Brown’s 12 Principles of Language Learning and Teaching

H. Douglas Brown

H. Douglas Brown (born 1941) is a professor emeritus of English as a Second Language at San Francisco State University. He was the president of International TESOL from 1980 to 1981, and in 2001 he received TESOL’s James E. Alatis Award for Distinguished Service.

Principles of Language Learning and Teaching

12 Principles of Language Learning and Teaching

Native Language Effect

A learner’s native language creates both facilitating and interfering effects on learning.(Linguistic Domain)

Communicative Competence

Fluency and use are just as important as accuracy and usage. Instruction must aim at organizational, pragmatic and strategic competence as well as pronunciation, intonation and stress. (Linguistic Domain)

Anticipation of Rewards

Learners are driven to perform by the promise of positive reinforcement, tangible or intangible; long or short-term. (Cognitive Domain)

Language-Culture Connection

Learning a language also involves learning about cultural values and ways of thinking, feeling or acting. (Socioaffective Domain)

Language Ego

Learning a new language involves developing a second identity with a new mode of thinking. This new identity can be fragile and defensive. (Socioaffective Domain)

Meaningful Learning

Providing a realistic context to use language is thought to lead to better long term retention, as opposed to rote learning. (Cognitive Domain)


Second language learners generally follow a systematic process, during which they need feedback (teacher, peer and self) to eliminate logic errors and achieve competence.(Linguistic Domain)


Subconscious processing of language for fluency can only be achieved without overanalyzing or too much attention to language forms. (Cognitive Domain)


Success in learning a language requires that the learners believe that they can learn it. (Socioaffective Domain)

Strategic Investment

Success in learning is dependent on the time and effort learners spend in mastering the language learning process according to their ability. (Cognitive Domain)


Taking a gamble and experimenting with language slightly “beyond” what is certain or known promotes language development and growth. (Socioaffective Domain)

Intrinsic Motivation

The most potent learning “rewards” to enhance performance are those that come from the needs, wants and desires within the learner. (Cognitive Domain)