THE WAY LANGUAGE DEVELOPS
- May 15, 2020
- Posted by: Course Techin
- Category: Uncategorized
Since our emphasis is on the primary school child’s language, we will not discuss language development before age six years in great detail. We wish to emphasize, however that the major task of learning the first language or mother tongue is virtually done at that age. There are a few phases which we need to consider since all children, regardless of the language they are learning, pass through them.
- Pre-language Phase. (0 – 1 year). At birth and for about two months later, the only means of oral communication between the baby and those around is crying and grunting. Soon, however, the child begins to make other sounds. He makes only vowel sounds at first `u-u-u-u-u-u-u’. Later, as his physical structures mature, he can produce consonant and vowel sounds which he repeats ‘gi-gi-gi’. We say that he is babbling. When the baby is awake, he lies down and seems to enjoy producing these sounds. Children whose parents and care givers talk to them a lot produce more of these sounds. After some time, the babbling sounds which are usually common to all children everywhere, begin to change. They begin to sound more like the sounds that are heard in the language of the area.
During this phase too, the child also learns to use the sounds to communicate. He cries in particular ways to make requests and give information. When he is fed and contented, the sounds produced are different in tone and quality from those made when he is in pain or needs something like food. No one tells a parent the cry or `speech sounds’ of hunger, pain, or of falling asleep. So, we can say that the baby is learning about the function of language.
- First Words Phase.(2 – 4 years). The average child’s first word is usually spoken in the second year. Later, the child makes two – word and three – word sentences. The child shows by action that he knows what is meant by food, water, goat, daddy etc. This knowledge is gained through conditioning because the child hears the word repeatedly in conjunction with the presence of the object in question. However the interesting thing about these first sentences is that each one can mean different So if the child says
`jeje’ or `dia’ (meaning eat in Yoruba and Efik/Ibibio), the child may actually mean `I have eaten’ or `I want to eat ‘or `You have eaten my food’ etc. The exact meaning can only be gotten from the context in which it was said. The underlying meaning is complex and far ahead of the means of expression.
Sometimes, the child’s speech in this phase is described as telegraphic. This is so because he omits certain words as we do when we are sending telegrams. During this phase, too, the child does not only learn to make longer sentences from one to two, three and four words, he also begins to observe some rules of grammar. He begins to use correct word order. He also learns to use different tenses and to indicate plurals, etc.
The child’s speech also sounds improved in quality. His pronunciation becomes more distinct. He begins to use intonation to express himself. For instance, he raises his voice at the end of the sentence to indicate that he is asking a question.
iii. Early Adult – like Speech: By about 5 or 6 years, the child communicates quite well almost like an adult. However, there are a few problems. He may have some problems in pronouncing certain sounds e.g. `gb’, `kp’ and `L’ sound if these occur in your language.
Although he speaks well there are also some areas of grammar where he still makes mistakes. These are particularly noticeable when he brings messages and has to use reported speech. There are others too; so look out for them if you teach in the junior primary classes.
The children understand meaning quite well. But, here too, much depends on the type of experiences they have had. Sometimes, the meaning they attach to words may be too restricted or too vague. For instance, they may use the words `aja’ or `nkita’ or `ewa’ correctlyto mean dog (in yoruba, Ibo, Ibibio) but this refers only to the type of small dog they see in the village. If they see the picture of or a real live police dog, they may not identify and call it a dog. You have to be careful in teaching to ensure that you help children to develop correct concepts or meanings.
These are just a few indications of the kinds of language deficiencies with which children come to school. But, they make such remarkable progress on their own that we cannot but wonder how they can learn language so quickly and so competently.