Language Development

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Language development is not only about the evolution of the language system but it is intrinsically linked to cognitive development and context of language learning.

According to Jean Piaget ( a Swiss developmental psychologist and philosopher) language development follows that of thinking that is the representational capacity that occurs during early childhood cognitive development.

The language acquisition occurs in four stages:

  • THE SENSORIMOTOR STAGE : ( 2 years old) in this stage the emphasis is on movement and physical reactions. the baby experiments what with her mouth can do just as she experiments what with her hands can do.
  • THE PREOPERATIONAL STAGE: (2-7 years old) . This stage is characterized by egocentricity . The child seems to talk constantly but much of what he says does not need to be said out loud. He is able to understand only his point of view.

3)THE CONCRETE OPERATIONAL STAGE: (7-11 years old) The child is able to use logic and solving problems in the form of stories but language is only used to refer to specific and concret facts, not to mental concepts.

4)THE FORMAL OPERATIONAL STAGE: this stage begins at age 11 or 12. At this stage the child can start to use abstract reason and to make a mental distinction between him self and and idea he is considering.

SECOND LANGUAGE ACQUISITION

Different studies showed that the process of Second Language Acquisition occurs in 5 stages.

1) the first stage is Preproduction and is also referred to as “the silent period” where learners gradually build up their vocabulary to about 500 words without speaking the language but more echoing the language.

2) the second stage is  called Early Production and at this stage learners will have around 1000 word vocabulary . Learners are able to construct short phrases but not to engage a conversation.

3) The third stage, Speech Emergence, where learners have acquired around 3000 words and should be able to speak short sentences and simple phrases. Now learners should be able to engage a conversation and to understand short stories.

4) The 4 th development stage is called Intermediate Fluency .Learners have an active vocabulary of 6000 words and they are able to formulate longer and more complex phrases both spoken and written with grammatical errors.

5)The last developing stage is called Advanced Fluency and by now the learners are considered near-native because they are able to speak fluently and to formulate phrases without grammatical errors.

Learners’ culture can be a barrier to second or foreign language learning. Cultural differences may cause confusion and cultural misunderstandings. Learners may have problems communicating with target native speakers because of cultural differences. Learning a second language means learning to speak and comprehend it.

So learners should be able to make correct assumptions about what interlocutors are saying. When both cultures differ in so many aspects learning is at risk.

Researchers have developed several methods of learning of the second language.

  • THE DIRECT METHOD : is a method that want to recreate the type of exposure enjoyed by children in the acquisition of  first language with ,for example, lessons in “mother tongue”. More attention was given to the spoken language and were avoided  lists of words and grammar explanations. The correct use of language was learned “accidentaly”.
  • AUDIO-LINGUAL METHOD: This approach to learning is similar to the Direct Method, in that the lesson takes place entirely in the target language.

              The method’s insistence on repetition and memorization of standard phrases    ignored the role of context and knowledge in language learning.

THE COMMUNICATIVE APPROACH: this is one the most recent and widespread method, created to edit the articiality of audio-lingual method . This “approach”  explains that the use of the language is more important than the grammar structures and is characterized by learning “everyday english” or the english(or another foreign language )for a  specific use ( for example medical staff exc…) The communicative approach is based on the idea that learning language successfully comes through having to communicate real meaning. When learners are involved in real communication, their natural strategies for language acquisition will be used, and this will allow them to learn to use the language.

FRANCESCA GALESI ©

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