Language Learning Essay Sample

Language Learning

Language learning for infants and young children is specified by social influence on the formation of infants’ consciousness. The language implements not only a function of delivery of the meaning of thoughts but also the function of expressing emotions and relationships, influencing the behavior of others, and coordinating complex activities inside of the groups. Since birth, infants are involved in the system of social relations, which are dependent on language. These relations provide infants with the concentrated knowledge and experiences of all humankind from the early hominids to children’s parents. The other possible explanation of this phenomenon is based on high levels of infants’ brain perception and the constant influence of speech as the sound that accompanies events.

First, the social influence on the learning language can be explained by the imitation of adult behavior in order to get some social approval. However, according to Whitehurst and Vasta (1975), imitation can affect only the first period of infants’ development. Further, the imitation only helps to correct pronunciation, but it does not generate the way of understanding and association. It does not implement semantic context of the speech either. To confirm this assumption, it is necessary to provide an example of feral children studied by Gesell Arnold (Gesell, 1926) and others. The results of the research make it possible to state that despite the theory of Chomsky (1965), the innate mechanisms of perception and learning of speech by infants and children are not a sufficient factor for language acquisition. Mowgli children were not able to learn human speech after separation from the pack they grew up in. Thus, the main condition of language learning for children and infants is social approval and example of adults. In particular, a mother involves the infant in the process of primary socialization and generates his/her set of values and is teaching language and correct speech construction (Fernald et al., 1993), which affects gender-specified speech stylistics (unless the mother is not represented in the infants’ life as a result of difficult circumstances). In the absence of a mother, there is always a person or a group of people who influence the formation of a child’s personality and the child’s language learning. However, the results of such influence require further study within longitudinal experiment.

Second, the ethnopsychological features of education would form a special system of language learning, which is based on previous experience of the group (Ji, et al., 2004). Thus, open groups (nations that are in the constant contact with the world) provide a great influence on formation of infants’ worldview and learning a language, which is significantly different is from the one pledged by closed groups (isolated communities from semi-wild tribes to the cultists’ communities). Thus, the language learning by infants and children appears as the factor of primary socialization and inheritance of archetypes and values of their group. The situation with the children of national minorities living in developed countries is much more sophisticated. In certain cases (for example, the ethnic groups on the territory of the US), language learning by children is characterized with ideological influence that allows to create a denominator for the entire population of the state. The absence or weakening of the control leads to the domination of psycholinguistic features of ethnic language, which leads to desocialization and can cause delinquent behavior.

Lastly, infants and young children have more neurons actively creating new connections than adults do, so their brain has more capabilities of absorbing information. As a result, the psyche of children is more receptive to information. Skinner argued that, “Children learn language based on behaviorist reinforcement principles by associating words with meanings. Correct utterances are positively reinforced when the child realizes the communicative value of words and phrases” (Skinner, 1957). The interaction of the biological need for information and the positive reinforcement in the process of learning the language makes it possible to look at the processes of a child’s language learning from the materialistic point of view. Thus, according to Kuhl (2004), a child has age-specified perception of information and, therefore, language learning (including crisis moments, when the check of experience occurs and new psychological structures in the personality of a child emerge).

In conclusion, the process of a child's speech learning is derived from the biological aspiration to accumulate knowledge. However, the understanding of a language and the system of semantic meanings is caused by the influence of social environment on the child. With language learning, the system of values and the entire set of subconscious totems and taboos, which were formed by a group in which a child was raised, injects to the child’s worldview together with the meaning of words and phrases.

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