Schumann's Acculturation Model

Variability Summary C

Some learners make rapid progress in learning a second language, while others with the same initial ability and language instruction make little progress in the same amount of time. Schumann hypothesized that this difference could be accounted for by characteristics of the social and psychological distance learners placed between themselves and the language they were learning. Schumann identified eight characteristics of social distance and four characteristics of psychological distance.

Characteristics of Social Distance:


Explanations of Characteristics

Social Dominance Patterns

The native language learners' reference group can be superior, inferior, or equal in terms of politics, culture, technology, or economics. If they view their group as superior, they may not learn the second language.

Integration Strategies

Assimilative learners give up native language values and lifestyles. Preservative learners keep native language values and lifestyles. Adaptive learners become bicultural and switch depending on the group.


When groups share social facilities, enclosure is low. This supports language learning.

Intended Length of Residency

Length of time a learner plans to stay in the country and the permanency of residency in the country impact motivation to learn a new language.


Strong intragroup contact in the native language community with few contacts outside the community impacts second language learning.


The size of the native language community may impact L2 learning.

Cultural Congruence

The similarity and harmony between the cultures impact second language learning.


The feelings of the reference groups toward each other impact learning.

Characteristics of Psychological Distance:


Explanations of Characteristics

Language Shock

Feeling silly about trying to learn the language equates to less likely to learn.

Culture Shock

Being anxious or disoriented in the culture equates to less likely to learn.


Level of motivation affects learning.


The extent to which second language learners view their first language as fixed and rigid will impact their learning of the second language.

Adapted with permission from:                                                                                             

Teemant, A. & Pinnegar, S. (2007). Understanding Langauge Acquisition Instructional Guide. Brigham Young University-Public School Partnership. 

Stefinee E. Pinnegar

Brigham Young University

A St. George native, Dr. Pinnegar graduated from Dixie College (now DSU) and Southern Utah State (now SUU). She taught on the Navajo Reservation then completed an M.A. in English at BYU. She taught for 5 years in Crawfordsville, Indiana. She then completed a PhD in Educational Psychology at the University of Arizona (1989). She was faculty at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, before coming to BYU. She helped develop and now directs the TELL program. She is Acting Dean of Invisible College for Research on Teaching, a research organization that meets yearly in conjunction with AERA. She is a specialty editor of Frontiers in Education's Teacher Education strand with Ramona Cutri. She is editor of the series Advancements in Research on Teaching published by Emerald Insight. She has received the Benjamin Cluff Jr. award for research and the Sponsored Research Award from ORCA at BYU. She is a founder of the Self-Study of Teacher Education Practices research methdology. She has published in the Journal of Teacher Education, Ed Researcher, Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice and has contributed to the handbook of narrative inquiry, two international handbooks of teacher education and two Self-Study of Teaching and Teacher Education Practices handbooks. She reviews for numerous journals and presents regularly at the American Educational Research Association, ISATT, and the Castle Conference sponsored by S-STTEP.
Annela Teemant

Indiana University/Purdue University, Indianapolis (IUPUI)

Annela Teemant is Professor of Second Language Education (Ph.D., Ohio State University, 1997) at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. Her scholarship focuses on developing, implementing, and researching applications of critical sociocultural theory and practices to the preparation of K-12 teachers of English Language Learners. Specifically, she has collaboratively developed and researched the Six Standards Instructional Coaching Model and pedagogy. She has been awarded five U.S. Department of Education grants focused on ESL teacher quality. She has authored more than 30 multimedia teacher education curricula and video ethnographies of practice and published in Teaching and Teacher Education, Urban Education, Teachers College Record, and Language Teaching Research. Her work describes how to use pedagogical coaching to radically improve the conditions of learning needed for multilingual learners. She has also taught adult intensive English in the United States, Finland, and Hungary.

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