What is Language Acquisition and Why Should You Understand It?
Language is a complex and dynamic system of communication that involves the use of symbols, sounds, or gestures to convey meaning. However, what is language acquisition actually, and what are its differences with language learning?
As a fundamental tool for human expression, understanding language acquisition is important to allow someone to share thoughts, emotions, ideas, and information. Let's delve into the theories here.
First Things First, What is Language Acquisition?
To put it simply, language acquisition is the complex process by which individuals develop the ability to perceive, understand, and use language for effective communication.
This intricate phenomenon involves the acquisition of various linguistic components, such as phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics.
At its essence, language acquisition is the journey of gaining the capability to comprehend and produce spoken or signed words and sentences. It goes beyond mere expansion of vocabulary, delving into a nuanced understanding of language structures, rules, and representations.
The Differences between Language Acquisition and Language Learning
The terms "language acquisition" and "language learning" may seem interchangeable, but they are actually different. In terms of linguistic exploration, understanding the differences is essential for effective communication and educational strategies. Here are the detailed explanations:
Fundamentally, language learning involves a conscious, intentional effort to gain language knowledge through active study and formal teaching methods.
It follows a structured approach, often observed in classroom settings, where individuals actively delve into understanding grammar rules, expanding vocabulary, and grasping linguistic nuances.
This process is comparable to learning a second language as part of academic requirements or through formal instruction.
On the other hand, language acquisition is a more subconscious, natural process reminiscent of how children effortlessly pick up their first language through exposure and interaction.
This innate ability to acquire language occurs organically through meaningful experiences, mirroring how children effortlessly absorb their native language from the surrounding environment.
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Language Selection in Language Acquisition
The IB Diploma Programme (DP) at BINUS SCHOOL Simprug acknowledges the importance of linguistic competence and provides language acquisition courses, including:
French Ab Initio
Each course is tailored to students at various proficiency levels. The B level focuses on developing students' ability to speak and write effectively in a language. Meanwhile, the Ab Initio is a course tailored for beginners, introducing students to the fundamentals of a language.
BINUS SCHOOL Simprug's Diploma Programme
Three Main Areas of Language Acquisition
After understanding what language acquisition is, you should also know that language acquisition has a diverse spectrum/areas. It encompasses three primary domains:
This pertains to acquiring one's native language, commonly observed in child language acquisition.
Bilingual language acquisition
Involves the process of learning two native languages simultaneously.
Encompasses the learning of a foreign language. Interestingly, infants' brains exhibit a higher aptitude for language learning compared to adult brains.
Stages of Language Acquisition
Language acquisition in children unfolds in a series of fascinating stages, showcasing the remarkable progression from babbling sounds to coherent expressions. Here are the details you should know:
The Babbling Stage (3-8 months)
In this initial stage, typically occurring between 3 to 8 months, children embark on the exploration of sounds.
Although not producing recognizable words, they engage in babbling activities, experimenting with their emerging vocal abilities.
The One-Word Stage (9-18 months)
Progressing to the one-word stage, which spans from 9 to 18 months, children begin uttering their first discernible words.
For instance, they might use the term 'dog' to refer to various fluffy animals, showcasing early lexical development.
The Two-Word Stage (18-24 months)
As language skills evolve, the two-word stage emerges, typically between 18 to 24 months. Children now engage in basic communication using two-word phrases.
For example, they might say 'cat meow' to convey that the cat is meowing or daddy home' to express the presence of their father.
The Multi-Word Stage or Telegraphic Stage (24-30 months)
Advancing further, the multi-word stage unfolds between 24 to 30 months. Children now weave longer and more complex sentences, demonstrating enhanced linguistic proficiency.
For instance, they might construct sentences like 'Mummy and Chloe go school now,' indicating a grasp of sentence structure and conjunctions.
The Importance of Understanding Language Acquisition
According to the definition of what is language acquisition, there are several reasons why a deep understanding of this matter is important. One of them is to optimize human communication skills.
Language acquisition knowledge enhances an individual's communication skills. Understanding the grammatical structures, vocabulary expansion, and syntactic intricacies empowers language learners to express themselves more fluently and precisely
BINUS SCHOOL Simprug's Middle Years Programme
Several Theories About Language Acquisition that You Should Know
Now that you understand the answer of the question ‘what is language acquisition’ and its importance, several theories about language acquisition are important to know, including:
Cognitive theory by Jean Piaget posits that children progress through stages of language development in tandem with cognitive growth.
According to Piaget, children must grasp certain cognitive concepts before they can articulate them linguistically. For instance, understanding the concept of past tense precedes using verbs in the past tense.
Behavioural Theory (Imitation Theory)
Behavioural theory, associated with B.F. Skinner, suggests that children learn language by imitating their caregivers and adjusting their language use through operant conditioning.
Skinner's theory underscores the role of environmental influences in shaping language acquisition. Children are either rewarded for correct language usage or face consequences for mistakes, shaping their linguistic behaviour.
Nativist Theory and Language Acquisition Device
This theory pioneered by Noam Chomsky, asserts that children are born with an innate capacity to learn language, supported by a theoretical "Language Acquisition Device" (LAD) in the brain.
Chomsky's theory challenges the notion that language acquisition is purely imitative.
Advocated by Jerome Bruner, this theory emphasizes the crucial role of caregivers in language acquisition. Regular interaction, termed 'scaffolding,' supports children in achieving full language fluency.
In this theory, caregivers, parents, or teachers employ child-directed speech (CDS) with features like higher pitch and simplified words to enhance communication.
Halliday's Functions of Language
Michael Halliday proposed seven stages reflecting the evolving functions of a child's language as they grow.
From basic instrumental language for needs to imaginative language, each stage signifies a progression in a child's ability to express themselves.
To learn more about what is language acquisition and its importance for your children's education, BINUS SCHOOL Simprug incorporates these insights into the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme.
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