This paper is a case study of the untutored acquisition of English by a 33 year old Costa Rican named Alberto. His language learning was examined longitudinally for a ten month period. During that time he evidenced very little linguistic growth. Three causes for Alberto's lack of development are considered: ability, age, and social and psychological distance. Performance on a test of adaptive intelligence indicated that lack of ability is not adequate to explain his acquisition pattern. Also, due to the inadequacy of the arguments for a biological critical period in language acquisition, age is also rejected as a cause. However, Alberto's English speech showed evidence of pidginization. Pidginization is seen as the result of the learner's social and psychological distance from speakers of the target language. Hence, it is argued that Alberto's lack of development in English is the result of his social and psychological distance from native speakers of English.