Acculturation Model

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In second-language acquisition, the Acculturation Model is a theory proposed by John Schumann to describe the acquisition process of a second language (L2) by members of ethnic minorities[1] that typically include immigrants, migrant workers, or the children of such groups.[2] This acquisition process takes place in natural contexts of majority language setting. The main suggestion of the theory is that the acquisition of a second language is directly linked to the acculturation process, and learners’ success is determined by the extent to which they can orient themselves to the target language culture.[3]


The acculturation model came into light with Schumann’s study of six non-English learners where one learner named Alberto, unlike the other five, had little progress in the acquisition process of English.[4] As Alberto’s lack of progress denied any satisfactory explanation in terms of cognitive development or age, Schumann prompted to attribute Alberto’s failure to his limited contact with native English speakers;[5] that is, the social and psychological distances of Alberto – the two factors Schumann later used to develop his acculturation model – inhibited his achieving sufficient proficiency over his target language.


The process of acculturation was defined by Brown as "the process of being adapted to a new culture" which involves a new orientation of thinking and feeling on the part of an L2 learner.[6] According to Brown, as culture is an integral part of a human being, the process of acculturation takes a deeper turn when the issue of language is brought on the scene. Schumann based his Acculturation Model on two sets of factors: social and psychological. Schumann asserts that the degree to which the second-language learners acculturate themselves towards the culture of target-language (TL) group generally depends on social and psychological factors; and these two sorts of factors will determine respectively the level of social distance and psychological distance an L2 learner is having in course of his learning the target-language.[7] Social distance, as Ellis notes, concerns the extent to which individual learners can identify themselves with members of TL group and, thereby, can achieve contact with them. Psychological distance is the extent to which individual learners are at ease with their target-language learning task.[8]

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  1. ^ Ellis, Rod (1994). The Study of Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 230. ISBN 0-19-437189-1. 
  2. ^ Ellis (1994), p. 217
  3. ^ VanPatten, Bill (2010). Key Terms in Second Language Acquisition. Continuum. p. 59. ISBN 9780826499158. 
  4. ^ "Acculturation". Blackwell Reference Online. Blackwell Publishing Inc. doi:10.1111/b.9780631214823.1999.x. Retrieved 7 April 2013. 
  5. ^ Hamed Barjesteh. "The Acculturation Model for L2 Acquisition: Review and Evaluation". World Science Publisher. Retrieved 7 April 2013. 
  6. ^ Brown, H. Douglas (1994). Principles of Language Learning and Teaching. New Jersey: Prentice Hall Regents. p. 169-70. ISBN 0-13-191966-0. 
  7. ^ Schumann, John H (1978). The Pidginization Process: A Model for Second Language Acquisition. Rowley: Newbury House Publishers. p. 367-79. 
  8. ^ Ellis (1994), p. 231