Acquisition of Language and Reading

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Aukrust (2011) provides informative information, particularly in reading and writing, about language and reading acquisition. I had no idea prior to the lessons on this subject that, to begin with, there were various viewpoints on language learning. I discovered three fascinating perspectives on language learning when researching the issue of ‘Language and Literacy in Education Settings’: the behavioral perspective, the cognitive perspective (social cognitive approach) and the sociocultural perspective (Vygotskian tradition). The behavioral perspective of language acquisition dictates that “language learning takes place when the stimuli in the environment become associated with internal responses (Aukrust, 2011).” Through classical and operant conditioning, imitation and training, the child develops and acquires language. However, cognitive perspective theorist such as Tomasello and Nelson argue through a socio-cognitive approach that it is through “joint attention, intention reading, perspective talking, and communicative collaboration (Aukrust, 2011)” that a child learns a language. That is, language and cognitive development cannot be separated; each depends on the other. Moreover, the Vygotskian tradition of the sociocultural perspective, through the support of adults the child can understand the meaning of words around his/her social and cultural surrounding. The environment and the adults provide the child with the learning environment to acquire language.

All the three perspectives offer different ideas on language acquisition that need to be internalized when it comes to educating a child or any learner. As an educator, one is bound to come into contact with and English language learner (ELL) especially in US today (Moeller & Catalano, 2015). To make curricular more accessible to ELLs, learning and understanding these theories is important. Moreover, teachers and administrators that understand these theories better understand what the ELLs are going through, thereby providing them with the required support.

As a student, I understand the critical role of language in learning; more precisely the role of academic language in literacy acquisition. The cognitive/psycholinguistic perspective, explains that the distinctive features of the academic language such as the dense information load and the diversity and preciseness combined with cognitive achievement result to the mastery of content (Aukrust, 2011). That is, understanding the language involves understanding how to represent the message, represent oneself as well as to construct discourse properly. Through grade levels to this point, our teachers have used my level of academic language to determine how much knowledge I have garnered in any field taught. This is echoed by the sociocultural perspective of the academic language. That is, the student’s success is based on their ability to cope with the academic language (Aukrust, 2011). The more one copes, the more they learn. Personally, my struggles in science subjects particularly Chemistry has been down to my poor comprehension of its academic language, and as school years went by, the lack of proper understating of the language presented barriers to further understanding in the field of chemistry.

I have a friend who happens to be an ELL. Now that I understand the value of motivation in reading and writing, I will be able to enhance his interest in learning English through interactive reading and writing one or twice each week. Using books about their the Egyptian culture, his place of birth, I think I will be able to not only make reading and writing interesting but also enhance his vocabulary while doing so. This is a better way for him to learn since it will take into account his prior knowledge and develop language from that point.

In conclusion, learning about language and reading acquisition, one can understand why he/she has a problem comprehending certain information. Using the different perspectives, one can be able to pinpoint his strength and well as those of others and work towards developing knowledge in areas they have difficulties in.

References

Aukrust, V. G (2011). Learning and Cognition in Education. Oxford, UK: Elsevier

 Moeller, A. & Catalano, T. (2015). Foreign Language Teaching and Learning. International Encyclopedia Of The Social & Behavioral Sciences, 327-332. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/b978-0-08-097086-8.92082-8

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