What Is Meant by Appropriation in Second or Foreign Language Learner Acquisition?

Updated on September 30, 2018
murraylindsay profile image

I've been an educational professional for many years, holding certified qualifications in that field.

Explaining What Appropriation Means

Firstly, the verb appropriate means to take something and use it for your own purposes. Have you ever taken scrap paper, screwed it up into a ball and then taken aim at the bin? Perhaps your work colleague came along and joined in the fun, only their throwing technique or accuracy was better than yours, so you copied their style until you were able to control or regulate their technique and success too. Appropriation is taking control of a skill by first mimicking someone who is more skilled at it than you are until you yourself have some semblance of control or improvement.

A simpler way to explain it is when you start to get the hang of doing something, usually as a consequence of being around people who are better at something than you are. Coaching in sports or sitting next to the brightest kids in class are obvious examples.


Appropriation in Regards to Second or Foreign Language Acquisition

It could be argued that when learning a second or foreign language we first interact and mimic the native (or proficient) speaker of the language (could be a teacher, could be real life encounters) trying to take and use the language for our own use within the situation at hand. Therefore, learning is not just a cognitive development conditioned through memory and repetition, but it is also transferred and constructed through social collaborative interaction. We might summize that learners are not actually isolated individuals but rather they are social beings. Hutchins (1995) described this as the contents of our consciousness having been socially produced.

Indeed, appropriation is an important notion in the theories of sociocultural psychologists, such as Lev Vygotsky, who believed that it is our interaction from the people who surround us every day that drives and generates our learning and development.

Ultimately, language connects people and the words used must therefore have meaning attached. Where has the meaning of words derived from? The meanings have originated from societal development, from the interaction of people and from personal individual reflection. This is the point of view according to dialogism (Voloshinov, 1973).

How Does Appropriation Impact in the ELT Classroom Environment

In a classroom environment, learning activities that are focused on appropriation include teamwork and role play, whereby students can showcase and use their strengths within the group whilst others can learn from the interaction and the strengths and knowledge of others. Teachers also have a role in that their demonstrations and presentations represent the chance for students to mimic and analyze them. When teachers correct the errors of learners, this too affords the learners the chance to refine their skills.

Put simply, students need a chance to analyze and mirror the learning then transform it, expand it and put it into practice for themselves for their own motives and in relation to their societal norms. This is how change and development will take place. This aligns to what is known as activity theory, the foundations of which can be traced to A. N. Leont'ev (a colleague of Vygotsky). The theory postulates that our knowledge originates first from a social dimension and then becomes adopted on a psychological level.


It should also be remembered that we don’t necessarily hear or indeed say words in isolation, rather the words are part of a wider meaning we are trying to get across or to comprehend, for example right versus wrong or good versus bad, and therefore teaching a language to learners should involve activities that give the students chances not just to participate and answer word by word, but with more meaningful participation where they may join or express meaning through cooperation. Cowley (2012) called this skillful linguistic action whereby the knowledge gained is dynamic and usable.

Appropriation is not a one way street. Whilst students will appropriate from a learning perspective, the same should be true of a teacher. They too must develop their skills as educators and learning from those more experienced and skilled than themselves, by for example trying to mirror and refine their mentor's techniques in their own classrooms.

Levels of appropriation on the part of students can also vary depending upon receptiveness to the techniques being employed by the teacher, and indeed by the perceived personality of the teacher. Students are impacted by the institutions within which they study - the social norms and the rules for example. Getting students to even stand up or form a group can be problematic and not generally accepted as a day to day norm in some parts of the world.

Questions & Answers


      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      No comments yet.


      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

      Show Details
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)