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How does language acquisition work in children and is this different from how adult learn?

November 4, 2013:

Those of you who have studied how the brain functions are aware that there are neurons and electrical signals involved in transmitting signals to and from the brain. The brain is one of the most marvelous organs of the human body. The number of neurons at birth is much higher than in any later stage of life.

We all marvel when a toddler says something that is advanced for his or her years. That is because we do not realize just how smart a child is. Imagine that you as an adult want to learn a new language. You are bound to take much more time than a toddler needs. After the age of puberty (12 to 14) it becomes difficult to develop and understand language. It is more like the language is learned rather than acquired.

Parents and adults in general believe that children imitate and copy what is said. However, people who have studied psychology or are practicing psychologists know that is not the case.

Children learn the language in the same way as adults. It does not matter what language is spoken to them. The word ‘no’ has the same effect, it does not matter what language it is spoken in. Psychologists have conducted many different studies on the development of language among children over the years. These studies have taken into account the process of learning and development of language between birth and linguistic maturity.

Children discover the syllables and see how they are joined together to form words from an early age. They can understand basic words like ‘no’, ‘come’, ‘yes’ and ‘go’ during this stage. As they grow older, they learn how to speak these simple words within a few months. Over the years, language develops.

Psychologists have different ways to theorize the process of language development. The basic process is the same. The stages involved vary among psychologist. Noam Chomsky like others believes that children are born with a ‘language acquisition device’ or LAD that is used by children to develop language. He further goes on to say that children can not develop or learn a language by mere imitation. It does not matter what the native language is, children become fluent in their native language within five to six years. Though most psychologists agree with Chomsky about children not learning the language through imitation, they disagree about the LAD. These psychologists believe that children learn the language through general understanding and learning abilities and interaction with people. For them it is basically a trial and error process.

It is also noted that children who are learning to speak never make grammatical mistakes that involve wrong placement of subjects, objects and verbs. Children make grammatical mistakes like ‘I catched’ instead of ‘I caught’ and ‘mama cake’ instead of ‘mama I want cake’. This shows that children cannot possibly learn the language passively. Other psychologists believe that children develop language over different stages. With each stage teaching them a new aspect of the language.