A Study on the Conceptual Problems Involved in Learning a New Language

Article Posted in: Research Articles

Paper by Lakshmanasamy Mayavan
Published in Volume IV, Issue XXXVII, February 2018


Communication is the basic attribute of human being and language is the main tool of that communication. Learning a new language requires the special attention on learning theories that are conceptual frameworks in which knowledge is absorbed, processed and retained during learning. Cognitive, emotional and environmental influences, as well as prior experience, all play a vital role in how understanding or a worldview is acquired or changed and knowledge and skills retained. This paper focuses on the trend of conceptual problems involved in learning a new language.



Learning is the act of acquiring new or modifying and reinforcing existing, Knowledge, behaviours, skills, values or preferences which may lead to a potential change in depth of the knowledge, attitude or behaviour. Learning does not happen at once, but it builds upon and is shaped by previous knowledge. Learning produces changes in the organism and the changes produced are relatively permanent. Learning may occur as a result of habituation or classical conditioning.

Models that are conceptual

A conceptual model is a representation of a system, made of the composition of concepts which are used to help people know, understand or stimulate a subject. The term conceptual model refers to models which are formed after a conceptualization or generalization. Conceptual models are often abstractions of things in the real world whether physical or social.

Learning Strategies

Language learning strategies have attracted increasing focus as a way of understanding the process of language acquisition.

Listening as a way of learning

Being a good listener can be the most important one in the process of acquiring a new language. Clearly listening is used to learn, not all language learners employ it consciously. Students need to focus most on listening to the speakers as is paves way for further understanding the concepts which lead to in-depth knowledge and develop the attitude of the learners. Poor listening may spoil the entire process of learning misunderstood by the learners on the whole. Priorities to be given and focused on the conscious listening and the students need to employ this skill as it is an essential and effective way of language learning.


Reading as a way to learn

Many people read to understand but the strategy of reading the text to learn grammar and discourse styles can be employed only through the art of conscious reading intensively and extensively.

Learning vocabulary

Translation and rote memorization have been two strategies that have been employed traditionally. A vocabulary is a set of familiar words within a person’s language. A vocabulary, is usually developed with age, serves as a useful and fundamental tool for communication and acquiring knowledge.  Acquiring an extensive vocabulary is one of the greatest challenges in learning a second language. Cognitive Acceleration or CA is an approach to teaching designed to develop students’ thinking ability, developed by Michael Shyer and Phillip Adel from 1981 at King’s College, London. The approach builds on work by Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky and takes a constructive approach to strengthen vocabularies. Educators who embrace cognitive theory believe that the definition of learning as a change in behaviour is too narrow and prefer to study the learner rather than their environment and in particular the complexities of human memory.

Code Switching

Code-switching, that is, changing between languages at some point in a sentence or utterance, is a commonly used communication strategy among language learners and bilinguals. In linguistics, code-switching occurs when a speaker alternates single conversation. Multilingual, speakers of more than one language, sometimes use elements of multiple languages when conversing with each other. Code-switching is the use of more than one linguistic variety in a manner consistent with the syntax and phonology of each variety. Code-switching is different from other language contact phenomena, such as borrowing, pidgins and creoles, loan translation (Calques) and language transfer.



Conceptual combination

A conceptual combination is a fundamental cognitive process which two or more existing basic concepts are mentally synthesized to generate a composite, higher- order concept. The products of this process are sometimes referred to as “Complex Concepts”. Combing concepts allows individuals to use a finite number of concepts which they already understand to construct a potentially limitless quantity of new, related concepts. It is an essential component of many abilities, such as perception, language, synthetic reasoning, creative thought and abstraction. A conceptual combination is an important concept in the fields of cognitive psychology and cognitive science.



Creativity necessitates the employment of existing concepts in novel ways and therefore requires a conceptual combination. A conceptual combination is a significant contribution to convergent thinking. For example, practice with generating new concept through combination does not improve brainstorming. It does, however, assist in devising a creative problem-solving method. Tools that are developed based on conceptual combination theory attempt to teach individual tasks, and then challenge students to exercise them together in order to promote both base subject skills and the critical thinking needed to apply them simultaneously to solve new problems.


Situated Cognition

Situated cognition is a theory that knowledge is inseparable from doing by arguing that all knowledge is situated in activity bound to social, cultural and physical contexts. In essence, cognition cannot be separated from the context, activity, people, culture and language. Therefore, learning is seen in terms of an individual’s increasingly effective performance across situations rather than in terms of an accumulation of knowledge, since what is known is co-determined by the agent and the context.



Learners, while learning a new language, are to be well aware of various conceptual problems involved. Language acquisition is the process by which humans acquire the capacity to perceive and comprehend language. The capacity to successfully use language requires one to acquire a range of tools including phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics and an extensive vocabulary. Learning a new language is an embodied process that is influenced by a learner’s overall abilities and development.


 Introduction to the Author: 

The author of this article is an assistant professor who works in Chennai.



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