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HOW DO YOUNG CHILDREN LEARN TO SPEAK? From the moment of conception the foetus will embark on a lifetime of physical, psychological and social changes. 'The process by which a child, foetus, and more generally an organism (human or animal), grows and changes through its life-span.' (Smith, Cowie & Blades, 1998) It is not until infancy when a child will begin to learn how to speak. The first stage of language begins with cooing and babbling, which develops into one-word utterances. Psychologists such as Chomsky, Skinner, Bandura and Bruner offered theories behind the reason why and how children learn how to speak. Jean Piaget and Vygotsky were also able to offer theories. Communication between the infant and the caregiver starts as early as 6 months. They are able to recognise their own name and other familiar words such as 'mummy' and 'daddy'. By 8 months they are able to comprehend long phrases such as 'Do you want your teddy?' Frequently the infant will reply with cooing, babbling and even hand gestures. This is can be seen as the first time the infant is engaging in a "conversation". ...read more.


He believed that al children are born with a language acquisition device (LAD). At birth the LAD is still at an embryonic stage but as the child interacts with its environment it activates the LAD and it matures. 'The LAD is like a genetic code for the acquisition of language programmed to recognise the universal rules for the basic set of rules of a language.' (Cole and Cole, 1996). Skinner introduced the second theory. Skinner believed that operant conditioning played a major part in the development of language. He believed that learning acquisition starts with the infants observation of the caregivers which is then repeated by the infants. This is how babbling first occurs which is refined as the children practises. Bandura agreed with Skinner saying that children acquire their language skills through imitation and the classical conditioning. Bandura named this imitation abstract modelling because 'when children imitate specific utterances they abstract from them the general linguistic principles that underlie them However, both these theories were criticised because it cannot explain how a child is able to develop their grammar skills. ...read more.


During this stage language development occurs. It is now 'comfortable' with its environment and so wishes to interact with its environment and others in it. Another psychologist Vygotsky was critical of Piaget's theory. He believed agreed that developmental growth is affected by social and cultural interaction but he also believed that biological development was important. He believed that it wasn't until the age of two that an infant's thought becomes verbal. In 1978, Vygotsky put forward his theory of 'Zone of Proximal Development'. He defined it as 'the distance between the actual development level as determine by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers.' In other words, Vygotsky believed that tools such as word processors and computers as well as interaction with the caregiver and peers assists with language development. In conclusion, there are many ways how children learn how to speak. We could say that children learn through imitation of the caregiver. We could also say that learning acquisition is from interaction with the infant's environment. However, we must also consider that as the child grows it's intellectual ability increases. ...read more.

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