Grammar competition has been proposed as a model for second language (L2) acquisition. Variational Learning provides a framework within which to investigate the idea of grammar competition as the model requires a marriage of quantitative properties of the input with Universal Grammar. A diachronic variational model of grammar competition is extended to second language acquisition (L2A) to explore verb-second word order optionality in L2 English. Patterns of L1-German–L2-English word order acquisition are reviewed in light of a study of classroom discourse as input to first language (L1) German speakers. A variational model of word order patterns in the input identifies differences in patterns of word order optionality, which may contribute to the trajectory of acquisition identified for L2 English.