Language

An Appreciation of Diversity

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I will begin by introducing noticeable affects on language that have come about due to explorers and the like that journeyed from their motherlands many years ago. The journey of Christopher Columbus in 1492 was one that would herald the changing of the times for world languages. Such were these countries, a la, Great Britain with its English language and the colonies, and Spain with its Spanish in South America that they spread their voice over many continents. However, we can not forget that there is still an emphasis that language had existed long before the arrival of these powerful empires to far away lands. Languages such Chinese, Hindu and Arabic that remains spoken by millions of people around the world. It also has to be recognized that many indigenous people still use their native language, and highlighted that any of these rarer languages relatively speaking could have spread through the world as much as English and Spanish.

So, what distinguishes languages? I should allude to some of the aspects of many languages that although they evolved generally on their own, there is a general likeness found; for example the use of singular and plural nouns. English, French and Spanish retain in their language the distinction of one or more of something. I should also explain that in these languages there is sometimes not a clear distinction as to what we are talking about, as with ‘I have some flowers’. There could be array of different types of flowers and no actual number. This is opposed to Chinese which can use the same word for one or more than one. There are also other languages that will distinguish between the flowers being all of one kind or a mixed bunch.

Moreover, looking at world speech, there are some languages that make a clear distinction with a sentence to show that an object can be seen as the speaker speaks or not in eye sight. Visibility is central to their language. One example is of a woman with her arm in a sling, and how would an English speaker refer to this picture. English people could say ‘she has broken her arm’, but there is no certainty.  English people can report the evidence and assume. Other languages have to make it clear how they know the information and not let a statement be glossed over.

Furthermore, it is seen that over the world within languages related words may take on different meanings. The sentences the ‘The colors are nice’ and the ‘The curtains are red’ have the same structure and relate to the same word types; nouns, verbs and adjectives, but they are not the same in meaning. It can be shown that other languages do not see the same as an English speaker sees, and end up putting the same sentences into other grammatical orders to explain the same sentence such that it may end up  as ‘it is nice in colors’.  This can also cross over to objects in space and the angle that people see objects in the world. All people look at a picture differently and can only give a subjective view. Also, some languages do not have words like the English ‘inside’ or ‘between’ thus their explanation is different for spatial objects. What’s more, some speakers only see an object from their exact position in the world. English speakers may not need to be so accurate.

These examples thus far, have tried to go a little way to highlight the diversity of language throughout the world, and the myriad of approaches to explain any situation where language is used.

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How young learners learn languages …..five statements to test my thinking!!

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1) Babies are unable to respond until they are at least 6 months old. T/F

This is false. From the moment a baby enters the world to eight weeks, the process of language acquisition is in motion. They begin to cry and make little sounds; this exercises the vocal organs and gives them practice in controlling the flow of air through their mouth and nose. They respond to their mother by looking at her when she speaks. If a stranger speaks, the baby will respond differently than to their mother’s voice. The tone, pitch, volume and intonation of a speaker’s voice makes the baby respond differently. The baby shows a response by crying, body movements, babbling and laughing.

2) Babbling has an element of meaning of which the young child is aware. T/F

This is true.  Language can be said to be a progression of the process which means that there is progressive emergence. Babbling plays a part in this. It can be said that language comes with age and with the form of the body where the child grows and their cognitive senses form. For instance, at 6-7 weeks the baby will be experimenting with coos and chuckles. Then at 3-4 months, the child will start to babble; making rough speech sounds. Most babbling consists of a small number of sounds, which suggests the child is preparing the sounds they will need to speak the language it is exposed to. The baby is aware as the babbling noises tend to closely approximate the language spoken in their environment. When they imitate adult sounds they are scaffolding their language for later development. Learning is intimately linked with the progressive surfacing of a child vocabulary and syntax.

3) Children may sometimes use words in a way different to an adult’s understanding of the language item. T/F

This is true. Younger children do not have an adult’s understanding of language; they have their own way of saying things as far as they approximate them. They are born with a special ability to discover for themselves the underlying rules for their language system. For example, a child can tell you in his verbal sounds that the dog their family has, has gone out side. He may say ‘doggie’ and point or say ‘doggie out’. This utterance may just be a few grunt but significantly the point of it is, is that the child is telling you the dog has exited the house. Speech in children can be recognised  by the way a child generally uses one pivot word plus one or two additional words, such as ‘Mummy go shops’, ‘Give dolly’. Telegraphic speech, as it is known like this, is marked by its own grammar, especially in terms of structure. These pivot words tend to occupy a consistent position in the sentence and the word order reflects the order of adult utterances, the only difference being that in telegraphic speech the less semantically important words disappear.

4) Grammar rules cannot usually be taught to young children. T/F

This is true if we were to say that a teacher or parent tries to formally teach a child grammar. Grammar is acquired naturally; it doesn’t need to be taught so formally especially to younger students. Grammar rules taught formally can be just too hard for some children to comprehend. Learning can be modeled on the natural environment, although learning needs to accentuate the rate of language acquisition. Role-play, games that highlight interesting and thought provoking activities can have grammar subconsciously delivered where the learner is using the appropriate language without realizing that the teacher is teaching a specific grammar point. The child will gradually pick up the grammar rules by interaction. They are not pressured. Grammar becomes secondary to the learners actually trying to speak. There language can be facilitated by the teacher. There is the fact that if the teacher tries to the child’s sentence to the correct version, it often fails. For example:

A child looks at their dolly and says question and answer.

Child: What colour?

Mother: (You mean) what colour IS IT?

Child: Red

Grammar is a progressive discovery. It seems that the child can only learn when the time is right.

5) Repetition plays an important part in first language acquisition. T/F

This is true. This does not mean a child will learn a language by repetition. Repetition helps by the way of the instructor, be that the mother or teacher who replies to the learner’s comments. The child speaks different to a normal adult. The repetition is done when the child speaks and the mother or teacher repeats and reinforces the child’s speech with their way of saying the utterance.

Child: Mummy come

Mother: Yes, here’s Mummy

Child: Nice doggie

Mother: Yes, he’s a nice doggie isn’t he?

With this type of repetition, encouraging the responsiveness, the child will develop.  She will keep the child’s word order and add on the rest. The emphasis is on the child’s meaning and not on grammatical structures.