The development or the growing-up process of a child has been considered as the most critical and crucial part of a person’s life. It is in this stage where most changes take place which determines the strength or weakness of the foundations of one’s skills and capabilities as he or she grows up. Human development has also been an interesting topic or research in the field of psychology over the years. Theories and concepts have been formulated and developed in order to create a wide understanding of the process of human development as it plays a significant part in a person’s foundation as an adult.
The developmental process of a child includes several aspects like the physiological, emotional, and cognitive development. In this paper, the focus shall be on cognitive development and the process of language acquisition, as proposed and theorized by Lev Vygotsky. What is Cognitive Development and Language Acquisition? Cognitive development is a part of the overall dynamic process of human maturity. In current media, a lot of products like milk, supplements, and health commodities for children have been advertised to contribute on improving the wellness of a child’s cognitive development.
This shows how the current society values this aspect of child development with special importance. Cognitive development pertains to how an individual understands and grasps ideas through learned factors and genetics as well. This developmental aspect is made up of five fields, namely, information processing, intelligence, reasoning, language development, and memory (Wells, 2008). Understanding the whole cognitive development of a child may not be complete without understanding these core fields. However, this paper shall focus on one area which is language development.
The definition of intelligence and cognitive development has also become a popular debate among psychologists like Vygotsky and Piaget. Piaget defines intelligence as the ability of an individual to adapt to his or her environment through several adaptation models which include the concepts of assimilation and accommodation, both of which place stronger emphasis on the individual (cited in Lloyd, 1995). On the other hand, Vygotsky argues that cognitive development refers to the capacity of a person to learn through instruction with an emphasis on the environment.
Moreover, Vygotsky saw the capability of individuals to learn through instruction as the basic feature of human intelligence (cited in Lloyd, 1995). In medical terms, language development can be identified as the process wherein the complexity of symbols, sounds, and meanings combined is being expanded steadily. This process shall depend on how a person interprets, understands, and perceives objects and symbols as influenced by his or her environment and learning process (Biology Online, 2005).
Among children, especially those of 1 to 2 years of age, the early developments in language can be very well observed in their constant cooing, imitation of adult sounds and words, babbling, and use of shortened words and sentences (Biology Online, 2005). Lev Vygotsky’s Views on the Roots of Though and Language Lev Semenovich Vygotsky is a German psychologist who explained and expounded on the genetic approach to the early developments of thoughts and concepts in human development.
He connected the changes and transitions occurring in this process from childhood to adulthood through a series of human developmental stages (Marxist Internet Archive, 1990). Although his theories have been rejected in the United States during the earlier part of the political conflict between the U. S. and Soviet Union, his works still became popular as the Cold War ended up to present date. His works basically revolved around the roots of thought and language. It will be easier to understand Vygotsky’s theories in psychology by understanding the main arguments from which his theories are rooted from.
His main arguments about intelligence and cognitions state that, (1) thinking is understood developmentally in terms of its roots and succeeding growth at the individual and cultural levels of analysis; (2) thinking is interceded by semiotic mechanisms like speech which can be considered as the most powerful of such mechanisms; and (3) there are certain thinking processes like problem solving, voluntary memory, and self-regulation which have roots from social processes and interactions (Vygotsky cited in Goswami, 2004).
As one may observe, more often than not, Vygotsky used the terms “speech” and “thinking” than language and thought. This preference to use such terms was believed to be linked with his perception of speech as a social or shared process (Lloyd, 1995). For Vygotsky, the developments of thinking and speech are two separate entities: thought being non-verbal and language being non-intellectual. However, he explained that during a specific time in a person’s life (around the age of two), the lines of development of these two areas start to meet again to induce the creation of a new behavior (Vygotsky cited in Schutz, 2004).
He was able to expound his positions on this concept as he noted that, (1) thinking and speech have different roots at the start of their development; (2) at the beginning, there will be a pre-intellectual stage for speech and a pre-linguistic stage for thought; (3) there will come a point in time when these two aspects shall follow different curves unaffected with each other; (4) at a second point, their curves shall meet where thought will turn verbal, and speech, on the other hand, will turn rational; and lastly, (5) thinking and speech are not always overlying each other (Lloyd, 1995).
Vygotsky’s theory has also been particular about the construction of words and acquisition of word meanings. He explains that the formation of word and word meaning is in a way related to how a child perceives a problem in communicating with his or her guardian. Vygotsky claims that word meanings are derived from the problem of not knowing what to call or how to describe a specific object, feeling, or thought, which the child usually asks from an adult (cited in Schutz, 2004).
Vygotsky also acquired interest in understanding the possibilities that language may indeed affect how a person thinks. In contrast to Piaget’s focus on children’s egocentric and private speech, Vygotsky dealt with language as a form of social communication which progressively supports both language and thinking process. Applications of Vygotsky’s Constructivist Cognition Concept to a Child’s Education and Language formation Vygotsky’s Language Acquistion Theory has been influenced by the constructivist approach.
In constructivism, problem solving is the core idea of all forms of learning, thinking, and development; that is, as a child encounters a problem and discovers consequences for its solutions, he or she eventually forms his or her thinking and understanding of a certain concept (Vygotsky cited in Brewer, 2007). In the constructivist view, prior knowledge plays a big part on how a child will perceive things as he or she grows up; that is, it is important for the learner to be able to construct new information into his or her current knowledge because the information connected to the learner’s prior experiences shall be forgotten easily.
In application to real life situations, teachers can try to learn about the children’s prior knowledge about a specific problem or a specific topic which confuses them in order to gauge what the children already know and help them understand different experiences (Brewer, 2007). In relation to language development, Vygotsky also coined the concept of the zone of proximal development, which emphasizes that children acquire knowledge about objects and concepts they see as confusing through directed interactions from guardians, teachers, and parents.
He explained that what children learn with the guidance and assistance of people around them appears to be a lot more suggestive of their learning development compared to what they usually do alone (Vygotsky, 1987, qtd. in Lloyd, 1995). Thus, speech and word meaning which is acquired by a child alone may not give him or her the utmost linguistic potential he or she can have. Language development as well as the other aspects of development a child goes through in the early years is highly important regardless of the learning genre or theory followed.
Theories like Vygotsky’s language acquisition theory are formulated to give people specific basis of the different developmental processes. A child’s language development is never as plain as teaching him or her words and names; rather, it is a complex process which involves crucial elements and key areas where parents, teachers, and concerned guardians have to focus on in order to help the child realize his or her full potential.
References Biology Online. (2005, October 3). Language Development.Retrieved November 14, 2008 from http://www. biology-online. org/dictionary/Language_development Brewer, W. (2007). Learning theory: Constructivist approach. Answers. com. Retrieved November 14, 2008 from http://www. answers. com/topic/learning-theory-constructivist-approach Goswami, U. (2004). Blackwell Handbook of Childhood Cognitive Development. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing. Lloyd. P. (1995). Psychology: Cognitive and Language Development. Leicester, UK: British Psychological Society.
Marxist Internet Archive. (1990). Vygotsky, Lev Semenovich (1896-1934). Retrieved November 14, 2008 from http://www. marxists. org/glossary/people/v/y. htm#vygotsky-lev Schutz, R. (2004, December 5). Vygotsky & language acquisition. English Made in Brazil. Retrieved November 14, 2008 from http://www. sk. com. br/sk-vygot. html Wells, K. R. (2008). Cognitive development. Encyclopedia of Children’s Health. Retrieved November 14, 2008 from http://www. healthofchildren. com/C/Cognitive-Development. html
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