I have to admit, all the theories on the acquisition of first language are very much convincing since they all have language experts and researchers as their support systems. I am already convinced with one theory, then here comes another theory and my brain processes it and it also makes sense. Delving deeper into what these theories really imply, I can say that there are some commonalities despite the bulk of different information these three hold on to.
Today, I am a linguist; an expert. For what I say is what I will become. But since that is what I will still become, I have to depend on other experts regarding the theory I am taking a stand for. Though there are a lot of underlying theories on first language acquisition, I still believe that language develops from the interaction of biological, cognitive and environmental influences. The understanding of how language is acquired and the role the brain plays in the language acquisition process are crucial because the development of language is one of the most important factors in human development. The analysis of language development is intrinsically connected with one's awareness of how human beings or human brains perceive, learn, control, and coordinate elaborate behavior.
Vygotsky created a model of human development now called the sociocultural model. He believed that all cultural development in children is visible in two stages:
•First, the child observes the interaction between other people and then the behavior develops inside the child. This means thatthe child first observes the adults around him communicating amongst themselves and then later develops the ability himself to communicate.
•Vygotsky also theorized that a child learns best when interacting with those around him to solve a problem. At first, the adult interacting with the child is responsible for leading the child, and eventually, the child becomes more capable of problem solving on his own. This is true with language, as the adult first talks at the child and eventually the child learns to respond in turn. The child moves from gurgling to baby talk to more complete and correct sentences.
I think I am one of the living testaments to Vygotsky’s model. My maternal and paternal grandparents are Igorots so that means us and our parents basically share the same blood as that of them. They speak Kankanaey because they live in a Kankanaey dominated barangay. Though we share the same blood as that of our grandparents, I and my siblings were raised by our parents in an Ilokano dominated barangay in our place. Therefore, we grew up knowing only a few Kankanaey words because even our grandparents talk to us in Iloko. While it’s true that I was in the womb of my mother while she speaks kankanaey, there was that stage where I did not know anything about kankanaey, I only have known some, as far as I can remember, when we visit our grandparents in their place and some natives there speak to us in Kankanaey.
The following major themes presented by Vygotsky would also support this situation.
1. Social interaction plays a fundamental role in the process of cognitive development. Vygotsky felt social learning precedes development. He states: “Every function inthe child’s cultural development appears twice: first, on the social level, and later, on the individual level; first, between people (interpsychological) and then inside the child (intrapsychological).” (Vygotsky, 1978).
2. The More Knowledgeable Other (MKO). The MKO refers to anyone who has a better understanding or a higher ability level than the learner, with respect to a particular task, process, or concept. The MKO is normally thought of as being a teacher, coach, or older adult, but the MKO could also be peers, a younger person, or even computers.
3. The Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). The ZPD is the distance between a student’s ability to perform a task under adult guidance and/or with peer collaboration and the student’s ability solving the problem independently. According to Vygotsky, learning occurred in this zone.
Many schools have traditionally held a transmissionist or instructionist model in which a teacher or lecturer ‘transmits’ information to students. In contrast, Vygotsky’s theory promotes learning contexts in which students play an active role in learning. Roles of the teacher and student are therefore shifted, as a teacher should collaborate with his or her students in order to help facilitate meaning construction in students. Learning therefore becomes a reciprocal experience for the students and teacher.