Language and Cognitive Development in Children

“Language, acquired readily and naturally, is the basis for all social activities, for enlarging any field of learning, and for acquiring and preserving useful knowledge”, (Perez pg. 24). Without language communication would almost be impossible. If you think about it hand gestures, movements with your body, and even facial expressions are a form of language. Though most go through their lives only knowing their native or first language known as their L1, many people are starting to learn and develop other languages as well making that second language their L2. Learning another language definitely takes time, effort, and a willingness to succeed and become fluent in that new language. However, as teachers it is our job to motivate our students to develop their language and cognitive skills in the most efficient way possible.
 One man known for his opinions on cognitive development would be Jean Piaget. His theory on cognitive development was originated in 1959. “He theorized that intelligence develops as children psychologically adapt to their environment and reconcile discrepancies between current forms of understanding and new physical experiences that contradict those forms of understanding”, (Perez pg. 29). The foundation for helping Spanish-speaking children learn to read and write is to understand the children’s cognitive development within certain cultural contexts. For instance, when a child is spoken to in Spanish they are more likely to answer in Spanish, and when they are spoken to in English they are more likely to answer in English. This is also known as sociolinguistic awareness. I believe that it is natural for someone to answer or respond to another in the same language that they are addressed in. It just makes far more sense. However, one of the most common mistakes children make is to use both their L1 and L2 interchangeably, sometimes without even knowing it. This is also known as code-switching. This usually happens quit frequently when children first start learning another language. I believe that a lot of times they do not realize it, and when they do it is sometimes hard for them to stop. They do this for many reasons. One of them being that they may not know what word they want to say in the other language, two they may just feel more comfortable saying certain words or phrases in their L1 language, and three they just can’t help it sometimes. To learn more about code-switching you can visit this site http://colorado.edu/ling/CRIL/Volume19_Issue1/paper_NILEP.pdf 
Another thing hindering language acquisition would be Piaget’s term assimilation. Assimilation is when “new information is transformed and incorporated into already existing structures. For instance in the book it talks about how some children relate the word papa meaning potato for other foods such as rice, meats and other things. This happens often and is also common in new language learners. Teaching others a new language is not always easy, but if you know many of the things hindering accurate language acquisition it is much easy to teach efficiently. In my experience in learning another language it is easy to code-switch and assimilate one word for others. But if directed away from these habits, learning another language is a lot more efficient.
Pérez, B., & Torres-Guzmán, M. E. (2002). Learning in two worlds, an integrated spanish/english biliteracy approach. (2nd ed.). New Yrk: Allyn & Bacon.

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