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The factors that influence the acquisition of a second language


Some students learn a new language more quickly and easily than others. This simple fact is known by all who have themselves learned a second language or taught those who are using their second language in school. Clearly, some language learners are successful by virtue of their sheer determination, hard work and persistence. However there are other crucial factors influencing success that are largely beyond the control of the learner. These factors can be broadly categorized as internal and external. It is their complex interplay that determines the speed and facility with which the new language is learned.

Internal factors

Internal factors are those that the individual language learner brings with him or her to the particular learning situation.

External factors

External factors are those that characterize the particular language learning situation.

The information on this page is based on summaries of research into learner variables (internal factors) in second language acquisition in the following resources:

Lightbown, Patsy M., and Nina Spada. How Languages Are Learned. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. Print.

Macaro, Ernesto. Continuum Companion to Second Language Acquisition. London: Continuum, 2010. Print.

Here is a link to a slideshow on the same topic: Learner Variables in L2 learning

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