CURR212 Language Development And Emergent Literacy

CURR212 Language Development And Emergent Literacy

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CURR212 Language Development And Emergent Literacy

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CURR212 Language Development And Emergent Literacy

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Course Code: CURR212
University: United Arab Emirates University is not sponsored or endorsed by this college or university

Country: United Arab Emirates

Write about the Individual Learner Characteristics Challenge.
Human beings are the only species that construct infinite sentences with a limited
number of sounds and words. What is more fascinating is the occurrence of this ability in children as young as one-year-old. The puzzle is how children can compile a set of symbols and sounds into a language. Linguists have come up with different theories on the human ability to master the language skills. This paper looks at the three most critical theories of language acquisition. The paper further demonstrates the feasibility of these approaches. Individual learner characteristics are described below.
Literature review
Behaviorist Theory
Behaviorist theory was founded by J. Watson and was prevalent in the 60s. This theory equates human learning to that of animals. According to Skimmer(1968), a child’s brain is blank at birth and is fillable with information in the child’s environment. This theory applies to the acquisition of the first language. The behaviorist theory applies the stimuli-response mindset. According to Wilger (1968), a language is acquired as a result of reinforcement and reward. A child will babble sounds by mimicking the adults. The child is rewarded with encouragement. The child develops more sensible syllables with time. This mode of learning is a trial and error. The child makes utterances, and if correct, they are reinforced. This method is referred to as positive transfer.
The child continues to refine the speech until when puberty and attain a native performance (Pinkers,1994). Improper utterances are rejected, and  no reward is given. This system polishes the child’s speech. This theory was criticized heavily by Noam Chomsky, an American linguist.  Chomksy(1975) argued that complex grammar and vocabulary could not be acquired through trial and error. He argued that a child is born with the ability to learn a language.
The Innate Theory
According to Clark (2009), language is a secondary communication system. It is complemented by other features such as gestures, gaze, and facial expressions. Children are born with a natural mechanism that helps them in language learning(Chomsky 1965). The innate theory states that language is a part of development that starts to manifest from one year to puberty(Linneberge,1967). The American linguist Noam Chomsky disputed the behaviorist theory that was prevalent in the 20th century. Chomsky and other linguists proved that all languages have different grammar, but share some basic syntactic rules. This led to the universal grammar theory in the 1960s.Clark (2009) supports this theory but goes further to point out that language in children is further developed by social interaction and other environmental factors.
Krashen’s theory of second language acquisition is made up of five hypotheses: Acquisition/Learning, Monitor, Natural order, Input, and Affective filter. According to Krashen, the second language is either acquired or learned. Krashen goes further to explain that acquisition is an unconscious process where a speaker’s exposure to a given language leads to the formation of utterances that aim at passing the message rather than the syntactic. The learned system involves a conscious and deliberate process of study of principles, rules, and consequent application of the gained knowledge. Krashen believes that acquisition is of more importance than learning. He believes that students acquire a second language by meaningful and comprehensible interaction in the given language.
The monitor hypothesis explains how acquisition and learning intertwine and how learning influences acquisition. In basic terms, the monitor is the language editor. The monitor works by polishing the already acquired language(Lightbrown,1981). The monitor plays a minor role in language competence acquisition.
Cognitive Theory
The cognitive theory is the greatest critic of the behaviorist theory. According to this theory, acquisition of a language is a conscious and deliberate process. A learner acquires the relevant skills in a formal environment. It is impossible for a child to make utterances that are unfamiliar. According to Piaget(1936), logic is one factor that influences linguistics. The cognitive theory states that learning has the same conditions as any other development process. As much as feedback is important, it has no influence on speech development and speech modification.
The cognitive theory tries to demonstrate the relationship between the general cognitive development stages and language acquisition (Piaget,1980).According to Wilburg (2010), the learning process includes observing, classifying, generalizing, making decisions, and problem-solving. This entire process generates meaning of information for the learner.
This theory states that any form of learning is facilitated by already constructed mental processes as opposed to observation (Warren,2012). Piaget divided his cognitive theory into four periods namely: Sensory-motor, pre-operational, concrete operational, and formal operational. According to Piaget, children are born with the ability to assimilate information. The sensorimotor stage is the trial and error stage. This stage commences at birth and ends at 18 months. The child has limited knowledge at this stage. The child mostly relies on motor activities. As memory develops, the language development develops as well. The pre-operational stage occurs between the transition from toddlerhood to childhood which is between 18 months to seven years. Children at this stage develop new words and symbols. The children talk about the past and future events. The mental schema develops at this stage.
The third stage, concrete operational, is less egocentric. Children view everything as alive. The learners start to notice external events. The final stage, formal operation, starts from puberty all the way to early adulthood. At this stage, the learners can evolve their thinking.They see the world from a perspective other than their own. The learners can ask questions, issue commands and criticize. This theory has been criticized by other linguists. The critics argue that children cannot be classified under one stage. Children differ intellectually and placing them under one intellectual bracket could be misleading(Andrews,2001).
A suitable candidate was identified to carry out an interview to demonstrate the individual learner characteristics in a second language acquisition. Questions were asked and the interview recorded for compilation and further analysis of the answers.
A 22-year-old female student was interviewed to find out about her individual learner characteristics. The interviewee, a third year Student with a major in hospitality, was found to be a suitable candidate for the interview. The school of hospitality requires knowledge of a second language. The interviewee ‘s minor was Italian. The interview required a person of sound mind and intellectual capability. The interviewee would provide well-thought and relevant answers to our questions. The interviewee was first approached by a classmate and asked if she was interested in taking the interview. After a briefing, she agreed, and subsequent communication was done via phone. A date was set for the weekend to avoid clashing with the school’s curriculum. The venue was set in the school library discussion section. There were no students during the weekend. A conducive environment with no noise was suitable for the voice recording.
The interviewee had always wanted to relocate to Italy and set up her restaurant. She began to study Italian at the age of nine years in the fourth grade. She described her parents as strict and demanding. Her Italian teacher described her as average. This description only fueled her to prove the teacher wrong.
The interviewee was asked to describe her mastery of the Italian language. She said she was ‘almost fluent.’ She was asked if she had ever visualized herself as a fluent Italian speaker. She answered that if she ever spoke fluent Italian, then it would be a dream come true. Joan’s life revolved around moving to Italy and making a life. She had no other plan. She had to learn Italian to be accepted as a professional in Italy. Joan was given ten survey questions and asked to fill them at her own time. The survey would help to determine her personal characteristics. The questions were short and precise.  The questions asked about her personality, career goals, plans and school experience.
At the end of the interview, the interviewee was asked to describe her learning experience. She described herself as a ‘pro’ in cramming. This method she said, has worked for her grades. She would wake up in the middle of the night to recite poems and vocabulary. The interview was concluded and the recording saved on a flash disk. The interviewee expressed an interest in the project, and it was agreed that she would get a copy as soon as the project was complete. The survey results were collected two days after the interview for analysis and evaluation.
The interview answers and the survey results were evaluated and analyzed. The answers brought out the learning characteristics of the interviewee.
Learner characteristics
According to Lightbrown and Spada (1998), the ability to acquire a new language decreases as one reaches puberty. Our interviewee was a native English speaker who was learning Italian. She enrolled in an Italian class when she was nine years old. According to the interview, the interviewee had some struggles in communicating with native Italian speakers.  The natives would tease her about her ‘funny’ accent. It is easier to attain a native level of fluency when second language acquisition starts before puberty.
The interviewee’s dream was to establish a restaurant in Italy. This passion motivated her to learn Italian. She either succeeded in learning Italian or her dreams would lag behind. She described her parents as strict. This strictness meant that she had to succeed to please her parents. Her willingness to speak in Italian was a contributor to her progress. The interviewee’s major required learning another language. She conveniently chose Italian.
There has been a contradiction on whether personality traits affect the success of language acquisition. According to Beebe (1983), risk-takers are more likely to acquire a language quickly. Our interviewee was an extrovert. She would easily blend in. Children’s ability to learn a language is influenced by the environment (Pinner,2004). A child imitates what the parents say. This theory is applicable in people who empathize with people of the target language (Guiora,1972). The learners are likely to succeed in language acquisition.
Learning style and strategy
Learner-based approach to learning as discovered by the Ministry of Education in 2010 is a major factor in the success of learners. The interviewee’s style was an instructional preference. The interviewee thrived in the classroom environment. She preferred a formal learning environment because it gave her room to exercise her learning strategy of memorizing. According to Curry (1983), this learning style is the outermost layer of the onion metaphor.
Individual Learner Characteristics Challenge
The interviewee was requested to participate in activities that would challenge her individual learning characteristics. She was enthusiastic and agreed to participate immediately. The first activity would test her learning style and strategy. This activity was a music mnemonic. The interviewee was briefed on the activities. A song would be played in Italian, and this would gauge her ability to learn the lyrics. This activity would demonstrate her memorizing ability. The song was about a step by step guide on how to make scrambled eggs. The interviewee was given the voice recorder and a pair of earphones. She requested for some time, and it was agreed that she would take two hours. The interviewer sat across the room and observed her as she completed the task. After a couple of hours, the interviewee was ready to sing.
The second and final activity involved identifying a group of native Italians. Ten people of the same age as the interviewee were selected. The interviewee was required to interact with the natives in a room with cameras. The room was set, and the activity kicked off. This activity took thirty minutes. The group was expected to talk about their childhood, read some chapters of selected books and talk about their social lives. This activity matched her extrovert personality. The reading part would include a flashcard game. The interviewees would read a chapter and use flashcards to review the chapter. This activity would serve as a memory teaser.
After the activities, the interviewee was asked to share her experience. She especially liked the interaction session. She said she ‘loves’ Italian people and their presence makes her feel closer to her dreams. She described the activities as challenging and educative. The notes were recorded, ready for compilation and analysis.
Reflection on activities
The activities’ results were evaluated and analyzed. The First activity aimed at challenging the interviewee’s learning style. The interviewee could sing the entire song with minor errors after a couple of hours. Her strategy was memorizing. She sang the song exactly as it sounded on the recorder. There was no modification or alteration. She asked for a quiet environment to undertake the activity. This demonstrated her need for a formal environment. One observation that stood out was how she replayed a line of the song before moving on to the next line. Repetition helped her to memorize the lyrics to the song. According to Krasher(1982), people acquire a second language from meaningful interaction with the target language. The interviewee revealed that she kept a collection of Italian music in her house and this enriched her vocabulary and overall mastery of the Italian language.
The second activity was on social interaction. The conversation held by the group of interviewees revealed the personalities and also supported Chomsky(1965)’s innate theory. The interviewees shared their childhood experiences and how they learned their second languages. They all agreed that it was far much easier to grasp concepts at an early age. They agreed that learning a second language was fast when they were between two years old and ten years old. This activity also showcased the interviewee’s extrovert personality. She blended in the group with ease. Within no time, she had taken control of the group discussions. Her facial expression showed enthusiasm. Guiora (1992) argued that people who feel close to people of the target language have a higher chance of success in language acquisition. The interviewee told the group that her drive to learn the Italian language was her restaurant dream. The restaurant was her motivation.
These activities connected with the cognitive theory of language acquisition. The conversation among the interviewees revealed that language acquisition is deliberate (Piaget,1939). All the interviewees attended classes and agreed that a formal environment sped up the learning speed as compared to a social environment. While talking about her childhood, the interviewee revealed the six stages of second language acquisition (Saville&Troike,2006).
The first stage is commonly referred to as the silent stage. The interviewee could understand Italian, but she could not make utterances. She talked about how she began to pronounce words and short sentences after eight weeks of learning. This is the early production period. She went further to explain how she learned more words and longer sentences. With time, the interviewee spoke with minimal errors at the speech emergent stage. She gained a little fluency and could communicate sensible messages at the beginning fluency stage. The interviewee concluded that she still missed a few vocabularies, but she could analyze a problem and give opinions. This translates to the intermediate fluency stage. The next and final stage is the advanced fluency where the interviewee would have complete command of the Italian language(Saville& Troike,2006).
The three theories of language acquisition are applicable in different settings. The behaviorist theory is only applicable to first language acquisition, while the innate theory and the cognitive theory are applicable to both first language and second language acquisition. The interviewee showcased her learning style and strategies. These methods differ in all learners. It is necessary for a teacher to put into consideration the learning styles of learners. Some learners thrive in formal environments while others do well in social environments(Cleary & Linn, 1993). It is important to try and assimilate both environments into the teaching curriculum to accommodate all learning styles and strategies. From the interview and activities carried out by the interviewee, the innate theory and the cognitive theory are proven.
The learner is conscious and deliberate about learning a second language as per the cognitive theory. A learner improves performance and fluency from interaction with a sensible input of the target language (Krashen,1982). The cognitive theory is under scrutiny from linguists. The theory has not been accepted or dismissed. Research is still underway
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