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First Language Acquisition - Personal Statement Example

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In the paper “First Language Acquisition” the author reflects his studies with regard to the question of first language acquisition. He is of the opinion that there is no conclusive evidence about how a child acquires his first language. We somehow end up speaking the language that our parents use…
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First Language Acquisition
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Extract of sample "First Language Acquisition"

We were likewise penalized and punished for incorrect grammar and pronunciation. Perhaps there was an intuitive process that neither our parents nor we were consciously aware of. We imitated what we heard our parents say as best we could by parroting and repeating simple sounds and phrases.
Some experts see the environment and the exposure to the language as a critical element in learning to speak. Other experts see language as a unique skill, its proficiency ruled by an inborn program that will rise out of us with no prodding by parents or the environment
However, some exposure to language is necessary and learning a language depends on that exposure. The language a child acquires is that of his/her environment or surroundings. The fact that has already been tested and proven is that children who are deprived of language or a language environment simply do not begin to speak spontaneously. This was the instance in the well-known case of Genie.
If we study the way a child interacts with their environment and the way adults provide feedback to a young child, we will see that there is a myriad of ways that they are provided to acquire language. The child will usually focus on the language of the mother due to the maternal bond. The parents provide a framework for learning many other routine tasks such as using eating utensils and bathing.
It is the secure atmosphere of parental trust and interaction that language first begins to be uttered. The first sounds are usually the intuitive "ma" that is universal among children of all nationalities. As the sounds of the mother and father become more formalized, the emotion motivates the child to copy and to learn. Eventually, the child becomes more active with the sounds and goes beyond simple repetition to form phrases and sentences. Yet, these structures were not taught, they were acquired through an unknown mechanism.
It has also been theorized that children may have an inborn ability to interpret a social situation and distill meaning without the use of language. They may have an intuitive sense of the meaning of the language based on body movements, expressions, and tone of voice. It has been noted that children can understand language before they can speak it. This ability may contribute to the child's learning a language with ease.
In terms of textbook example meeting real-life circumstances, the story of American skater Toby Dawson bears some consideration. Dawson was born in South Korea and at the age of 3, got lost while accompanying his mother to the market. All attempts by his parents to find him proved futile and eventually, he was taken to an orphanage. An American family subsequently adopted him. For the next 25 years, Dawson lived in the United States, became a world-known skater, and decided to search for his biological parents in South Korea.
In Feb 2007, Dawson finally was reunited with his biological parents and brothers. However, he could not speak Korean, his mother's native tongue. Dawson’s circumstances have given rise to a number of questions. First and foremost was whether languages were inborn and innate to him? What was the hard-wired with? And does 25 years of different circumstances, in which he was deprived of any Korean dialogue, totally erased all he knew at age 3?
From the limited information gleaned from newspaper articles, a couple of interesting inferences can be drawn. First, Dawson’s capacity to learn languages is obviously innate. He spoke Korean at age 3 and now he speaks unaccented standard English. The further acquisition must be more than mere imitation. Clearly there must be some innate feature of the mind that is responsible for the universally rapid and natural acquisition of language by any young child. But, most of all it seems clear that the particular form/meaning of an individual language is acquired through prolonged exposure to a specific speech community during a critical period.
Similar to Dawson, Genie was deprived of a language environment and when she faced her new environment she could not speak the language. Genie could not learn the language as some experts had hoped. She was able to command approximately 100-word vocabulary after a period of 4 years. She also failed to learn the rules of grammar, punctuation, and could not grasp the difference between singular and plural. However, it has never been determined if her inability to acquire language was due to the lack of exposure at an early age or because of the subsequent abuse she suffered. Read More
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