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Learning vs. Acquisition: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Published on February 16, 2024
Learning is the conscious process of gaining knowledge or skills through study or experience, while acquisition is the subconscious assimilation of knowledge, often without direct teaching.

Key Differences

Learning typically involves a structured or formal environment, like a classroom, where specific information or skills are taught systematically. Acquisition, on the other hand, occurs in a more natural setting, such as acquiring a language by being immersed in an environment where it is spoken.
Acquisition is often a subconscious process, where the individual may not be actively trying to learn, yet gains knowledge or skills. In contrast, learning usually requires active effort and awareness, involving conscious understanding and memorization.
Learning can be assessed through tests and assignments, as it is often measurable and based on specific objectives. Acquisition, being more organic and less structured, is harder to quantify and may not be immediately evident through formal assessments.
In learning, feedback and correction are crucial, helping to refine and improve the skills or knowledge being learned. In acquisition, feedback may be less direct or formalized, often absorbed through natural interaction and practice.
The pace of learning is often set by an external curriculum or teacher, while the pace of acquisition is more self-regulated, depending on individual exposure and natural assimilation abilities.

Comparison Chart


Structured, formal (e.g., classroom)
Natural, informal (e.g., family)


Conscious and deliberate
Subconscious and incidental


Systematic, often teacher-led
Organic, experiential


Direct, formal (e.g., corrections, grades)
Indirect, informal (e.g., natural interaction)


Quantifiable (e.g., tests, assignments)
Less quantifiable, more observational

Learning and Acquisition Definitions


The modification of behavior through experience.
The puppy is learning to respond to its name.


The act of obtaining knowledge or skills subconsciously.
Her acquisition of Spanish was seamless due to her upbringing in a bilingual household.


The act of gaining skills through practice.
Learning to play the guitar takes time and dedication.


The process of gaining possession or control of something.
The acquisition of language skills is crucial in early childhood.


The act of memorizing and recalling information.
Learning all the state capitals was a requirement in geography class.


The process of assimilating new information naturally.
Children's acquisition of social norms occurs through observation and imitation.


The process of acquiring knowledge through study.
She enhanced her computer skills by learning new software.


The act of gaining a new capability or asset.
The company announced the acquisition of a smaller startup.


The process of absorbing information to improve understanding.
He is learning about world history for his final exam.


The subconscious integration of habits or behaviors.
His acquisition of a British accent was a result of living in London for five years.


The act, process, or experience of gaining knowledge or skill.


The act of acquiring.


Knowledge or skill gained through schooling or study.


Something acquired or gained
Added two new acquisitions to my library.


Is learning always intentional?

Yes, learning is typically intentional, involving conscious effort to gain knowledge or skills.

Is learning faster than acquisition?

Not necessarily. Learning can be quicker in structured environments, but acquisition can be more effective in natural settings.

Can you give an example of learning in everyday life?

Studying for a test or practicing a musical instrument are examples of learning.

What is an example of acquisition?

Picking up a local dialect by living in a specific region is an example of acquisition.

Is feedback important in the acquisition process?

Feedback is less formal in acquisition but can still play a role in natural and subconscious learning.

Is acquisition limited to language learning?

No, acquisition can apply to various skills and habits beyond language, like cultural norms.

Can learning be self-directed?

Yes, self-directed learning is possible, especially with resources like books, online courses, and tutorials.

Can acquisition occur without direct teaching?

Yes, acquisition often happens subconsciously without formal teaching, such as learning a language by exposure.

Can acquisition lead to fluency in a language?

Yes, language acquisition, especially in immersive environments, can lead to fluency.

Can learning occur at any age?

Yes, learning can happen at any age, though learning methods might vary across different life stages.

How does acquisition differ in children and adults?

Children often acquire skills more naturally and effortlessly, while adults may rely more on formal learning methods.

Do learning styles affect the learning process?

Yes, individual learning styles can significantly impact the effectiveness of the learning process.

Can learning be a social activity?

Yes, learning can be social, especially in group settings like classrooms or study groups.

Is learning more common in academic settings?

Yes, learning is often associated with formal education and structured academic settings.

Is learning always successful?

Not always. Success in learning depends on various factors like motivation, teaching methods, and individual aptitude.

Does learning require memory?

Yes, learning typically involves the use of memory for information retention and recall.

Is practice important in acquisition?

Practice is integral to acquisition, especially in skill development like language or musical instruments.

Can technology aid in learning?

Yes, technology can greatly aid learning through interactive tools, online resources, and educational software.

Can acquisition be enhanced?

Yes, providing a rich, immersive environment can enhance the acquisition process.

Does acquisition always lead to mastery?

Not necessarily. Mastery depends on the depth and consistency of the acquisition process.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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