What is meant by "learning the language" and "learning about the language"What is meant by "learning the language" and "learning about the language"?  And what similarities and differences between...

What is meant by "learning the language" and "learning about the language"

What is meant by "learning the language" and "learning about the language"?
  And what similarities and differences between them???

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Learning about the language invovles the history of that language, the etymology of words in the target language as well as the formation of words over time and the changes in the language.  For instance, if one studies English, one learns the story of English, the story of migrations, settling, and invasions and war.  Old English began with the Angles, a people who originated in a section of Denmark called Angeln.  The language of the Anglo-Saxons is what became the language of England (Saxon being the name of the German conquerors). Then, in 1066 the Norman Conquest had a tremendous impact upon the Anglo-Saxon language.  Since the Norman l hadl but destroyed every Anglso-Saxon lord, French, the language of Normandy became the official language, and for nearly 300 hundred years the literature of England was published in French. With Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, written in Old English, French was replaced as the language of the literature.  Old English eventually evolved into Middle English, and then Modern English.

Learning the language is the acquisition of vocabulary, and speaking and writing skills.  This involves the formal study of the language per se and the attainment of fluency and pronunciation.

wannam eNotes educator| Certified Educator
I would say that learning the language is simly learing the language itself. This would likely start with the basics of the language such a words and vocabulary. Of course, there is a lot more than just words to any language. There is also grammar and other syntax rules to learn. In some cases, there is even a whole new alphabet (or alphabets) to learn. Learning about the language would deal more with culture and the development of the language than the language itself. Learning about the language might start with a study of linguistics or it might start with the history of the language. One might also look into how the language evolved over time. Learning about the language also means understanding the culture and the meaning behind the words. Both types of understanding are important. We need to understand the denotation and the connotation of words.
lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Learning language, especially one's first language, happen on an innate level in the brain, as babies are exposed to sounds and words and slowly understand the connection the things of their world and the word that names each thing. A person learns language almost without conscience effort, just by exposure. Learning about language happens in a more formal way. Children learn the alphabet and its sounds and learn to code word. As that instruction becomes more formal, writing and reading develop. To improve those skills, more direct instruction of grammar, spelling, and reading fluency happen. In this context, a person could have a lot of language without a lot of knowledge of language. There are many functionally illiterate people whose oral communication skills are just fine.

schulzie eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Learning ABOUT the language means that you know its history, structure, and how it forms its words.  For example, in German, you would know that the verb comes at the end of the sentence.  You have an intellectual knowledge of the language.  

Learning the language means that you can understand it, speak it, write it, and communicate with it.  You think in that language and don't have to translate in your mind. 

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
In ESL or any language instruction, there is a difference between learning the words and understanding the structure of the language. Students really need to understand both to really function in a language. They need to understand how to use a word, by knowing how it works.
vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Learning a language involves developing the ability to speak and read the language. Learning about a language involves learning its history, rules, relations with other languages (such as the relationship of English to Latin), etymologies, etc.

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I believe that both are necessary to master a language. Without mastery, one will (most likely) miss the intricacies of the language. These intricacies are important to understanding how to read, write, and speak a language.

keshavmwd14 | Student

Learning the language means that you are learning to communicate in a new way with other people of the particular region and learning about the language means that you are collecting information about the way of communication

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