Young learners

Vocabulary building in young learners

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1. In the young child, a single word may constitute a considerable degree of meaning. T/F

This is true. The ability to use words is partly tied to the young child’s ongoing cognitive development, so the use words will have a degree of meaning. Thus, for a child, a word stands for a concept, but that concept is open to interpretation in that they select a category of relatively similar objects and apply the lexical item throughout. A child can learn the word dog or as a young child puts it ‘doggy’. This refers to a four-legged animal. This word can exist for any type of dog either big or small or type of breed. For example, a dog may refer to beagles and scotties, but not to poodles. This aspect of children’s thought associates a word with an object, but they may then in future use that word to describe a number of other similar objects in their environment. The child can also use the word ‘doggy to mean ‘there is a dog’ Notwithstanding, it can mean ‘come here’ said with a rising tone. Young children tend to utilize rising intonation to signal yes-no questions.

2. Words categories and concepts normally exist in isolation from each other. T/F

This is false. Words do not live in isolation, individual words can be categorised in many ways that remove the word from the original meaning or at least a child’s only idea of the meaning. The word ‘game’ can be attached to words such as card (game), ball (game), Olympic (games) and also football (game). As such the Olympic Games conjure up thoughts of many competitors from around the world competing together, although a ball game can involve one person banging a ball against a wall. This looks at two ends of the game spectrum. Winning the Olympic Games has men and women getting gold medals; the ball game respectively has no winner or loser. Furthermore the game of poker has skills of a different kind compared to kicking a football around the football pitch as well as less physical energy.

3. Vocabulary development comprises of at least three stages. T/F

This is true. Word learning is the product of a set of cognitive and linguistic stages that include the ability to acquire concepts, an appreciation of syntactic cues to meaning, and a rich understanding of the mental states of other people. These capacities are powerful and early emerging. Firstly the child must make sense of new vocabulary. When words are first met by young learners, there are concepts which are given labels in English may be new to the child, or only partially developed. The teacher or parent may not be merely teaching vocabulary, but teaching concepts. The labels and concepts need to be incorporated into schemas that already exist. The child has to learn this new vocabulary. Learning and retaining new vocabulary is made easier by grouping words together into families. While learning all this new vocabulary the child has to retain and recall this vocabulary for the various situation they will find themselves in. The single most effective way of helping students build vocabulary is by increasing the amount that they read. The child revisits the groups of words; adding to them and reorganising them provide ways of giving learners both the repetition and the development that is needed as they grow into English through the primary years and stages.

4. All languages have the same relationship between time and tense. T/F

This is false. Various countries of different lexis in different parts of the world that have relatively little contact with each other, will have experienced a different environment. Each country will invent words for the things in its environment that matter to it, and naturally, they find words for different things in their country. England has four seasons, other countries have three. Some countries are dark for many months. Learners from different countries don’t have some words in their vocabulary because they have never encountered such aspects of life.  Basically, the learners have to develop categories and concepts for the new words they encounter. For this situation, when children encounter new words teachers need to provide the support for understanding. New vocabulary needs to be presented in a context that helps the child understand the meanings and associations that help explain time and tense.

5. Where possible we should draw upon as many of the senses as possible when teaching vocabulary. T/F

This is true. Children learn words by seeing, feeling, tasting, listening, enjoying and experiencing. These various means at a teacher disposal bring the reality of words to the fore. For example, a child can know the word ‘apple’ but this does not show the learner every aspect of the object. They can learn that it is a fruit and other fruits are in the same family. They can see pictures of apples so they see the shapes and colours. They can eat an apple then they know the taste and feel. Is it soft? Is it hard? They can be shown that the apple starts going rotten after a while, but it is also good for your health before going rotten. An apple pie can be cooked for the child to show how apples can be used. Granny Smith apples come from England. Other apples come from other countries. They can go to a field trip and see apples growing. The child realizes they grow in trees. They can go shopping at a supermarket and buy apples. They can be shown they are bought in weight.

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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.