Affective Principles in 2nd Language Acquisition

Subject: Linguistics
Pages: 4
Words: 881
Reading time:
6 min
Study level: Master


Teaching and learning a foreign language is a complex and continually evolving process. Douglass Brown (2004) classified the learning principles into cognitive, affective, and linguistic groups. The cognitive learning principles refer to the mental and thinking process, where new information is processed and linked in memory to the existing knowledge. The linguistic principles center on the language itself and the relationship between the learners’ native and second language. Lastly, the effective objective regards learners’ emotional attitudes and feelings towards the language are divided into sub-categories. Self-confidence, which refers to the learners’ belief in succeeding to learn a language; risk-taking, regarding the risks and experiments to gain more knowledge; language-culture connection refers to the process of learning the cultural values and mentality connected with the language; and language ego (Rustipa, 2015). Humans develop a new form of feeling, thinking, and acting while learning a second or foreign language. The new language ego can create within the learner a sense of inferiority and reticence. The already developed ego of the native language is threatened by the challenges of the new language acquisition, and an identity conflict arises. Simultaneously, the language acquisition process is more efficient when the learner goes through some form of identity conflict during the process. A strong language ego is an important component in second language learning. This review is aimed to focus on the challenges and barriers the language ego creates while learning a foreign language.

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Language Ego

Guiora and his group first recognized the notion of language ego in 1972 as the learners’ awareness of the boundaries and challenges the new language creates. The language ego is the personal and egoistic aspect of language learning. They have suggested that people shape their egos while learning their native language, which can create conflict in some aspects of foreign language acquisition (Guiora et al., 1972). The boundaries of the native ego strongly influence the student’s acquisition of pronunciation and oral skills. Children have more dynamic ego boundaries, and their developing minds are open to forming a new language identity without inhibitions. The development of the language ego is crucial in language acquisition, where age and nationality are decisive factors.

Literature Review


In research from Wang regarding the language ego among senior high school students in China, the success of a student’s oral English depends on whether their language ego is positive or negative (2020). A high level of inhibition can hinder the development of a positive second language ego development. A positive language ego, on the other hand, facilitates language acquisition. Through interviews and questionnaires, the author found that English teachers lack the oral English teaching methodology, regarding it as too time-consuming and less important. Language ego has a significant influence on oral English, and teachers should work on reducing the inhibitions among the students and develop a positive language ego (Wang, 2020). Paper research conducted by Xiashi and Lin also explores the negative influence of the native language on a second language transfer among Chinese students (2020). The high native language ego damages the students’ confidence in expressing themselves in a second language. The mastery of language depends on both verbal and non-verbal factors. The linguistic and cultural diversities between English and Chinese are the major cause of challenges in oral English among students (Xiashi & Lin, 2020).

A study by Zakarneh regarding the barriers created by a second language ego among Arab students learning English confirmed that the influence of their first language ego creates challenges in acquiring the language (2018). Thick ego boundaries make a lot of resistance during the process of language learning. The subjects of the study were 98 Arab students from three Arab countries in three different universities. The results confirmed that the language ego created barriers to language acquisition (Zakarneh, 2018). The integration of the native and language egos is crucial in successful learning the new language; moreover, the foreign language ego is constructed upon the first language identity.


The ego boundaries are more flexible and dynamic in the early stages of development and become more established with age. Therefore, children can achieve better results in language acquisition compared to adolescents and adults. The research paper by Abdullah and Akhter (2015) compares and contrasts the impact and barriers of language ego in second language acquisition among adults and children. Age proves to be a serious factor in second language acquisition since the fixed native language ego generates strong feelings in adults’ minds that slow down the learning process. Children, on the other hand, do not yet have the fear of mistakes and failure and are able to learn without hesitation and hindrance (Abdullah & Akhter,2015).

An urge to reshape the identity arises during the acquisition process of a learner. A door to a socio-cultural world of the new language is opened before the students, which is different from their own and requires a new way of thinking. Language ego can cause psychological interferences for learners while learning a foreign language. The thick boundaries of the native language cause resistance for students to assimilate the new language. Self-confidence is an important factor in the process of language learning. The ability to let go of the native language ego and accept the challenges of the new language is key to language mastery.


Abdullah, S., & Akhter, J. (2015). Ego is a hurdle in second language learning: A contrastive study between adults and children. Advances in Language and Literary Studies, 6(6), 171–173. Web.

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Guiora, A. Z., Beit-Hallahmi, B., Brannon, R. C. L., Dull, C. Y., & Scovel, T. (1972). The effects of experimentally induced changes in ego states on pronunciation ability in a second language: An exploratory study. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 13(5), 421–428. Web.

Rustipa, K. (2015). The Principles of language learning. Dinamika Bahasa Dan Budaya, 10(1). Web.

Wang, J. (2020). The Enlightenment of second language ego to oral English teaching in senior high school. Theory and Practice in Language Studies, 10(10), 1310. Web.

Xiashi, G., & Lin, Y. (2020). Impact of language ego, the native language effect on oral English learning of high school students. International Journal of English and Cultural Studies, 3(1), 33. Web.

Zakarneh, B. (2018). Language ego is a barrier to English language acquisition among Arab university students. British Journal of English Linguistics, 6(3). p. 40-55


Author Year Title Aims Method Sample Conclusion Comments
Abdullah & Akhter 2015 Ego is a Hurdle in Second Language Learning: A Contrastive Study between Adults and Children Find out how language ego affects language acquisition among adults and children Research study Children are more proficient in second language learning, since their language ego is flexible As children do everything differently from adults, it is logical that they also learn unlike. There are less barriers in this process for children, and their ego, being one of the possible obstacles do not impede success
Guiora et al. 1972 The effects of experimentally induced changes in ego states on pronunciation ability in a second language: An exploratory study To define, describe, and discuss language ego a dependence of pronunciation on alcohol consumption Exploratory study The language ego permeability is a reflection of the ego boundaries penetrability in general
(and particularly, of empathic capacity); a temporary change in ego boundaries was made by alcohol
The study presents a strong experimental support to the assumption that people’s language ego correlates with general ego, with alcohol making temporary adjustments to it
Rustipa 2015 The Principles of language learning To discuss the principles of language learning Research study There are two main methods to learn a language – language learning or acquisition. The letter is subconscious and does not require a desire to learn while the former implies wish and efforts. In addition, to be successful in learning a language, people should have certain characteristics. A personality of an individual can indeed have an influence on the language learning process since it defines people’s every decision and everyday life. It also goes without saying that enormous efforts are required for the process to be successful
Zakarneh 2018 Language ego as a barrier in English language acquisition among Arab university students Exploring if the language ego as a barrier in second language acquisition Questionnaires The language ego of Arab students hinders them learning English It is essential to take into account cultural characteristics of learners while teaching English, among other subjects. Teachers should be ready to combat the language ego of Arab students, which may cause serios delays and problems in language learning
Xiashi & Lin 2020 Impact of Language Ego, the Native Language Effect on Oral English Learning of High School Students Positive and negative language transfer Analysis High language ego creates a barrier in mastering English pronunciation properly The reform in modern English learning and teaching is utterly needed as it has been established that oral English practice and development correlates with such cultural feature as language ego.
Wang 2020 The Enlightenment of Second Language Ego to Oral English Teaching in Senior High School Suggestions to English teachers in solving problems oral acquisition questionnaires and interviews Relaxed classroom environment, encouragement, awareness to intercultural communication As to avoid problems with oral English learning and practice, it is advisable to take into consideration second language ego, but not as a singular unit. Original language ego should be addressed as well in order to get the most out of language learning