Enculturation vs Acculturation: Difference and Comparison

The terms enculturation and acculturation are terms used in the study of sociology. Specifically, these two terms are related to the cultural section of sociology, to study a culture’s various values, beliefs, languages, and practices deeply.

Key Takeaways

  1. Enculturation is the process of learning and adopting the values, beliefs, and customs of one’s own culture; acculturation is the process of adapting to and adopting elements of a new or different culture.
  2. Enculturation occurs throughout a person’s life as they absorb the norms and practices of their native culture; acculturation happens when individuals or groups come into contact with another culture, often due to immigration or cultural exchange.
  3. Both enculturation and acculturation shape a person’s cultural identity and understanding, but enculturation focuses on acquiring one’s own culture, while acculturation involves adapting to a different cultural environment.

Enculturation vs Acculturation

The difference between enculturation and acculturation is that the former is how individuals attempt to learn about their culture through self-exploration and acquisition. The latter deals with intermixing the traditions of two different cultures.

Enculturation vs Acculturation

Enculturation is the process by which one learns about their culture independently and with the help of their acquisition. The individual here learns about their culture’s practices and the various other characteristics of it.

Acculturation is the process by which one mixes components of two different cultures. In sociological terms, this is called cultural interchange, and here the individual learns and adapts to the practices of the culture which they are not familiar with.


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Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonEnculturationAcculturation
DefinitionThe practice by which an individual learns their culture’s various values, beliefs, languages, and methods on their own.The process in which individuals attempt to learn a new culture or where a cultural interchange takes place.
Cultural familiarisationEnculturation is the first stage when familiarizing yourself with culture because one starts with their own culture.Acculturation is generally regarded as the second or third stage of cultural familiarization.
EssentialSufficient knowledge about one’s culture grants one an essential ability to survive in a society.Acquiring knowledge about another culture is beneficial but not essential for survival.
RegionsIndividual experiences enculturation as they grow up within the region or their place of birth.It is done by a person when they migrate to another region or reside in a place different from their native place.
InfluenceNo other culture plays any role in the process of enculturation.Here, generally, the dominant of the two cultures involved is the one with the most influence on the person.


What is Enculturation?

The term enculturation best describes a practice where a specific individual takes it upon themselves to learn their culture’s traditions, language, beliefs and values.

The person here only depends on their acquisition and no external source.

This process is the first step when concerning cultural familiarisation and is a necessary step that must be taken before moving on to any other culture.

In enculturation, one learns to blend with their exterior surroundings and make it part of their interior environment. The person adapts to their environment and understands the ways or the lay of the land.

Enculturation is an automatic process, as it occurs when a person is born and brought up in a region, their native place. The child grows up surrounded by the traditions of the land.

Also, a significant factor when talking about enculturation is that it is a way of becoming a part of the society you are surrounded by, and hence why it is essential for the survival of the individual.

By learning how to behave by understanding the characteristics of others in society, the person manages to live among them and flourish.

One thing to note about enculturation is that the culture in focus isn’t interfered with by any other cultures, and only the individual’s perception is studied under a microscope.


What is Acculturation?

The term acculturation refers to either adapting to a new and foreign culture or mixing the premise of a known culture with that of an unknown one. It would commonly be referred to as culture intermixing.

Acculturation is generally a second step in getting familiar with cultures, as it is figuring out and adapting to new cultures. People are acquainted with their own culture before they go on and learn new ones.

A person generally goes through acculturation when they have migrated to another region that is entirely different in terms of the traditions followed and languages are spoken.

It is not an essential process that one must go through to survive, but it does prove beneficial at times when an individual wish to reside permanently in a new country and wishes to blend in.

And one central point to be noted here is that when dealing with acculturation, we see collisions between two cultures, and an individual is allowed to mix the various practices of both cultures.

Still, in the end, the more dominant culture is the one that the person will abide by and follow.


Main Differences Between Enculturation and Acculturation

  1. Enculturation focuses on the culture of the individual, and they learn all about it on their own. Acculturation is when the individual tries to learn a different culture and their traditions or combine two cultures.
  2. Enculturation is the first step in cultural familiarisation, while acculturation comes long after and is the second step.
  3. Enculturation is essential for surviving in society, while in acculturation, acquiring knowledge about another culture is beneficial but not imperative or necessary for survival.
  4. Individuals experience enculturation as they grow up within the region or their place of birth, but acculturation is practised when residing in a foreign nation.
  5. In the process of enculturation, no other culture plays any role. In acculturation, the dominant of the two cultures involved is the one with the most influence on the person.
Difference Between Enculturation and Acculturation
  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0147176708001004
  2. https://tspace.library.utoronto.ca/bitstream/1807/11842/1/nq35180.pdf
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