A term applied to language learners of any age in the initial stages of acquisition of a language other than their mother tongue. A distinction can be made between ‘absolute or real’ beginners, who exhibit no knowledge of the language (what Stevick, 1986, terms ‘pre-beginners’) and ‘false beginners’, who may have experienced previous instruction, incidental exposure to the language, or be self-taught. Their knowledge is ‘dormant’.
Beginner learners are by no means a homogeneous group but bring to the classroom diverse backgrounds and highly varied personal characteristics and learning factors. These include: