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Second Language Acquisition Theories Revealed!

The theory of behaviorism, innatist and interactionist/developmental perspectives, cognitivism.

v  Behaviorism

o   Behaviorism theory was introduced by B.F. Skinner. It was stated that when children imitate other people around them, they will make attempt  to reproduce what they heard received ‘positive reinforcement’.

o   The most important processes in language development are imitation and practice. Imitation – word for word repetition of parts of someone else utterance.                                                                         Practice    -   repetitive manipulation of form that being uttered.

v  Innatist

o   Innatism is a theory that human beings are born with mental structures that are designed specifically for the acquisition of language. (Spada & Lightbown,2006)

o   Chomsky argued that all human languages are fundamentally innate and that the same universal principles underlie all of them. He hypothesized; children are born with specific innate ability to discover for themselves the underlying rules of language system on the basis of the samples of a natural language they are exposed to. He believes that language develops in children the same way the other biological functions develop. So, he argues that children need not to be taught but the environment will make the basic contribution and the innate self of the child will do the rest.

o   This innate endowment is seen as a sort of template with all the principles that are universal to all human language. This Universal Grammar (UG) will prevent the child from pursuing all sorts of wrong hypotheses about how language might work. The innatist perspective emphasizes the fact how all children successfully acquire their language.

v  Interactionist/developmental perspectives

o   Cognitive and developmental psychologists viewed that language acquisition is but one example of the human child’s remarkable ability to learn from experience, and no need to assume that there are specific brain structures devoted to language acquisition.

o   Developmental psychologists and psycholinguists have focused on the interplay between the innate learning ability of children and the environment in which they develop. They see language acquisition as similar to and influenced by the acquisition of other kinds of skill and knowledge, rather than as something that is different from and largely independent of the child’s experience and cognitive development.

o   According to Piaget (1951), the developing cognitive understanding is built on the interaction between the child and the things that can be observed or manipulated. For him, language was one of a number of symbol systems that are developed in childhood. Language can be used to represent knowledge that children have acquired through physical interaction with the environment.

o   According to Vygotsky (1978), language develops primarily from social interaction. his view differs from Piaget’s, that thought was essentially internalized speech, and speech emerged in social interaction.

v  Cognitivism

o   Cognitivism, brought by Jean Piaget, concerns in what goes on in a person’s head while language learning takes place. The cognitivists want to describe the learning process.

o   Below are the principles of cognitivism

§  Language is a part of subordinate cognitive development

§  Children learn about the language first, and then they map the language into that prior experience.

o   In short, intelligence is the key. We have to know first before we start to talk about it.

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