There are many different aspects of vocabulary knowledge, and the process of education should be based on properly defined items and peculiarities. In this chapter, certain attention will be paid to the ways of how children are ready to perceive new material and new vocabulary during their educative programs. As Miller and Taylor provide in their study, when learning vocabulary, children pay more attention to the meaning of the words, rather than focusing their attention on the interpretation of the decoded information. When the time for students to develop their reading abilities comes, certain attention should be paid to focusing on reading the vocabulary because vocabulary knowledge, as any other type of knowledge, is closely tied to human comprehension. The work by Lefever (2007) explains what characteristics of young learners should be considered when teaching vocabulary. Thus, young learners master vocabulary quickly and effectively because they are (1) keen and enthusiastic; (2) curious and inquisitive about new things; (3) outspoken; (4) their memory is imaginative and creative; (5) children like different activities and action games; (6) they like explore new things; (6) they learn by doing; (7) they are natural learners interested in the meaning of the messages provided by words.
Young children are more open for learning. Their speaking skills are on the initial stage of formation and, as Pinter suggests, it gives young learners considerable advantages over older ones. Young children have better perception of sounds and rhythm of a foreign language, and they are perfect at imitation of new words and intonations. Moreover, as opposed to older learners, the young ones are less anxious about memorizing, this process appears naturally.
Lefever additionally states that the needs and characteristics of young learners are dependent on the instruction provided by teachers. Thus, the teacher should introduce a variety of exercises that include training of hearing and speaking practices. Moreover, game is a leading motivation at early stages of education, and it is desirable that exercises were presented in the form of games and active play. Each task should be meaningful and provide children with the opportunity to gain new experience and apply theoretical knowledge in practice. Interaction and team games play an important role in teaching young children. Lefever reports that maintaining the positive attitudes, motivation and self-confidence of children requires both praise and encouragement.
Development Psychology on Language Learning
One of the prominent figures in the field of sociology and linguistic was Jean Piaget. His contribution to the sphere of human development is huge indeed, still, his studies about children and their development provide a broad field for numerous discussions even nowadays. The point is that Piaget believed that the development of logical thought is dependent on social interaction. In Becker and Varelas’ (2000) work, the ideas of Piaget are clearly identified and explained. These thinkers admitted that permanent equilibrium of things into action and actions into things presupposes the evocation of absent objects. Complete reversibility is impossible because the symbolism of individual images is to vibrate and cannot provide a complete result. This assumption leads to social factors of language acquisition.
Piaget linked the role of social interaction to the importance of language. Piaget (1995) held that language is a key to the development of conceptual and logical understandings. The work by Becker and Varelas states that this theory explains the development of two “semiotic functions” that are related to the process and structure of language learning. Thus, at first stage, the images arise from the experience gained by perception and action without representation of the mental images of objects. Piaget considered this development to be related to experimental knowing gained from the contact with the world. The second stage of the development of specific images is the liaison of mental images formed on the first step to arbitrary conventional signs. The process described by Piaget reflects how words and concepts are formed in the mind. Thus, the signifier (particular objector notion) requires two actions (psychological and mental) Psychological action is the process of accommodation, this stage is completely individual, as each person perceives and interpret the environment in different ways. At this stage, the mental image of the notion is developed. Mental action presupposes the logical connection of the “psychological image” to particular “notion” and its function. This process is called accommodation. This constructivism theory provides the explanation of the process how new words are learned. Becker and Varelas reported that this process presents the construction of concepts and shows relations between imitative images and representative intelligence. However, this process is complicated by “the intervention of language”: the verbal sings should be interfered with particular symbols so that the construction of the concept was possible. The formation of the first conceptual representations is usually expressed as “egocentrism of a thought” and presents a social process of the vocabulary acquisition.
In other words, concepts are formed on the basis of life experience of the individual and become a symbol through the process “of imagination”, in this regard, concepts cannot be general notions and become fully communicated. The signifiers have an arbitrary nature and this provides the detachment of the concept from the related experience. According to Piaget, this relative detachment is the necessary condition that assures that concept can become “an instrument” of the logical process of reasoning. Thus, language is a social factor due to the conventional nature of words that constitute it. It is reported that Piaget considered conventional nature of words to be a crucial factor that enables the development of concepts.
Certain attention should be paid to the achievements of Russian psychologist and linguist who worked during the Soviet Union period, Lev Vygotsky. His ideas and approaches deserve recognition because of several factors: first, Vygotsky defines a child in his own particular way; and second, his evaluation of language is based on some psychological factors. The work of LeGard states that Vygotsky considered children to be social beings that child’s development derives from social interaction in the competitive surroundings. As opposed to the Piaget’s theory who provided that development precedes learning, Vigotsky claimed that social learning comes before development. Such attitude to knowledge and studies promoted him to create a new concept in the sphere of linguistic and define it as the “zone of Proximal Development”. Vigotsky suggested that learning appears between these two “sections”. In addition, Vigotsky placed an emphasis on cultural development and social factors that contribute to cognitive development. He also provided that language plays a crucial role in cognitive development. First of all, Vigotsky reported that language is the result of social development and it is developed from social interaction. He also suggested that language is the main means used for transmitting the information from individual to individual, and becomes the first tool of child’s intellectual adaptation. According to LeGard, social interaction gives young learners the possibility to develop their reasoning.
Vygotsky defined two types of language functionality which are the “inner speech” (which is associated with mental processes) and “external speech” (that is usually develops through interacting with other individuals). As a rule, such languages should be separated at the very beginning of the process of language learning during a particular age of a child. Children under the age of two develop “social language”, but the language they use, according to Vigotsky, has no “internal meaning”. However, thoughts and language have a tendency to be incorporated, the “inner language” becomes interiorize which provides a better development of reasoning abilities. Still, it is necessary to keep in mind that social environment is usually perceived by a child during the process of education, and any kind of mistake or misunderstanding will become a crucial point in child’s development. Thus, the teacher should find special approaches to the process of language teaching when working with young learners.
The nature of the chosen constructivist theory is usually exploratory; it means that some investigations and innovations are obligatory for proper understanding of the matter. This is why the process of why a learner comprehends something depends on a number of outside factors which are predetermined by a particular event. LeGard provides the idea that the “development of knowledge” in social constructivism is the result of the influence of social interaction and cultural development during the process of language learning. According to the theory of social constructivism, during the process of the language learning, tuition is very important and it is the responsibility of teachers to provide students with proper guidance.
Richers is a famous linguist who provided an in-depth explanation and interpretation of ideas of another linguist, Bruner. Bruner built his constructivism theory on the idea that learning is an active process and children build new knowledge based on their past experience. The researcher admitted that children should not be drilled, still, they have to be guided by a kind of natural tendency and their attention and should be augmented through constructing familiar situations of action and interpersonal communication supported by a high degree of order and guidance on behalf of adults. Richers writes that children provide an eager response to the actions of other people and find it interesting to spend a great many hours playing and observing. The activities of children deserve certain attention. The process of language learning should be incorporated with repeatedly doing actions (games, prompts, team assignments, etc.). Constructing a learning program, teacher should take into consideration that fact that children do not care about “mental phenomena”, and do not distinguish between things and thoughts. However, young learners possess “communicative intentions”, as stated by Bruner, thus, they express these “intentions” through the process of negotiation of opposed notions and new knowledge. These negotiations contribute to the development of more developed linguistic “actions” in language operation. In this light, it can be said that language learning is not only learning of new words and grammar, but development of skills and abilities to use them properly in a particular context.
Bruner posited a Language Acquisition Device (LAD) to explain children’s language learning. He emphasized the role of instructions. Thus, instructions should be based on the students’ experience and context that make students ready and able to acquire new knowledge; instructions should be structured so that students could understand them easily, and instructions should be constructed to fill the gaps of the information given.
Children Learning a Foreign Language
The work of Erika Hoff and Jodi McKay reports that word learning includes the formation of a lexical entry or stated otherwise, when the child encounters a new word, that word must be stored in the child’s memory as a new sound sequence. According to Hoff and McKay the process of memorizing is dependent on certain system of representational patterns that include the “to-be-remembered stimuli”. Children who are learning two languages are reported to potentially have systems of phonological representation for each language that are not established as well as their monolingual peers. In fact, evidence from a study of two year old children produces by Navarro, 1998; Navarro, Pearson, Cobo-Lewis, & Oller, 1998 provide that that bilingual children perceive both languages (native and foreign) through one phonological system, the one with which they deal more often.
The evidences provided by Hoff and McKay demonstrate that phonological memory is closely related to vocabulary learning and awareness of the phonological system of a “new” language to which new sounds conform. The study also suggests that monolingual children have more developed phonological memory skills than bilingual children of the same age. Moreover, sound evidence exists to indicate that monolingual have bigger vocabularies in their languages then bilingual children of the same age in each of their languages. It is currently held that this difference is related to the amount of input received by the children in each language. The evidence in this area of study indicates that bilingual children are more challenged in learning new words due to a difficulty experienced in new sound sequence memory.
In the study by Lewin (2011) reported that children who grow up with two or more languages begin talking later than children who live in monolingual families. It is also reported that this is not surprising because children should pass through the process of analysis and code-cracking in order to organize the systems of two different languages simultaneously. However, they have a great advantage of speaking two native languages which compensates the cost of “potential delay” in language development. Bilingualism is a common phenomenon in the modern society, and monolinguals are considered to be a more rare “case”. It is reported that learning of two languages at the same time requires the same actions and forces from bilingual children to be applied to each language, as it does for those who learn only one language. However, bilingualism affects the way children speak both languages. They tend to confuse words, grammar and sentence structures from both languages in the process of speaking.
Summary and Conclusion
In order to understand the process of language acquisition, social, psychological and cultural factors should be examined. This chapter provides the analysis of works in psycholinguistics and reviews various educational theories, in particular, works by Piaget, Vygotsky and Bruner that deal with the nature of language and psychology of language learning. Each of the linguists held that language learning is a social type of learning, or in other words, that speaking and listening assist the child in learning to read and memorizing new sound sequences. The paper also provides a brief discussion of works that deal with learning a foreign language by monolingual and bilingual children. The results of studies conducted by Lewin, Hoff and McKay prove that children who are bilingual experience more difficulty in remembering new sound sequences than do monolingual children.
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