The 5 Predictable Stages of Second Language Acquisition

stages second language acquisition
The 5 Predictable Stages of Second Language Acquisition
Last Updated: Jun 7, 2018

What is Second Language Acquisition?

There are five predictable stages for students who are learning a second language.

As a teacher, it’s good to recognize the stage your students are capable of working in because you can cater to that particular level.

When you tie your own speech into their stage, you are teaching in their “zone of proximal development”.

In the zone of proximal development, students can complete tasks with guidance encouraging and advancing their individual learning.

The Five Stages of Second Language Acquisition

And if you want to lift them to the next stage, it’s through your knowledge of the five stages of second language acquisition you can do so.

From pre-production all the way to mastering the English language:

Students predictably go through these five stages of second language acquisition.

Here they are:

1 Pre-production Stage

When babies learn a language, it all starts with them recognizing words.

For example, you ask your child to pick a toy and she reaches for one, there is a transfer off information.

The preproduction stage is generally a one-way, non-verbal exchange.

2 Early Production Stage

In this stage two-way communication begins with one or two-word phrases.

Similar to young children learning to speak, they speak the most important keywords and phrases.

Additionally, the early production stage is accompanied by the use of present tense for verbs.

3 Speech Emergence Stage

From just learning the basics to getting into more complex speech.

Students start creating simple sentences in the speech emergence stage.

Even though students frequently make grammar and pronunciation errors, their comprehension improves.

4 Intermediate Fluency Stage

Students progress from simple to more complex sentences.

They start forming paragraphs with much fewer grammatical errors and better verb tenses and conjugation.

Their comprehension is now at an intermediate fluency.

5 Advanced Fluency Stage

Finally, the last stage is when students master their second language.

In other words, this is when their second language acquisition has improved to such a level they have native level of speech.

Really, it’s the stage that most English Language Learners are trying to achieve.


Unfortunately, what we know about language acquisition isn’t making it to mainstream teachers who are engaged in it.

For second language acquisition, you can take these stages and adjust your speech to that particular level.

From production to advanced fluency, second language acquisition goes through these five foreseeable stages.

Not only can your students gain the confidence they need, but they can jump to the next stage of development.


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