Lemetyinen, Henna. 2012. “Language Acquisition.” SimplyPsychology. Accessed June 5, 2018.

British Council. 2006. “Cognitive Theory.”

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Diana Yacobi and Lily Safrani

Diana Yacobi and Lily Safrani

Diana Yacobi has been the educational director of synagogue schools and written a Hebrew r... Read More