Write an essay on language acquisition.
In trying to understand language acquisition it is better that we look at the words language and acquisition separately. The word language can be regarded as the primary method of human communication. It is important to also note that although there are some other patterns of communication; language is quite unique since it's characterized by the verbal and also written components (DeHouwer, 2011 p.57).The term acquisition, on the other hand, refers to the process of developing and learning a particular skill or behaviour.
Language acquisition can, therefore, be regarded as the systematic processes by which human beings acquire the capacity to both perceive and comprehend a particular language. Language acquisition is quite complex and many times it is often pinned to the first language acquisition rather than second language acquisition
Well, this particular write up is going to look at language acquisition in depth and consider the various theories of language learning but particularly the cognitive theory of language learning, what it entails and what is it that we actually learn from this particular theory.
There are quite a number of language acquisition theories and each of these theories brings with it a totally different perspective and thought of language learning, both first and second language acquisition. Some of the diverse theories in language acquisition consist of the behaviourists, innatist and the cognitive theories. All these theories depict a very different understanding as far as language acquisition is concerned.
As stated above, the main focus of this particular write up is to prove a much deeper and wider understanding of the cognitive theory and how it works, we are therefore just going to highlight in these two theories, the behaviourist theory, and the innatist theory so that one would be in a position to have an insight on what they mean.
The behaviourist theory-This theory reinstates that language is just like a behaviour and it often learned just like any other behaviour either through positive or negative reinforcements. Solid examples and normal happenings have been related to this theory. For instance, an infant or any child for that matter would make a mimicking sound that he/she hears from the people around him especially the adults. The child would copy the behaviour of the adult around and try to behave just like them but in this case in form of a mimicking sound (The Douglas Fir Group, 2016 p.29).
This theory has been regarded as a psychological theory and was originally founded and developed by J.B Watson and it's more of native language learning. The main principle of this particular theory has been pegged to the analysis of the coherent human behaviour and the significant observable stimuli-response (McLaughlin, 2013,p.88).There are some very crucial strategies of language learning under this theory and these are imitations, rewarding and also reinforcements. It's basically a process of learning that teachers and also encourage the learners to come up and construct phrases and sentences that they observe and see others around them do and say.
Under this theory for example it has been clearly stated that it's often not possible and highly unlikely to find that children learn at the same rate/speed. Each and every person has their own speed and pace of learning and is usually greatly dependent on the conditions and immediate environment that the child has been exposed to. This theory has proven to be dependent and reliable only at the infancy stage, it has also proven this for animal experimentation.
The innatist theory-This theory is quite different from the others in the sense that unlike the other theories, the innatist theory dictates that learning is natural for human beings and it is believed that babies get into the world with an inbuilt capability and some kind of biological propensity that allows and enables them to learn the various types of languages (The Douglas Fir Group, 2016 p.36).
This theory for example has been used to explain the reasons why children can easily invent an also generate languages that they have never heard before or that have never even existed in the first place. This theory is solely and mainly concerned with the first language acquisition. Here the theory dictates that human beings have the natural access to the knowledge that is usually processed innately.
It is important to note that although this theory provides a solid and a more reasonable explanation as far as language acquisition is concerned, it also likes some sufficient amount of evidence to these claims (VanPatten & Williams, 2014,p.56).There are some cases that have been raised against this theory and they are much more reasonable than the theory itself. They expose the deficiencies and some important features that make this theory not reliable.
The cognitive theory of language learning-The cognitive theory is much more of a mental theory; this simply means that there are some habits that unconsciously happen in our brains that makes us respond to certain actions and information that has been passed to us (The Douglas Fir Group, 2016 p.68).
This theory has existed for quite some time now and there are certain factors that influenced the development of the cognitive theory. Some of these factors are explained below;
Experimental psychology-This is one of the factors that resulted in the development of the cognitive theory of language acquisition. This factor basically emphasized on how the human memory was jogged and laid down by using quite insignificant syllables. This factor focused on and tried to explain the fact that not all forms of learning can be explained through behaviours that are observable; there are some instances where learning can be explained by the unobservable behaviours.
Computer and artificial intelligence-This factor brought about the relationship that existed between computers and the cognitive theory. Based on this factor, the computer is more of a cognitive function while the brain is just a mere computing tool. To be particular, the cognitive theory comprised of an information processing unit and the input and output devices (DeHouwer, 2011p.213).For quite some now it has always been assumed that language is learned separately form most of the cognitive skills and operates in line with some very fundamental principles that differ significantly from most of the learned behaviour.
Here mental processing plays a very crucial role in both the learning and acquisition processes. It is indeed regarded as the basic mediating variable that influences the learning of some very important external information to the learner (Slobin, 2014, p.78). The mental capacity also oversees quite a number of activities in language learning and acquisition such as task characteristics, complexity and also internal influences for instance motivation and the ability to learn and master the language even much quicker. This theory is more of mental; it tries to get into the mental structure of the child and examines the types of thinking processes that actually take place. This theory clearly states that any child whatsoever will not be in a position to learn any new language until they are intellectually ready.
As the depicted by the Swiss psychologist Jean Plaget, this theories clearly dictates that for a child to master and be in a position to lean any language then it is compulsory that they have a possession of a certain psychological capacity or that fundamental cognitive ability before they can embark on the processes of learning certain aspects about a particular language (The Douglas Fir Group, 2016 p.179). This Swiss psychologist believed that the whole concept of language acquisition is in line and somewhat directly related to the child's mental and intellectual development. He also argued that it is a very systematic process where the child first by understanding the concepts of the language then later with time depending on certain factors the child slowly and systematically acquires the words and right pattern to convey the message they intend to. In conveying of the intended message, it is also important to note that the much simpler ideas and concepts would be conveyed much earlier that the more complex ones.
Cognitive Theory of Language Learning
A good example is of how these cognitive theory works are that in all levels of dimensions then the child must first possess the mental ability to people or even things around him/her exists even when they are totally out of sight at that particular moment (DeHouwer, 2011 p.349). Not being in a position to understand simple things such as this makes it even much difficult for the child to understand and also respond to simple questions such as how their day was and where the parents are. Even when their parents are not around they should be in a position to recognize that and still appreciate that their parents still exists it's just that they are not present at that particular moment. This is a cognitive ability that s referred to as object performance.
Individual cognitive development is considered as a solitary act, this coupled with biological timetables and various stages of development were considered to be very basic in understanding the process and concept of language acquisition (Hyams, 2012, p.226). This theory has been said to be more direct and also much intuitively correct since most of the times it is common logic that older a much-developed children could definitely learn how to speak and also play much easier than the less developed ones. It was considered as a much predictable theory since based on the mental capabilities then one would definitely know that the much older and more developed children would do much better than the young and less developed children as by all measures they were much more intellectually able (Saville-Troike & Barto,2016,p.66) .This is not the case, however, since research conducted and also statistics have clearly shown and proven that a younger child would be in a position to learn a second language much more easily than an older adolescent. It is not actually straightforward as people thought it was but it solely reliant and dependent on a developing intellect that the younger kind possesses.
The cognitive theory also tries to explain the second language acquisition. Unlike the first language acquisition, cognitive theory sees the second language learning and acquisition as a much more conscious and reasoned thinking process that involves learning strategies(DeHouwer, 2011 p.363). Learning strategies are considered to be a much unique and special way of processing very vital information that somehow assists the comprehension and retention of very vital information. This is in direct contrary with the behaviourist theory of language learning which sees language learning as an unconscious and automatic process.
There are various theories that explain the aspect of language acquisition and learning. These theories have been highlighted above and a brief description is given on how each and every one of its states. The cognitive theory has been regarded to be more reliable despite the fact that all these three theories can be used to complement each other at a much greater degree and helps in the understanding the general aspect of language learning and acquisition.
The cognitive theory is very essential and it has proven to be reliable in explaining the art of language learning and acquisition. It is considered as a compromise between the innatist and behaviourist theory is what gives it the credibility it deserves. It is reliable in the sense that it explains the majority of language acquisition questions that the innatist and behaviourists theories cannot address.
It is also important to note that despite of its significant reliability and the fact that clearly helps in the explanation of the concept of language learning and acquisition in a much simpler manner, this theory does not explain how the language emerges in the first place (Richards, 2015, p.115). It has also been proven that apes have the ability to develop in the same way as young children but the aspect of language acquisition does not naturally come in handy with this development. The common bees also have and often develop that cognitive ability to respond to various colors and shades but have not been seen under any circumstance whatsoever developing any communication patterns and signals regarding to that. This greatly affects and compromises the cognitive theory of language acquisition.
DeHouwer (2011). Language input environments and language development in bilingual acquisition. In Li Wei, (Ed.), Applied Linguistics Review, 2011: 221 239.
The Douglas Fir Group (2016) A transdisciplinary framework for SLA in a multilingual world. The Modern Language Journal, 100. pp.19-47. DOI:10.11/modl.123010026-7902/16/19-47.
McLaughlin, B., 2013. Second language acquisition in childhood: Volume 2: School-age Children. Psychology Press.
VanPatten, B. and Williams, J. eds., 2014. Theories in second language acquisition: An introduction. Routledge.
Hyams, N., 2012. Language acquisition and the theory of parameters (Vol. 3). Springer Science & Business Media.
Saville-Troike, M. and Barto, K., 2016. Introducing second language acquisition. Cambridge University Press.
Richards, J.C., 2015. Error analysis: Perspectives on second language acquisition. Routledge.
Slobin, D.I. ed., 2014. The crosslinguistic study of language acquisition (Vol. 4). Psychology Press.
To export a reference to this article please select a referencing stye below:
My Assignment Help. (2021). Understanding Language Acquisition: Theories And Processes. Retrieved from https://myassignmenthelp.com/free-samples/tesl9002p-language-acquisition/a-report-on-language-acquisition.html.
"Understanding Language Acquisition: Theories And Processes." My Assignment Help, 2021, https://myassignmenthelp.com/free-samples/tesl9002p-language-acquisition/a-report-on-language-acquisition.html.
My Assignment Help (2021) Understanding Language Acquisition: Theories And Processes [Online]. Available from: https://myassignmenthelp.com/free-samples/tesl9002p-language-acquisition/a-report-on-language-acquisition.html
[Accessed 26 February 2024].
My Assignment Help. 'Understanding Language Acquisition: Theories And Processes' (My Assignment Help, 2021) <https://myassignmenthelp.com/free-samples/tesl9002p-language-acquisition/a-report-on-language-acquisition.html> accessed 26 February 2024.
My Assignment Help. Understanding Language Acquisition: Theories And Processes [Internet]. My Assignment Help. 2021 [cited 26 February 2024]. Available from: https://myassignmenthelp.com/free-samples/tesl9002p-language-acquisition/a-report-on-language-acquisition.html.