In developing children, nothing can ever be as exciting as the appearance of language. Children have the capacity to grow from just uttering a few words to constructing complete sentences in a short time. According to Hoff (2008), the development of language starts in the womb. The fetus has the capacity to recognize the sound patterns and speech that the mother produces in her voice. This is the reason why by the time the infants reach four months, they can read lips and even differentiate sounds of their mothers (Hoff, 2008). Besides, it should be clear that, in addition to their own languages, infants have the capacity to differentiate among the speech sounds of all other languages. This ability; however, disappears as children approach their 10th month, and they begin identifying the speech sounds produced in their indigenous languages only (Saxton, 2013). Works from different researchers hold varying views regarding language development in children. For instance, Noam Chomsky, in his nativist theory, argues that language is a human quality, which is inherent (Saxton, 2013). Furthermore, he insists that language acquisition devices accompany children when they come into the world, and assist them to develop language the moment they acquire the essential vocabulary. On the contrary, in his behaviorist theory; Skinner argues that imitation and reinforcement leads to the materialization of language among developing children (Hoff, 2008). This paper discusses the interviewee’s responses, and their relation to the concepts, theorists and theories learnt in class. It covers the necessary approaches for working with children with language impairment. Finally, it discusses the most useful perspective that a person should embrace when working with children with language impairment.
In terms of language acquisition and development, it is essential for one to consider the viewpoints of five different theories: behaviorist, nativist, cognitive, information processing and social interaction. In considering behaviorist theory; for instance, the perspective is that children acquire oral language by observing other humans who serve as their role models (Singleton, & Shulman, 2013). In this theory, infants acquire language through practice, rewards and imitation. From the interview session that I had with the child specialist, it was clear that human role models praise children and show them affection for trying oral language as well speech patterns (Singleton, & Shulman, 2013). They, therefore, obtain their rewards through praises and affections. However, it should be clear that lack of rewards does not halt language acquisition in children. It is, also, worth noting that behaviorist theory is essential for acquisition of native language. It elaborates the development of traditional grammar among developing children (Hoff, 2008). This theory advances on the basis of interaction between stimulus and response that is observable. It regards all forms of learning as an establishment of habits, which occur as an aftermath of reinforcement and reward. Through babbling, babies learn native language by trying to imitate the words made by other persons around them. Rewarding babies for their babbling reinforces their articulation of words into proper grouping of syllables and words in same situations. They continue emitting sounds, and as they grow up, they make sentence combinations through generalization (Singleton, & Shulman, 2013).
Nativist theory, on the other hand, argues that language is something that is innate (Otto, 2009). That placing the child in the correct environment facilitates language to happen. All the child needs in this situation is environmental stimulation and suitable nutrition. In considering this theory, Otto (2009) contends that there are four main assumptions that govern language acquisition: it happens even without sufficient input, it happens even in the absence of direct instruction, it happens instantaneously, and finally, it happens rapidly. While learning language, children undergo stages making systematic errors to signify that many changes happen during development process. All these happen during primary stages before children can start embracing adult-like skills in comprehension and production of a first language. This theory embraces a biological ideology that infants contain language as an innate feature. According to Singleton and Shulman (2013), Noam Chomsky proposed Language Acquisition Device (LAD); a language organ that encompasses the nativist theory. However, various other researchers like Singleton and Shulman (2013) and Otto (2009) argue that development of language does not happen as fast as this theory claims; instead they argue that language acquisition is a gradual process. The main other limitation of nativist theory is that it does not consider various other languages that people speak around the world. This perspective; however, does not relate closely to the interview that we held with “Brian’s” mother. The responses from the interview indicated that “Brian’s” acquisition and development of language happened in a gradual process. It is, also, worth noting that there are various techniques for language acquisition and development. The first one is recasting and expansion (Otto, 2009). Expansion refers to the role that adults play by completing the rest of the sentence for the learning child. Recasting entails an adult engaging the child to complete the sentence on his/her own. The second technique entails the use of simplified speech by the adult. The third technique entails adults engaging in non-verbal games with children like pat-a-cake (Hoff, 2008).
The social interactionist approach holds the view that interactions of various factors such as social, cognitive, linguistic, and physical collectively influence the acquisition of language (Owens, 2008). There are always people in the environment of children who always speak to them. This interaction plays a crucial role in the way the child acquires the native language. In this perspective, there are arguments both for the role of nature and nurture. Interactionists, also, claim that babies have the brains that incline them to the capacity to acquire languages. This capacity, also, grows their desire to want to communicate. This perspective, also, covers part of the interview that we had with “Brian’s” mother and the child specialist. From the two interviews, it was noticeable that everybody like engaging babies in baby talk, and this plays a crucial role of exposing babies to language. Vygotsky being one of the proponents of this theory Otto (2009), proposed two crucial socio-cultural models of human development: the first one is that the behavior develops inside the child following his/her observation of the interaction among other people. This means that the child learns communication from the surrounding adults. The second model is that adults play great responsibilities of leading children and later on leaving them to solve problems on their own. This means that, for the child to learn well, there must be an adult to lead the process. This argument, also, reflects the responses from the two interviews where adults facilitate language development in children as they talk to them, children learn to respond. This enables children to develop from gurgling to formation of correct sentences.
In terms of information processing, researchers in cognitive psychology are still working on the appropriate model regarding the way human beings learn and process information (Saxton, 2013). This perspective argues that, for children to learn and develop language, they pay attention to certain language aspects in order to facilitate their attention. The assumption is that there is a limit regarding human attention at a particular moment. Saxton (2013) argues that, through practice and experience, children acquire the capacity to develop language without realizing it is happening. There are several principles to which various cognitive psychologists attest in information processing perspective. Firstly, they all acknowledge that the mental system of human beings have limited capacity (Owens, 2008). This implies that there are crucial ways that control the quantity of information that requires undergoing processing. The second principle is that there is a two-way transmission of information in information processing perspective as people attempt to make sense of the world that surrounds them (Owens, 2008). The argument is that people use the information they contain in their memories, and that which they collect via their senses.
In working with the children, the most useful perspective to me and the children is the cognitive theory of language acquisition. This is especially emphasized in Jean piaget’s theory of child development. The reliance was mainly on the clinical method, which acknowledges that child development happens in steps. This perspective purposely focuses on the mistakes that children make in their attempts to learn (Hoff, 2008). This is because the precursors of imitations, perceptions and elementary actions are embedded in babies. For instance, Piaget referred to stage one as the sensorimotor stage, which takes from 0-2 years (Hoff, 2008). This stage entails acquiring knowledge through five senses. The second stage, which children undergo, is called preoperational stage and it takes 2-7 years (Hoff, 2008). It entails one-way logic where children acquire the ability to make use of symbols. The third stage is the concrete operational stage, and takes 7-11 years (Hoff, 2008). During this stage, children do things that they able to think about. The fourth stage is the formal operational stage, which starts from 11 years to adulthood (Hoff, 2008). It is during this stage that people embrace abstract thinking. This is the perspective that I found more useful than other perspectives when working with children. This is because it regards people as having the innate ability to advance logical thinking. This similar case applies to children in regards to learning and acquiring language.
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