The key difference between first language and second language is their acquisition. The first language is the language one learns first, and this is usually a natural and effortless process while the second language is the language one acquires after the first language, and this acquisition is usually a challenging process.
Majority of the world population in today’s world is either bilingual or multilingual, i.e., able to speak more than one language. First language and second language are two terms that are mainly relevant to bilinguals and bilingualism. The first language is one’s native language while the second language is the language one acquires later in life.
1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What is First Language
3. What is Second Language
4. Side by Side Comparison – First Language vs Second Language in Tabular Form
What is First Language?
First language (L1) is the language a person learns first. We also call this first language native language and mother tongue. It is actually the language you learn and speak at home. Thus, children learn their first language from their parents, grandparents or caretakers. Therefore, one learns the first language effortlessly and naturally by listening to parents, and other caretakers communicating in this language. For example, a child brought up in an Italian household (all members of the house communicate with each other in Italian) will grow up learning Italian.
However, some people are brought up in families with different language background. For example, if a child’s father is Spanish and mother is Japanese, and both parents use their respective native language with the child, the child will grow up having two first languages.