To connect, people use language. Therefore, language is a dynamic device used by humans when categorizing, grouping, and clarifying their thinking. Hearing, listening, writing, and ultimately reading are the sequences followed by children to learn vocabulary.
The concept of language learning in children is explained by four theories: interactionist, nativist, behaviorist, and cognitive development.
The hypotheses of nativist and cognitive growth observe that design is the fundamental pillar of language learning. In multiple cultures and environments, the nativist hypothesis indicates that children have an inborn method for learning syntax information. In other words, humans are naturally ‘wired’ to learn a language. The cognitive development theory, on the other hand, does not mention any inborn mechanisms. It states that language develops as soon as the ability to represent symbols in the mind occurs.
The behaviorist and the interactionist theories state that nurture is the most crucial aspect of language development. The difference between the two, however, is that whereas the behaviorist theory suggests learning through various reinforcements (operant conditioning and imitation), the interactionist theory argues that we acquire language by socially interacting with the environment. Lev Vygotsky, in the interactionist theory, observes that language acquisition is enhanced as infants, toddlers, and children communicate in different social contexts. The interactionist theorizes better the process of language development. It offers the theoretical perspective of language development. As such, it is easier to concur with it.
As language development occurs in children, several factors come into play that may enhance or derail the process. Delay occurs when children cannot comprehend or convey information according to the expected developmental milestones. It is often secondary to other physical and developmental shortcomings such as cerebral palsy, prematurity, traumatic brain injury, muscular dystrophy, or autism spectrum disorder, among others.
The factors that promote a child’s language development include family and early childhood experiences. Family members and early educators enhance children’s language development through telling stories, playing word games, reading books together, questions and conversations, and reciting rhymes and songs. The language development is also determined by the verbal environment or the words that the child hears as they grow. The higher the oral ‘professionalism’ in a family, the more likely children are to get new words.
Arguments have been raised as to how language and cognition are related. Some people argue that language precedes cognition and is the principal influence on thought development. Others believe that cognition is an essential determinant of language the pace of language development. The principal relationship is elicited by the fact that speech gives voice to thoughts. Also, internalized cognitive processes are silent. Language, therefore, enables the sharing of knowledge and information.
Language affects how students learn other subjects. For instance, a student with a language disorder may not have the planning, sequencing, and problem-solving understanding required to solve mathematical problems and equations. Additionally, children suffering from auditory processing disorders may forget the lyrics to a song or its rhythm while studying art/music. Lastly, in gym classes, children with language problems may fail to follow the left and right concepts as well as up and down spatial relationships.
Family influences the way a child acquires language. Parents are quite essential in the early stages as they are the first teachers. Also, the words the children hear from family members determine their vocabulary enhancement. Children from low-income families lag behind in language development because the parents have to work to sustain the family. Additionally, the children attend low-end schools.
Culture influence in language is evident in how some countries describe a concept using several words while others use only one word to tell the same concept. The society also has its contribution to language development. It controls language usage by dictating which words are acceptable and which ones may sound offensive. The number of languages spoken in a specific society can as well influence how a child acquires language.
To promote an integrated model of literacy, one would encourage book reading, have guided conversations, and engage in productive and positive talk. These three, as described in the text, are the main pillars in language development.
Early Childhood Development. Module 1 – Language Development & Early Literacy.