Learning Languages: Infancy vs Adulthood







Infancy vs Adulthood

Language serves as the fundamental building block for relationships among living beings. Dolphins communicate through whistles, dogs through barks, and cows through moos, each in their unique way. However, unlike humans, these animals do not create languages. The creation of languages is a unique capability of highly intelligent creatures - humans. What sets languages apart is their remarkable sophistication, coupled with a consistent structure.

Despite its intricacy, almost all babies effortlessly acquire their language without much conscious effort. Before they know it, they have learned their first language. As they grow older, many individuals will encounter interactions with people who speak different languages. Their curiosity might drive them to attempt learning a new language, only to realize that it is not as effortlessly acquired as their first language.

This poses an irony: Why is it harder for adults to learn languages compared to babies, even though we expect adults to know more as they get older, while babies seem to effortlessly pick up languages with little prior knowledge?

Language Learning vs Language Acquisition

I want to emphasize the distinction between the terms "acquisition" and "learning." Language acquisition is the natural, subconscious process that occurs when our brains are exposed to a language. In contrast, language learning involves a more deliberate, conscious effort. When babies acquire their first language, it is often an unconscious process since they do not have a language used to learn the first language. For instance, a baby may acquire the word "food" by associating the sound with the provision of food, without understanding the meaning of the word.

As adults, our learning processes tend to become more rigid, affecting not only our thought patterns but also the physical transformation of our brains. With age, the brain's neuroplasticity changes, leading to a decreased ability to reorganize itself. This change makes it more challenging for the brain to adapt to new linguistic patterns, shifting us towards a more deliberate "learning" process instead of the spontaneous acquisition seen in infancy.

It may seem that learning a language through language acquisition is the best way to learn. However, many learners stand to benefit from learning using both methods and can choose one method to favour over the other. While it might appear that acquiring a language through language acquisition is the superior method, there are advantages to embracing a dual approach. Learners can derive benefits from both methods and can choose to favor one over the other based on personal preferences. Given our familiarity with language learning, how can we effectively integrate more language acquisition into our daily lives?

Stephen Krashen: Elevating Language Acquisition

Stephen Krashen, born on October 7, 1941, is a distinguished linguist, cognitive scientist, and educational theorist. His substantial contributions to the fields of second language acquisition and educational linguistics have had a global impact, influencing language education policies and practices. At Lingosnap, our team thoroughly researches Krashen's work to integrate concepts that enhance the learning experience for our users. Here are practical ways you can apply his methods to enrich your language learning journey now:

1. Input Hypothesis:

Key Concept: Language acquisition thrives when learners engage with "comprehensible input" slightly beyond their current proficiency, challenging them to acquire new language forms.


  • Immerse yourself in authentic videos with subtitles, striking a balance between challenge and comprehension.

  • Listen to podcasts or audio recordings with transcripts for a guided understanding.

  • Read materials slightly above your current level, relying on context clues for comprehension, such as Graded readers.

2. Affective Filter Hypothesis:

Key Concept: Emotional factors, including motivation and anxiety, significantly impact language acquisition. Cultivating a low affective filter, marked by a positive and relaxed emotional state, enhances effective language learning.


  • Indulge in relaxing and enjoyable content, like music or short films, creating a positive learning atmosphere (potentially aligning with the Input Hypothesis).

  • Explore motivational videos or stories to inspire successful language learning experiences.

3. Natural Order Hypothesis:

Key Concept: Language structures unfold in a predictable sequence, unaffected by explicit instruction.


  • Immerse yourself in storytelling or narratives naturally introducing and reinforcing language structures.

  • Engage in real-life conversations or interviews showcasing the organic progression of language.

  • Utilize multimedia materials presenting a diverse array of language structures in contextual settings.

4. Monitor Model:

Key Concept: The Monitor Model distinguishes between acquisition (subconscious, intuitive learning) and learning (conscious, rule-based language learning).


  • Integrate language games or interactive apps to encourage intuitive language use.

  • Incorporate grammar-focused exercises or worksheets for explicit learning.

  • Engage in role-playing activities, applying both acquired and learned language skills in practical scenarios.

Returning to Infancy?

As adults, the ability for language acquisition remains, albeit requiring a more deliberate effort. By actively exposing ourselves to new environments with fresh vocabulary and a stress-free atmosphere, language learning can become a more natural and enjoyable process.


© Lingosnap. 2024 | Lalia Private Limited

© Lingosnap. 2024 | Lalia Private Limited

© Lingosnap. 2024 | Lalia Private Limited