Reaction paper

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Reaction paper

  1. 1. Reaction Paper One of our most amazing abilities as human beings is the capacity to acquire a language, theprocess of learning and developing new words and speech when we are only in our first yearsof existence. It has been a real challenge for scientists and specialists in the matter, to find onebig, complete and rational explanation to the process of language acquisition, which has beenpresent in every field of study at every level. Teachers have been instructing their subjects indifferent levels and types of language depending on their fields of study. Since kindergartenthrough basic school to high school, going through mathematics, science, biology and so on,teachers deliver an unconscious development of the language to their students in order to helpthem to gain language proficiency, which is fundamental for children and people in general tobe successful at school. But, are teachers aware about how the language is delivered orprocessed within a child’s mind? From which perspectives can we study the acquisition oflanguage? As future English educators, our main concern should be how to teach English as asecond language; in other words, we must help our future students to acquire a new language;therefore, we need to take consideration of the process of acquisition. This reaction paperrefers to chapters one and two about First Language Acquisition; it analyses some of thetheories and a variety of approaches delivered by important researchers and scientists withvery different points of view regarding the development of language acquisition in children. Many authors have come up with different ideas of how this process of acquisition works;therefore there is a variety of theories and approaches, such as the Behaviourist approach,which suggested that all kinds of learning, including language, took place as a process ofimitation and stimulus and response; they believed that the process of learning a language hadits inception when a child produced a sound and its keeper, whether a parent or a caregiverreinforced that action in a positive way. It was only a few years later that Chomskyemphasized the idea that the language was too difficult and complex to be learned through abehaviourist model such as Skinner’s, and so the behaviourist approach was replaced withanother view of learning, which indicated that human beings were born with cognitive abilities
  2. 2. and the process of learning was the result of the child acting within the environment; but afterestablishing this connection between child and environment, Lindfors (1987) brought to thetable a sequence of several problems related to behaviourism and its view regarding languagedevelopment, issues associated to speed of learning, the environment and animals and humanslearning by the process of stimulus and response, among others. Currently, new points of viewhave emerged to demonstrate, to give an answer and show different perspectives to firstlanguage acquisition and language itself; areas, such as psychology, which focuses on thechild and its development within the language and expresses that language and cognition arerelated, because they agree that children have a special cognitive ability for language learning.There are other areas focusing on the environment; that is the case of sociology andanthropology, which, at difference from psychology, examined the social aspects and nature oflanguage acquisition. According to these perspectives, language is essential for socialinteraction which is one of the bases of humanity, and this is why children develop whatHymes (1970) defines as communicative competence, the ability to understand and producesignificant language. Linguistics, on the other side, focuses on the language and suggests thatchildren acquire language by learning sentence patterns and rules to produce aspects of thelanguage, known as Chomsky’s theory of generative grammar, through a stimulus andresponse process. The author also refers to universal grammar, which is the innate knowledgeof language. Nowadays, is a matter of fact that children acquire their language because theyare constantly exposed to their mother tongue, paying unconscious attention to the languagethat surrounds them. Babies start babbling, cooing and crying, in order to communicate ideasto the environment. But throughout their growth they tend to imitate adults, being able tocomprehend a wide range of linguistic input. In the one hand, the Behavioral approaches arerelated to the positive response for a communicative action made by the child, like babbling,which creates a positive reinforcement and a subsequent repetition by imitation of thecommunicative action previously indicated. The Nativist approach, on the other hand,determines that language acquisition is an innate skill genetically determined by the humanbiology, accommodated in a certain area of the brain. This language acquisition device(Chomsky, 1965) would permit the existence of an ability to distinguish speech sounds fromother sounds in the environment, organize linguistic data to be refined later and, the ability toengage a constant evaluation of the current linguistic system in order to construct new inputs
  3. 3. to communicate (McNeill, 1966). On the contrary, the Functional approach stands, fromconstructivist perspectives, that children attend to the form of the language, not to thefunctional level of meaning created from social interactions. This means, language acquisitionis possible concerning the logical rules governing the language; whereas, the meaningfulfunctions of the language and interactive purposes are achieved from the forms. The studies of children’s language acquisition converged in language teaching and setdevelopments for language teaching methodologies that are used these days. Gouin (1880)came up with the conclusion that language learning is based on transforming perceptions intoconceptions, and children use language to represent their conceptions, to represent the waythey see the world, based on the way they have learned to see it, from the society they wererose up. Studies indicate language acquisition can be possible through the constant contactwith a certain language. In this case is acquired naturally, fluently and with all its features. Theanalyzed documents about first language acquisition give as a most accurate idea of howchildren acquire a language, what happens within their brains, the environment and the socialaspects that have influence on the development of the language and its mysteries. When itcomes to Freeman & Freeman’s chapter 1, we cannot avoid the idea that maybe one authorand its theory are not totally accurate with the final result of only one approach to identify thevariety of processes concerning language and its acquisition; but if we take into considerationeach one of the several approaches and theories explained in chapters one and two, we get abetter and clearer idea of what language acquisition is and the processes involved in it. Frompsychology, through anthropology, to linguistics and nativism, among others, each one ofthese areas of expertise put their arguments and beliefs on the table and if we take them all asone approach, we will be able to understand the process of language acquisition. Instead ofcriticizing each other to bring down their respective theories, the authors should work as ateam, if they did this, future parents and educators would have a clearer picture when it comesto the process of acquiring a language. Regarding Brown’s text, we believe languageacquisition is more related to a social phenomenon than determinism by genetics, because achild is able to speak according to the stimulus he receives from his social environment. Andas humans are social beings by nature, they always will try to communicate something; thus,
  4. 4. children are always receiving inputs that constantly process, and later sending messages inreward. Also, we cannot help to find interesting the fact that natural languages are equal forlearning. We didn’t know that gestural languages were considered natural languages as well,that surprised us. But we agree with Freeman’s assertion stating that the communicativecompetence comes from the social settings made by the background, which creates differencesin the usage of a language, related to differences into children’s speech communities. Otherpoint of information we found interesting as well, was the idea that children languageacquisition development goes from form to meaning, that is to say, children go to the messagebefore to know the rules of the language, which they discover through time. From that point ofview, we could say that children are more worried about what to say instead of how to say it. Most of the greatest researchers of linguistics and human development have tried toexplain how language is acquired from childhood to adulthood. Beneath that point scientistsfrom several disciplines have dedicated their lives to understand the process of languageacquisition in children. These researches are focused on the child as a high skilledcommunicative receiver, which is capable of catching the environment surrounding him, andto respond in the same way, by imitation, to his interlocutors. Moreover, there are somestudies that have demonstrated children are used to respond according to the context of theirspeech communities and social background. In addition to that, other theories are morefocused in the functioning of his brain, and the connections children tend to do during theprocess of language acquisition. Thorough this reaction paper theories and approachescontinued to appear, giving us new points of view, showing us different perspectives and aselected variety when it comes to the fields of study to discuss, analyzing the importance ofthe language acquisition development as pure theory and its application onto first and secondlanguage acquisition, in order to encourage future English teachers like us, to enhancedifferent teaching strategies supported by the first language acquisition process, in classes ofESL. Ma. Francisca Rojas Victoriano Alexander González

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