An ELT Glossary : The Acculturation Model



Schumann (1978) posited that successful second language acquisition (SLA) in non-instructional settings is related to the degree to which a learner a) wishes to and has the opportunity to communicate with speakers of the target language and b) wishes to integrate with them socially.  This will be influenced by :


  • Social dominance : to what extent the L1 group is politically, culturally, technically or economically dominant to or subordinate to the L2 group. 
  • Assimilation, preservation, and adaptation : to what extent the learner wishes to assimilate with, adapt to or remain separate from the L2 group.
  • Enclosure : the extent to which the L1 and l2 groups share social institutions such as clubs, churches,schools and workplaces.
  • Cohesiveness and size : large, cohesive L1 groups are likely to be more self-sufficient and seek less contact with the L2 group.
  • Congruence : how similar or dissimilar the cultures of the two groups are.
  • Attitude : How positively the L2 group views the L1 group.
  • Intended length of residence : the longer the learner intends to stay in the target culture, the more likely s/he is to want to learn the language.


These social variables determine the level of acculturation into the target community which the learner desires, and this in turn influences SLA. 

The link is, however, indirect : "acculturation as a remote cause brings the learner into contact with TL-speakers and verbal interaction with those speakers as a proximate cause brings about the negotiation of appropriate input which then operates as the immediate cause of language acquisition". Schumann (1986:385)

Schuman also posited that two psychological factors would exert an influence - language shock (confusion when using the language) and culture shock -  but saw these as less important than the social factors.

References and Further Reading

Schumann, J. H. (1978). The relationship of pidginization, creolization, and decreolization to second language acquisition. Language Learning, Vol 28/2
Schumann, J. (1986). Research on the acculturation model for L2 acquisition. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, Vol 7/5