Incidental and intentional learning      

Language acquisition in a bilingual setting in children and metalinguistic awareness in children 

Luca is "learning" how to speak a language. 

Incidental learning  

The child learns certain features of a language from the context without further explanation of an adult.  She is able to grasp the meaning of a word or an unknown structure in the language from the context and does so without obvious intention or awareness. Luca does not speak English so well yet, but when her educator asks her to please use her spoon or fork for lunch, and she knows what a spoon is, she will be able to grasp the meaning of fork.  

Intentional learning  

The unclear meaning of a word leads to intentional inquiry. The child might observe or ask questions.  Luca explicitly asks for a certain meaning when she is unsure (pointing towards an object - “This? - “This is a chair”) or might explain to her educator that what she is holding right now is a teddy bear (“me teddy bear”).  

Good to know: There is a difference between input and intake.

‘Input’ vs. ‘intake’ in language acquisition 

Input = “Everything around us we may perceive with our senses” (De Bot, Lowie, & Verspoor, 2007) . Input can be instructed or not instructed, from a natural setting or an artificially created setting.

Intake = “Not all input becomes intake”, `Intake’ is what we pay attention to and notice”  (De Bot, Lowie, & Verspoor, 2007). ‘Taking information in’ is a conscious act (see ‘private speech’).