Topics: Language acquisition, Behaviorism, Psychology Pages: 7 (2336 words) Published: October 25, 2013

There are some basic theories advanced to describe how language is acquired, learnt and taught. The behaviorist theory, Mentalist theory (Innatism), Rationalist theory (otherwise called Cognitive theory), and Interactionism are some of these theories. Of these, behaviorist theory and mentalist theory are mainly applicable to the acquisition of languages while the rest can account for foreign language acquisition. Yet, these four theories of language acquisition cannot be totally divorced from each other, for "the objectives of second language learning are not necessarily entirely determined by native language competence inevitably serves as a foil against which to set second language learning." (H.H. Stem, .1983; 30).

Mother Tongue and Foreign Language Learning

These five basic theories are, furthermore, very much complementary to each other, serving different types of learners or representing various cases of language learning. They must not automatically make us presume that first and second language learning are identical or alike processes, though second language learning is strongly tied up with first language acquisition. Obviously, native language growth must pave the way for foreign language growth. Then these five basic language learning theories are fundamental pillars of language learning whose relevance to education is undeniable. The Principle of the Behaviorist Theory The behaviorist theory believes that “infants learn oral language from other human role models through a process involving imitation, rewards, and practice. Human role models in an infant’s environment provide the stimuli and rewards,” (Cooter & Reutzel, 2004). When a child attempts oral language or imitates the sounds or speech patterns they are usually praised and given affection for their efforts. Thus, praise and affection becomes the rewards. However, the behaviorist theory is scrutinized for a variety of reasons. If rewards play such a vital component in language development, what about the parent who is inattentive or not present when the child attempts speech? If a baby’s language learning is motivated strictly by rewards would the speech attempts stop merely for lack of rewards (Cooter & Reutzel, 2004)? Other cases against this theory include “learning the use and meaning of abstract words, evidence of novel forms of language not modeled by others, and uniformity of language acquisition in humans” (Cooter & Reutzel, 2004). The Background of the Behaviorist Theory

I) Behaviorist theory dwells on spoken language. That is, primary medium of language is oral: speech is language because there are many languages without written forms, because we learn to speak before we learn to read and write. Then, language is primarily what is spoken and secondarily what is written. That's why spoken language must have a pri¬ority in language teaching. 2)Behaviorist theory is the habit formation theory of language teaching and learning, reminding us the learning of structural grammar. Language learning concerns us by "not problem-solving but the in¬formation and performance of habits" (Nelson Brooks, 1960; 46-47). In other words, language learning is a mechanical process leading the learners to habit formation whose underlying scheme is the conditioned reflex. Thus it is definitely true that language is controlled by the con¬sequences of behavior. 3)The stimulus-response chain, Response, is a pure ease of conditioning. Behaviorist learning theory "emphasizes conditioning and building from the simplest conditioned responses to more and more complex behaviors" (David S. Palermo, 1978; 19-20). This comes to mean that clauses and sentences are learned linearly as longer...
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