English Language Learning in the Malaysian School Setting: Where Can We Find 10,000 Hours? A Theoretical Perspective

George Iber


In these days of standardized assessments in education  that seek to measure the rate of learning in all subject matters, the question is seldom asked, “Just how long does it take to become proficient?” No matter the subject, we all agree that some amount of practice is necessary for basic proficiency and that more will be needed to really master a skill or subject area.  But how much is difficult to say because different individuals come to the task with different levels of motivation and opportunity to learn.  In the case of learning a second or foreign language different theories predict that a two to five year “structured exposure” is needed for either a basic communication or an academic level of proficiency (Cummins, 1980) respectively. This paper proposes that the range can be described in terms of hours. Based on the concept from Outliers by Gladwell (2008), this paper proposes that 10,000 hours is the target “time-on-task” required for academic proficiency in second language learning.  The implications for school language study is readily apparent. If we want academically proficient second language speakers, those individuals will need to have access to the target language in numbers vastly greater than school can provide in its standard curriculum.

Keywords:  Second language learning, curriculum development, foreign language learning, time-on-task, international education, exchange programs, English as a foreign language

1. Introduction

Full Text:



Cummins, J. (1980). The construct of language proficiency in bilingual education. In Georgetown University Roundtable on Language and Linguistics 1980. Edited by James E. Alatis. Washington DC: Georgetown University Press. P. 81 – 103.

Davidson, D. E.. (2007). Study Abroad and Outcomes Measurements: The Case of Russian. The Modern Language Journal, 91(2), 276–280. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/4626014

Davidson, D. E. (2010), Study Abroad: When, How Long, and With What Results? New Data From the Russian Front. Foreign Language Annals, 43: 6–26. doi: 10.1111/j.1944-9720.2010.01057.x

Gladwell, M. 2008. Outliers: The story of success. Little, Brown and Company, New York.

Iber, George L. (2014). Iber, G. (2014). English language teaching in Malaysia: The case for a dual track English curriculum [Short Communication]. Advances In Language And Literary Studies, 5(4), 68-71. Retrieved fromhttp://www.journals.aiac.org.au/index.php/alls/article/view/428/366 Australia.

Kachru, B. (1990) The alchemy of English: the spread, functions, and models of non-native Englishes, University of Illinois Press.

Krashen, S. (1982). Krashen, S. 1978. The monitor model for second-language acquisition. In: Second-language acquisition and foreign language teaching. Edited by R. C. Gingras. Arlington,Va.: Center for Applied Linguistics

Lewis, M. Paul, Gary F. Simons, and Charles D. Fenning (eds) (2015). Ethnologue: Languages of the World, 18th ed. Dallas, Texas: SIL International. Online version: www.ethnologue.com

Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013 – 2025. (2012). Ministry of Education, Malaysia.

New Straies Times. (2016) Unemployed because they can’t speak English. Retrieved February 15, 2016: Malaysia. http://www.nst.com.my/news/2016/02/125529/unemployed-because-they-cant- speak-english

Onwuegbizie, A., Bailey, P., & Daley, C. (2000) Cognitive, affective, personality, and demographic predictors of foreign-language achievement, The Journal of Educational Research, 94, 3-15.

Sasaki, M. (2007). Effects of Study-Abroad Experiences on EFL Writers: A Multiple-Data Analysis. The Modern Language Journal, 91(4), 602–620. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/4626088

United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2014). World Urbanization Prospects: The 2014 Revision. Table A-1, p 198.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

2010-2023 (CC-BY) Australian International Academic Centre PTY.LTD.

Advances in Language and Literary Studies

You may require to add the 'aiac.org.au' domain to your e-mail 'safe list’ If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox'. Otherwise, you may check your 'Spam mail' or 'junk mail' folders.