They compare it to other cognitive and perceptual learning, including learning to 'see'.
Table of Contents for: How languages are learned
Language disorders and delays Although most children progress through the stages of language development without significant difficulty or delay, there are some children for whom this is not the case. A discussion of the various types of disabilitiesincluding deafness, articulatory problems, dyslexia, etc. It is essential that parents and reachers be encouraged to seek professional advice if they feel that a child is not developing language normally, keeping in mind that the range for 'normal' is wide indeed.
While most children produce recognizable first words by rwelve months, some may not speak before the age of three years. In very young children, one way to determine whether delayed language reflects a problem or simply an individual difference within the normal range is to determine whether the child responds to language and appears to understand even if he or she is not speaking. For older children, delays in learning to read that seem out of keeping with a child's overall intellectual functioning may suggest that there is a specific problem in that domain.
Some children seem to begin reading almost by magic, discovering the mysteries of print with little direct instruction. For most children, instruction that includes some systematic attention to sound-letter correspondences allows them to unlock the treasure chest of reading. Both groups fall with a normal range. For some children, however, reading presents such great challenges that they need expert help beyond what is available in a typical classroom.
Language learning in early childhood As Jim Cummins , and others have pointed out, one particular group of children who have often been misdiagnosed as having language delays or disorders are children who arrive at their first day of school without an age-appropriate knowledge of the language of the school.
This includes immigrant children who speak another language at home, minority language children whose home language is different from the school language, and children who speak a different variety of the school language. Unfortunately, it often happens that these children's knowledge of a different language or language variety is interpreted as a lack of knowledge oflanguage in general. As a result, they are sometimes placed in remedial or special education classes.
It is often the case that the school is not equipped to provide an adequate assessment of children's ability to use their home language. Schools may not have programmes for second language learners that allow them to continue to use their home language. The development of bilingual or second language learning children is of enormous importance.
How Languages Are Learned (Oxford Handbooks for Language Teachers)
Indeed, the majority of the world's children are exposed to more than one language, either in early childhood or from the time they enter school. Researchers have recently made imponant progress in providing guidelines that can help educators distinguish between disability and diversity Seymour and Pearson Childhood bilingualism Early childhood bilingualism is a reality for millions of children throughout the world. Some children learn multiple languages from earliest childhood; others acquire additional languages when they go to school.
The acquisition and maintenance of more than one language can open doors to many personal, social, and economic opportunities. Children who learn more than one language from earliest childhood are referred to as 'simultaneous bilinguals', whereas those who learn another language later may be called 'sequential bilinguals'. There is a considerable body of research on children's ability to learn more than one language in their earliest years. We sometimes hear people express the opinion that it is too difficult for children to cope with two languages. They fear that the children will be confused or will not learn either language well.
However, there is little support for the myth that learning more than one language in early childhood is a problem for children Genesee, Crago, and Paradis Although some studies show minor early delays for simultaneous bilinguals, there is no evidence that learning two languages substantially slows down their linguistic development or interferes with cognitive and academic development. Indeed many simultaneous bilinguals achieve high levels of proficiency in both languages. Ellen Bialystok Limirarions rhat may be observed in the language of bilingual individuals are more likely to be relared ro rhe circumstances in which each language is learned than to any limitation in the human capacity ro learn more than one language.
For example, if one language is heard much more oft:en than the other or is more highly valued in the community, that language may eventually be used better rhan, or in preference ro, the other. There may be reason to be concerned, however, about siruations where children are cut off from their family language when they are very young. Lily Wong-Fillmore I observed that when children are 'submerged' in a different language for long periods in pre-school or day care, their development of the family language may be slowed down or stalled before they have developed an age-appropriate mastery of the new language.
Eventually they may stop speaking the family language altogether. It can have negative consequences for children's self-esteem, and rheir relationships wirh family members are also likely ro be affected by such early loss of the family language. In these cases, children seem ro continue robe caught between two languages: they have not yet mastered the one language, and they have nor continued to develop the other.
During rhe rransition period, they may fall behind in their academic learning.
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Unforrunately, the 'solution' educators sometimes propose ro parents is that they should srop speaking the family language at home and concentrate instead on speaking the school language with their children. This is especially true if the parents are also learners of rhe second language. If parents continue ro use the language rhat they know besr, rhey are able ro express their knowledge and ideas in ways that are richer and more elaborate than they can manage in a language rhey do nor know as well. Using their own language in family settings is also a way for parents to maintain their own self-esteem, especially as they may be struggling with the new language outside the home, at work, or in the community.
Maintaining the family language also creates opporrunities for the children ro continue both cognirive and affective development in a language they understand easily while rhey are still learning the second language. As Virginia Collier I and others have shown, the process of developing a second language takes years. But teachers, parents, and students need ro know that rhe benefits of additive bilingualism will reward patience and effort.
Language learning in early childhood Summary In this chapter we have focused on some of the research on children's language that has influenced second language acquisition research. We have described three broad theoretical perspectives for explaining first language acquisition.
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In Chapter 2, we will look at the theoretical perspectives that have been proposed to explain second language acquisition. Sources and suggestions for further reading Baker, C. Foundations of Biling71al Education and Bilingualism 3rd edn. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters. Berko Gleason, J. The Development of Language 6th edn. London: Allyn and Bacon and Longman Publishers.
Cummins, J. Elman, J. Bates, M. Johnson, A. Karmiloff-Smith, D. Parisi, and K. Genesee, R ed. Cambridge: Cambridge L'niversity Press. Ginsburg, H. Oller, D. Eilers eds. Pinker, S. The Language Instinct. New York: William Morrow. Piper, T. Schieffelin, B. Ochs eds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Wells, G. W""ensch, J. Others emphasize the role of the environment, especially opportunities to interact with speakers who adapt their language and interaction patterns to meet learners' needs.
Still others focus on learners' engagement with the broader social context.
Contexts for language learning A second language learner is different from a very young child acquiring a first language. This is true in terms of both the learner's characteristics and the environments in which first and second language acquisition typically occur. Think about how the characteristics and learning conditions of the following learners may differ: 1 a young child learning a first language; 2 a child learning a second language in day care or on the playground; 3 adolescents taking a foreign language class in their own country; 4 an adult immigrant with limited or disrupted education working in a second language environment and having no opportunity to go to language classes.
I Do they already know at least one language? Are they able to engage in problem solving, deduction, and complex memory tasks?