How Do People Learn (Language)?

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How do people learn (language)?

How we teach language should be based on how people learn language.   Do we learn language the way we learn everything?  Or is there some special way our brains learn language?  Today we will talk about some of the hypotheses which have been suggested for how people learn (in general) and learn language (in particular).    This child has learned sign-language from his parents – but how?  NATURE

vs.
NURTURE
 
People who argue for language learning by NATURE believe that humans are born with a built-in ability to learn language – that it is part of the structure of our brains.  People who support NURTURE side of the argument believe that we learn language the same way we learn everything else, e.g. how to ride a bicycle, how to walk, how to fit into our society. BEHAVIORISM

Based on experiments performed in the early part of the 20th century, many people believed that animals AND PEOPLE learned through a process of conditioning.   For example, there were laboratory studies where rats were trained to push a button when a light came on.  Each time the rat did this, it was given a piece of food.  After a while, the rat would push the button every time the light came on.   The rat had learned to associate pushing the button with getting food.  This theory became known as behaviorism.        

                                    STIMULUS   >  RESPONSE   >  REINFORCEMENT In Behaviorist learning theory, conditioning is the result of a three-stage process:  Stimulus > Response > Reinforcement.  In the rat experiment, the light coming on would be the stimulus, the rat pushing the button would be the response and the food would be the reinforcement. Researchers spoke of positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement.  For example, if you pet your dog and say “Good boy!” when it does a trick correctly, this would be positive reinforcement.   If you say hit our dog on its nose and yell “Bad dog!” when it does something bad, this would...
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