Skill-based theories of second-language acquisition

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Skill-based theories of second-language acquisition are theories of second-language acquisition based on models of skill acquisition in cognitive psychology. These theories conceive of second-language acquisition as being learned in the same way as any other skill, such as learning to drive a car or play the piano. That is, they see practice as the key ingredient of language acquisition. The most well-known of these theories is based on John Anderson's adaptive control of thought model.[1]

Adaptive control of thought[edit]

The adaptive control of thought model assumes a distinction between declarative knowledge, knowledge that is conscious and consists of facts,[2] and procedural knowledge, knowledge of how an activity is done.[3][4] In this model, skill acquisition is seen as a progression from declarative to procedural knowledge.[4] Adaptive control of thought is a general model of cognition, and second-language acquisition is just one application of a wide area of research in cognitive psychology.[5] Second-language acquisition is seen as a progression through three stages, declarative, procedural, and autonomous.[5]


  1. ^ VanPatten & Benati 2010, pp. 149–150, "Skill/s".
  2. ^ Richards & Schmidt 2009, "Declarative knowledge".
  3. ^ Richards & Schmidt 2009, "Procedural knowledge".
  4. ^ a b Richards & Schmidt 2009, "Adaptive control of thought".
  5. ^ a b VanPatten & Benati 2010, p. 62, "Adaptive Control of Thought model".


  • Richards, Jack C.; Schmidt, Richard, eds. (2009). Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics. New York: Longman. ISBN 978-1-4082-0460-3.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • VanPatten, Bill; Benati, Alessandro G. (2010). Key Terms in Second Language Acquisition. London: Continuum. ISBN 978-0-8264-9914-1.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)