Difference Between Assimilation and Acculturation

Main Difference Assimilation vs. Acculturation

Acculturation is the transfer of values and customs from one group to another while Assimilation is the cultural absorption of a minority group into the main cultural body.

Assimilation and acculturation are two major concepts in sociology and deal with the change in people. In simple terms, assimilation is the process by which a person or a group’s language and/or culture become similar to another culture or language. Acculturation is the exchange of cultural features that results when different groups come into continuous firsthand contact. This article will describe the two concepts separately and then move on to the difference between Assimilation and Acculturation.

What is assimilation?

Assimilation can be defined as the cultural absorption of a minority group into the main cultural body. This term is mostly used in terms of immigrants or minority groups. Here, the minority culture, or the group who was absorbed into the main culture, lose characteristics of their culture such as language, traditions and even their self-identity. Assimilation can be a quick process or a gradual change. When a person from the minority group is indistinguishable from others, it is called Full Assimilation. Assimilation could be spontaneous or forced. In assimilation, the original culture is replaced with the new one.

difference between assimilation and acculturation

What is Acculturation?

Acculturation is the transmission of values and customs from one group to another. Though the two groups exchange cultural features, the groups remain distinct. Though the term, acculturation is generally used to describe minority groups and immigrants, this process also takes place in major cultural groups as well. Though a person belonging to a minority factor begins to speak and act like those of major culture, he may retain some original customs, traditions and beliefs. That is to say, when a Japanese person immigrates to the US, he learns the cultural features of the major culture (American culture) such as English language, behavior patterns, food etc. But, in most instances, some culture features are transferred from the minority culture to the majority culture as well.( For example, Americans learn to eat sushi.) 

assimilation vs acculturation

Difference Between Assimilation and Acculturation


 Acculturation: Acculturation is the transfer of values and customs from one group to another.  

Assimilation: Assimilation is the cultural absorption of a minority group into the main cultural body.

Cultural Loss

Acculturation: In acculturation, people retain their original cultural features while adapting to the new culture.

Assimilation: In assimilation, people adopt the new culture and lose their original features.

Two-Way Process

Acculturation: Acculturation is a two way process.

Assimilation:Only the minority group gets absorbed into the majority group.

Image Courtesy:

“Tom Torlino Navajo  before and after circa 1882″ by John N. Choate (sometimes credited as J. N. Choate) *1848- ✝1902 – Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University [2]. via  

“Muslim Girl Footballers” by Michael Coghlan  via

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