Importance of stages in learning the first and second languages
According to Xing (110), “Language acquisition is a process through which language is perceived and attained for use in communication”. When one has acquired a language, the individual can use that language to make words. Several mechanisms take place when a person is learning a language (Igram 30). This accounts for the complexity of the learning process. Researchers have often disagreed on the value of stages especially in the acquisition of a second language.
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The question that this essay will be seeking to answer is: Must the learners of a first and second language go through all the stages of language acquisition? This paper examines the importance of stages in language acquisition. These stages are important because they signify progress in the learning process and help the learner to have orderliness in mastering various rules in the language.
When certain stages are missed, the learner may never be able to master certain things in a language (Bylund, Nyclas and Hyltenstam, 44). It is therefore very important to study these stages. Every stage of language acquisition is important for acquiring the first and second languages.
Importance of stages in language acquisition
Children pass through many stages before they master their native language. Each of these stages forms the foundation on which the next stage will rest. Each stage is therefore very critical because the success of the child at any one stage depends on the success made in the previous stages. Learning the first language through stages is the only successful way to mastering the language. Ingram (53) argues that, “acquisition of the first language has a critical period”.
This can be understood as an important stage in which the baby needs exposure to language for normal acquisition of language to take place. If this stage is by passed, the baby may never acquire the language in a normal way because it is one of the many stages involved in learning a language (Xing, Dedrick, Troy and Kofi, 113).
The initial stage is cooing. Every baby sounds like the other in this stage regardless of their native language or place of residence. Passing through this stage gives the baby a chance to practice using the voice box before beginning to learn any language. According to Ingram (116), this stage forms the foundation for speech. Whenever the second stage sets in, the coos begin to take up the vowels present in the native language of the baby.
The babies start sounding differently from each other and the journey to speaking their native languages begins. This is an important stage because it determines the point at which the baby picks up a particular native language. In the third stage the babies start producing full words. They can make utterances using one word made of nouns.
The babies move on to sentences with two words made up of a combination of a verb and a noun. Longer utterances with three words or more are made with time as the babies learn the first language. The babies make utterances with adjectives followed by adverbs when they have mastered the language to an advanced level (Xing 150). Cooing is important because it forms a foundation for language formation.
Following the stages allows the learner to have an orderly and systematic grasp of the rules and commands of a language. Many people get a lot of difficulties while trying to learn a second language. These difficulties are even more complex when one fails to follow particular stages of acquiring a second language.
Every language has a system comprising of rules governing the arrangement of sounds to form patterns of speech that have a meaning. Words need to be in a certain particular order to form an understandable sentence. People trying to acquire a second language go through the same processes they went through when learning their first language (Quentin, Jing, Shin, Jee-Young, Shuang, Su, Jung-Hsuan, Burgess-Bringham, Gazer, Unal and Snow, 67).
According to Bylund et al (87), “every stage has bigger challenges than the previous one and so the learner is prepared for the new challenge”. Learning a second language for example, is a process comprising of the pre-production stage, early production, speech emergence, intermediate fluency and advanced fluency. In the pre-production stage, learners can have a receptive vocabulary of five hundred words although they don’t speak.
Learners need the language to be repeated to them (Krech and Healy, 24). They understand gestures and certain movements. The early production stage takes about 6 months and learners may have 1000 words of passive as well as active vocabulary. This stage is important since it forms the foundation for the next stage.
Stages signify progress in learning. For example, the third stage of second language acquisition is called speech emergence. Learners have about three thousand words in their vocabulary and may use simply constructed sentences in communication. They are able to ask grammatical or ungrammatical questions and can follow easy stories.
In the fourth stage of intermediate fluency, learners have approximately six thousand active words and can speak and write complex sentences. Quentin et al (13), note that “the learner may apply strategies from his native language to acquire content in the new language”. In writing, the learners make many mistakes but they can understand complex concepts. The final stage in second language acquisition is advanced fluency.
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Learners can take between 4 and 10 years to gain proficiency in their second language. This is progressive learning and the teacher has easy time to teach the language because he can identify successes and failures through these stages (Rui 120). Stages therefore show that the learner is growing in his or her knowledge of the language being acquired.
Some researchers argue that language can be acquired without the necessity of systematic stages. Such people overlook the fact that the brain itself is made in a manner that it masters things in an orderly way from the easier ones to the more complex ones ( Ingram 67). Failure to follow any order in learning can cause confusion in the learners.
The essay has presented an argument over the necessity of language acquisition stages for learning the first and second languages. The stages involved in language acquisition are very important because one can only master a language well if he goes through these stages.
One stage forms the foundation for the next stage, stages help the learner to master the rules of the language systematically and prepare the learner for the next stage. Stages also indicate progress in learning. The stages of language acquisition are therefore very important to the entire process. More research should be done on what happens to learners when they are unable to master certain specific stages in language acquisition.
Bylund, Emmanuel, A. Nyclas and K. Hyltenstam. “Does First Language Hamper Nativelikeness in Second Language?” Studies in Second Language Acquisition. 3.2 (2012): 13-17. Searchable Proficiency Database. Web.
Ingram, David. “First Language acquisition: Method, Description and Explanation.” Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989. Google Scholar. Web.
Krech, Thomas and A. Healy. “A Comparison of Rereading Benefits in First and Second Language Reading.” Language Learning; Journal of research in language studies 62.1 (2012): 10-21. ESF Database. Web.
Quentin, Dixob, Jing Zhao, Jee-Young Shin, Shuang Wu, Jung-Hsuan Su, Gazer Burgess-Bringham, Unal Melike and Catherine Snow. “What we know About Second Language Acquisition: A Synthesis from Four Perspectives.” Language 3.6 (2012): 2-6 Academic Search Complete. Web.
Rui, Chen. A brief Study on Second language Acquisition and Web Based English Teaching. E-business 3.6 (2011): 1-3. IEEE Xplore digital library. Web.
Xing, Tony, Robert Dedrick, Troy Locker and Kofi Marfo. “Second-first Language Acquisition: Analysis of Expressive Language Skills in a sample of girls Adopted from China.” Conference Feb. 2012. CINAHL with Full Text. Web.