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Introduction The following reaction paper is based on two articles about First language acquisitionfrom two different texts, which are: D.E., & Freeman, Y.S. (2004), Essential Linguistics:What you need to know to teach reading, ESL, spelling, phonics, and grammar, and BrownH.D. (2007), Principles of language, learning and teaching. The following reaction paper isgoing to highlight the main important theories about Language acquisition. The impressivecapacity not only for acquiring but also for developing competence, in the native language, hasalways been a mystery and a matter of discussion, language acquisition has been researchedfrom the latter part of the eighteen century. A lot of scientists have established numeroustheories from different perspectives in order to explain how the language is acquired; scientistshave researched how and when children acquired the capacity of communicate, orally, andhave studied in deeply the different stages which took place in the process of languageacquisition. It is important to emphasize the role that teachers play in the acquisition anddevelopment of language, in the different stages; they guide that the process is being suitableaccording to the children’s age. Teachers have been studied in order to be concerned aboutchildren language acquisition, with the aim of drawing analogies, between first and secondlanguage acquisition, because it is important to know how the first language is acquired inorder to understand the second language acquisition. The themes related to the languageacquisition that are going to be discussed in this reaction paper will be: Behaviourism, nativistapproach, cognitive approach and universal grammar.
Summary The behavioural approach, it was though that children are born with a tabula rasa, itmeans that they come to the world without any preconceived notion abut language, it is a veryextremist behaviourist position. Behaviourists thought that language is learned as anythingelse, when a conduct is learned and it is reinforced positively, it will be repeated and habitual,the same occurs with the language, if a new word is produced and it is reinforced, then it willbe acquired. This process is called stimulus-response, and the principal exponent of this theorywas Skinner, who wrote about verbal behaviour (1957). Behaviourists also had the concept ofimitation, it consists in the imitation of sounds by children, it is related to the process ofstimulus-response, they need a rewarded in order to repeat sounds and learn it. Thebehaviourism gave way to a new theory which is the cognitive approach, this theory states thatthe learning is not just the result of the action that the environment has on the child, moreover,human beings, are born with innate cognitive abilities. Piaget, one of the promoters ofcognitivism, was centred in the stages of cognitive development, relating the cognitivedevelopment with first language acquisition; in 1955 Piaget described it as a result of thechildren’s interaction with the environment. The cognitivism is also related with the nativistapproach, because both are referred to the language acquisition as an innate process. But thecognitive approach is centred in the thoughts, whereas, the nativis approach is centred ingenetic and biological aspects, and these aspects predispose us to a systematic perception oflanguage surrounding us, having as a consequence the construction of a system of language.Chomsky promoted nativist approach in 1965 he claimed a metaphor of the brain, it was theexistence of a “little black box”, a language acquisition device (LAD), another scientistdescribed a LAD with four important aspects, which are: The ability to distinguish speechsound from other sounds, the ability to organise linguistics data into various classes and then itcould be refined, knowledge that only a certain kind of linguistic system are possible, theability of evaluate constantly of the developing linguistic system. Chomsky called the innateknowledge of the language as Universal Grammar, it consists in that all humans not just havean special cognitive capacity, but also humans beings born with basic structures of languagespresent in the brain. It does not mean that we born with the knowledge of all languages, buthumans born with the capacity of acquire a language and those elements which are common in
all human languages, for example verbs and nouns. As is known that children have aUniversal Grammar, it is not a mystery that they learned the language they are in contact with.But not all language is innate, there are vocabulary which have to be learned by children, it isnot predictable, it is necessary a stronger cognitive process in order to acquire certain morecomplex words. Evaluation In a general view of behaviorism, we could realize that even though this approach isright in some ways, as in the statement that children acquire language in the process ofstimulus and response, it also has missed others, because if children learn in this way, whyother human beings have not been able to learn in the same way? Why they are not able todevelop language properly? Besides, behaviorism also shows that children learn language withthe process of imitation, but it is really confused, because if they imitate adults, they shouldnot make mistakes when speaking, because adults produce irregular forms of verbs correctly,and children tend to make mistakes like that, in their first language acquisition. Besides,behaviourists believe that language is learned like anything else, and it is the environment thatacts on the child in order to develop the language; but we consider that it is an incomplete wayto demonstrate how children learn the language, because is not just the environment thataffects the language learning process, it is demonstrated that all children seem to acquire thelanguage at the same time, independently of their environment or what surround them. As wementioned before the behavioural approach has aspects which make it a very accurate theory,because it explains the language acquisition in terms of behavioural influence and theconsequences of stimulus, which is the response. However it is not the only one factor whichis responsible for the language acquisition and development in children, it is impossible thatthe action of environmental contact is the determinant fact which influences the languageacquisition, it is also necessary the influence of genetic and biological facts, which is suitablewith Chomsky’s Nativist theory, that predisposes humans beings to a systematic perception ofthe language with they are in contact. According to our own analysis f this theme, weconcluded that the genetic influence in language acquisition is proven when two children,
developing into the same environment, have different results in terms of learn words andacquire a determined language, maybe one of them could present language disorder.Otherwise we have the cognitive approach which as is promoted by Piaget as the interaction ofchildren with the environment, and the different stages in the development of languageacquisition, nevertheless we do not believe in the abrupt transition between one stage andanother, it have to be necessarily a more slowly and gradual process , children have differentstadiums of thoughts, but we think that these stadiums are not accurate in all children, because,although they have a similar development, the process of language acquisition is a personalmatter with could be different in every single person. Otherwise, Universal Grammar is calledthe innate knowledge of language. In a way, we agree with the statement that the brain ispredisposed to learn any language and children learn the language that surrounds thembecause languages have lot of things in common and we should learn it. There are universalwords that exist in almost all languages and we are able to develop the capacity of learn andacquire them.