Language acquisition is the process by which humans acquire the capacity to perceive, produce and use words to understand and communicate. This capacity involves the picking up of diverse capacities including syntax, phonetics, and an extensive vocabulary. This language might be vocal as with speech or manual as in sign. Language acquisition usually refers to first language acquisition, which studies infants’ acquisition of their native language, rather than second language acquisition, which deals with acquisition (in both children and adults) of additional languages.
Babies are born with the ability to distinguish speech from other sounds they hear, even though they do not understand what it means. By the time children reach school age, they are speaking in complex sentences, having conversations, and understanding most of what they hear. How does the development of language occur?
Children’s brains are designed to help them learn language. From the time they are born, their brains register and process the sounds they hear. As a child’s brain, thinking skills, and motor systems develop, so does his/her understanding and use of language to communicate. Underlying language development is the ability to think about the world, and explore it with vision, hearing, smell, touch, etc. As a child begins to make sense of the world through exploration, language is attached to those experiences. Language develops gradually, from single words at about twelve months to complex sentences at five years, and from simple concepts (juice, shoes) to those that are more abstract (frustrated, addition). School-age children continue to learn and use increasingly complex and abstract language.
Because early language develops through sensory exploration and understanding of the world, language development for a child with a visual impairment will be effected by the nature and severity of the sensory impairments, and by other factors such as motor and cognitive skills. Some children with mild to moderate vision and hearing losses can be taught to compensate for limited visual and auditory information. They do this by using their other senses, thinking skills, and hands-on experiences to learn the meanings associated with words and sentences.
The writer formulate the problem of the study as follow
– What is the result of Reading storybook can be increasing children language acquisition?
A theoretical analysis of word learning and L1 to L2 relationships in word learning suggests there are three main reasons to expect that primary-language storybook reading may contribute to second-language word learning. First, reading storybooks in the primary language may help children access storybook meaning because of children’s greater ability to process and derive meaning from the lexical, syntactic, and phonological structures of the primary language. This greater richness of text-based meanings should also promote the ability to link this new information with prior knowledge. Theoretical accounts of how vocabulary is learned from storybook reading suggest that the degree to which children can link information in text with prior knowledge may be important (Nagy & Herman, 1987). The formation of these linkages is dependent on a number of factors including breadth and depth of children’s knowledge base (Nagy & Herman, 1987), phonological skills (de Jong & Olson, 2004; Rosenthal & Ehri, in press), syntax knowledge (Cain, Oakhill, & Elbro, 2003), lexical search processes (Masoura & Gathercole, 2005), and the ability to develop new semantic representations (Li, Zhao, & MacWhinney, 2007). Prior knowledge becomes incorporated into language, and thus, children’s vocabulary knowledge reflects how much they know about their worlds. It is plausible, therefore, to expect that primary-language storybook reading will foster cognitive development, particularly of the conceptual and linguistic meanings embedded in stories. However, it is less clear to what extent conceptual and linguistic knowledge derived from experience with particular storybooks would benefit broader vocabulary development. To examine this relationship, measures of specific storybook vocabulary and more general vocabulary development were included in the present study.
A second theoretical reason why primary-language storybook reading may support second-language vocabulary learning involves individual word learning. The ability to understand more of what is read (described previously) would result in greater contextual support for inferring new meanings of individual words from linguistic context, thereby producing lexical expansion. For example, if a child understands the language in Don Freeman’s Corduroy, which portrays Corduroy, a teddy bear, and Lisa as “friends,” then this understanding would support the child’s attempts to infer the meaning of the word hugged when the storybook language describes how Lisa hugged Corduroy. Greater familiarity with primary-language syntax and phonology would also support the lexicalization of primary-language words. Thus, with primary-language storybook reading, children might acquire the meanings of more words and establish stronger lexical representations of those words than would occur with second-language reading. In addition, preschool L1 vocabulary size has consistently been shown to predict kindergarten and subsequent reading skills (Scarborough, 2001). Moreover, there is evidence that primary-language word knowledge transfers to a second language (although this occurs more frequently at later phases of language acquisition; Kan & Kohnert, 2005) and can serve as a foundation for second-language word learning, further strengthening the idea that primary-language storybook reading could support vocabulary development in English (Bialystok & Hakuta, 1999; Cunningham & Graham, 2000; Jimenez, Garcia, & Pearson, 1996). From this perspective, primary-language storybook reading would be expected to have a greater effect on text-specific word learning than overall vocabulary knowledge.
A third theoretical explanation for the potential benefits of primary-language storybook reading derives from the sociolinguistic opportunities that arise from reading storybooks in primary language. Interaction with adults during storybook reading that (a) promotes children’s language expansions and production and (b) initiates conceptual expansion through practices such as asking questions and helping children to connect story content with previous experiences has been associated with the strongest gains in vocabulary (Dickinson & Smith, 1994; Pemberton & Watkins, 1987; Senechal et al., 1995; Whitehurst et al., 1988). The studies discussed previously showed that teaching family caregivers how to use these interactive strategies with their own children was particularly effective for language enhancement. The sociolinguistic opportunities that arise when children read stories at home in their primary language with family caregivers who are also fluent in that language should foster further primary-language vocabulary acquisition. These are opportunities not only for conceptual expansion in both breadth and depth of meaning from lexical to discourse levels but also for connecting text material with individual, familial, and cultural knowledge. High-quality storybook reading has the potential to afford family caregivers the opportunity to incorporate the richness of their familial, cultural, and linguistic practices into book reading (Bernhard et al., 2006). This theoretical possibility suggests more strongly than the lexical-expansion explanation that primary-language storybook reading might confer advantages for both storybook-related vocabulary learning and, as the interaction between adults and children expands beyond the content of the storybooks, for the acquisition of vocabulary less directly connected to the storybook reading itself.
Primary-language storybook reading could then serve to promote additive bilingualism where both English-language acquisition and the preservation of the primary language were supported and valued (Cummins, 1999, 2000). It is widely acknowledged that primary-language maintenance and literacy are associated with older children’s success in English literacy (August & Hakuta, 1997; Cummins, 1999; Genesee et al., 2006). This study expands consideration of the influence of primary language on second-language literacy to preschool children.
By providing opportunities to engage with decontextualized language, home storybook reading may be especially beneficial to English-language learners’ vocabulary development. Decontextualized language refers to language that is removed from present experience and from immediate contextual and concrete support. For example, decontextualized language would be used to discuss yesterday’s events or to describe the life cycle of a frog to a child who has neither observed this cycle directly nor seen it represented in pictures. By encouraging children to rely more on linguistic information alone, decontextualized language strengthens their ability to master language and to employ it as a source of knowledge acquisition and conceptual development. In addition, skill with decontextualized language has a very significant effect on academic learning (Dickinson & Snow, 1987; Genesee, Lindholm-Leary, Saunders, & Christian, 2005; Olson, 1977; Snow, 1991), and exposure to this type of language has been found to differentiate children’s home environments (DeTemple, 2001).
Language Acquisition in children
Most parents can hardly wait for their baby to say its first word. This usually happens between nine months and a year. From about two years, the child should be able to use simple phrases, and by three he should be able to use full sentences. By four, he should be fully able to talk, although he may still make grammatical errors. By five, he should have acquired basic language.
There is little doubt that language acquisition is one of the key milestones in early childhood development. Much of a child’s future social and intellectual development hinges on this milestone. A language delay can lead to isolation and withdrawal, and to learning difficulties and poor academic performance. Recent research has revealed a dramatic link between the development of spoken language and written language among children, and the importance of language acquisition to basic reading skills.
Many parents believe that the term “language development” implies that the child’s acquisition of language is an automatic process. This, however, is not the case. There is nothing that any human being knows or can do that he has not learned. This is especially true of language acquisition. The child begins to learn language from the day he is born. From the very first moment it is the parents’ responsibility to lay a proper foundation that will enable the child to acquire adequate language skills. Just like parents must ensure that a child follows a healthy and balanced diet for optimal physical development, they must take steps to ensure optimal language development.
Parents should read to their children as often as possible. The secret, however, which will lead to optimal language development, is to read the same stories over and over and over. In the “good old days” there was not the abundance of storybooks that there is today. Parents were compelled — it was also part of the child-rearing traditions — to tell over and over to their children the few stories that they knew, or to read over and over to their children the few books in their possession. They also spent a lot of time teaching their children rhymes and songs.
How Language is Acquired
Parents should start talking to their little baby from the day he is born. Some mothers are by nature quiet and reserved. Others have the unfortunate idea that it is foolish to talk to their babies, knowing that they do not understand. The mother, who does not talk continually while feeding, bathing and dressing her baby, is laying the foundation for a late talker.
The baby learns language in one way only, and that is by hearing language as the parents talk and talk to it. The more a parent can talk to a child, often repeating the same words, the same phrases, the same structures over and over, the sooner the child will learn language. An important thing to note here is that by the time a baby is about nine months old he should be able to understand simple words and commands. He may perhaps also be able to say a few simple words already. Invariably, however, one finds that the baby understands much more than he is able to say. In fact, this remains so of any person throughout his life. One is always able to understand more of any language, even one’s mother tongue, than one is able to use in active speech. This is even more so of any second or third languages that a person is able to speak.
This shows that we have two more or less separate masses of language knowledge, our passive knowledge (also called receptive language) on one hand, and our active (expressive language) on the other. When we listen or read, we make use of our passive vocabulary, and when we speak or write, of our active vocabulary.
An important thing to note here is that the child’s passive vocabulary came into being through constant and continual repetition of words, phrases or structures. Once a word, phrase or structure has been repeated often enough, it also becomes part of the baby’s active vocabulary. This shows that the active vocabulary can only be improved via the passive. Research has shown that a child who is just beginning to talk must hear a word about 500 times before it will become part of his active vocabulary. Long before that it will already form part of his passive vocabulary. This means that parents should create as many opportunities as possible in which their baby can hear them talk.
Home storybook reading in primary or second language with preschool children: evidence of equal effectiveness for second-language vocabulary acquisition.
Storybook reading is one of the most frequently recommended practices for building preschool children’s early language and literacy competencies (International Reading Association & National Association for the Education of Young Children, 1998; Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998; Teale, 1984). One reason that reading aloud to children is effective is that it promotes vocabulary acquisition, which is linked to children’s conceptual knowledge (Elley, 1989; Pemberton & Watkins, 1987; Robbins & Ehri, 1994; Senechal & Cornell, 1993; Whitehurst et al., 1988). The use of interactive and analytic talk with children during book reading enhances language and vocabulary development in English-only children (Dickinson & Smith, 1994). Effective interactive practices include questioning (Senechal, Thomas, & Monker, 1995), expanding responses (Pemberton & Watkins, 1987; Valdez-Menchaca & Whitehurst, 1992), explanation of vocabulary (Elley, 1989), and both verbal and nonverbal responding (Senechal et al., 1995).
Other studies have shown that teaching family caregivers and day-care providers how to implement high-quality storybook reading has beneficial effects on language development (Arnold, Lonigan, Whitehurst, & Epstein, 1994; Valdez-Menchaca & Whitehurst, 1992; Whitehurst et al., 1988). Interventions that combine high-quality storybook reading on the part of family caregivers with classroom storybook reading have had additive effects (Lonigan & Whitehurst, 1998; Whitehurst, Arnold, et al., 1994). The term family caregivers refers to parents, extended-family members, or others who have primary responsibility for the child. Research has also shown that repeated readings of stories were beneficial for children, with 4% of target words learned from single readings and 10% to 15% more target words learned from multiple readings (Brabham & Lynch-Brown, 2002; Eller, Pappas, & Brown, 1988; Elley, 1989; Leung & Pikulski, 1990; Penno, Wilkinson, & Moore, 2002; Robbins & Ehri, 1994; Senechal, 1997; Senechal & Cornell, 1993; Senechal et al., 1995). The defining features of high-quality storybook reading are elaborating and expanding children’s responses; sharing and maintaining the child’s focus and positive emotional experience; and engaging in naming, questioning, labeling, and other activities designed to enhance the child’s understanding of the story and to model more sophisticated language use.
Results from storybook-reading studies in which children attended preschool programs in their first language or home reading occurred in their first language form the bedrock of evidence for the effectiveness of storybook reading (e.g., Bus, van Ijzendoorn, & Pellegrini, 1995; Teale, 2003). There have been few studies in classrooms or homes of either second- or primary-language storybook reading with children who are English-language learners (Garcia, 2000). The term English-language learner refers to children who are in the process of acquiring both the language primarily used in their home-language interactions and English.
Scholars have raised concerns about the suitability and effectiveness of second-language storybook reading and other vocabulary-development activities for novice English-language learners of preschool age (Garcia, 2000). Other scholars have proposed that the level of second-language proficiency is a critical limiting condition for second-language learning (Snow et al., 1998). This perspective is based on extensive evidence of correlations between measures of English oral proficiency and a variety of second-language indexes (Genesee, Lindholm-Leary, Saunders, & Christian, 2006). However, previous research has not empirically demonstrated nor theoretically defined the level of second-language proficiency necessary for successful second-language learning at different levels of development or on different tasks. At least one recent experimental study has demonstrated that preschool English-language learners can acquire second-language (English) storybook vocabulary from interactive storybook reading coupled with focused vocabulary instruction in English-language preschool settings (e.g., Roberts & Neal, 2004). An important component of oral language proficiency that mediates vocabulary learning in both first and second language is initial vocabulary knowledge (Fitzgerald, 1995; Scarborough, 2001). Studies that have focused on vocabulary learning with English-only children typically have found that children who begin with larger vocabularies learn more words than children who know fewer words (Hart & Risley, 1995; Penno et al., 2002; Stanovich, 1986). Little is known, however, about the relationship between initial vocabulary size and the growth of preschool English-language learners’ vocabularies during storybook reading. Research examining this relationship is needed.
Older and more recent position statements and learning guidelines frequently identify the importance of children’s primary language for school learning (California Department of Education, 2007; National Association for the Education of Young Children, 1996). However, there is little empirical evidence on what may be effective specific instructional practices for orchestrating the interplay between first and second language. Given the reality that many preschool English-language learners are in English-language classrooms through either circumstance or policy, the upshot of this limited empirical evidence is that first language often plays only an informal or limited role in preschool programs. Research on specific, effective ways to integrate first and second languages during storybook reading could advance our theoretical understanding of first- and second-language vocabulary development in addition to informing policy and guiding practice with more precision. The major purpose of the present study was to examine how both primary-language (L1) and second-language (L2) home storybook reading influenced second-language (English) vocabulary development when combined with English-language storybook reading in classroom settings.
The study was guided by a theoretical framework developed for this study suggesting that home storybook-reading experiences followed by classroom English-language storybook reading and vocabulary instruction on the same books could constitute an effective model for fostering the vocabulary acquisition of preschool English-language learners. This framework has the virtue of being responsive to the language characteristics and affordances of both homes and classrooms. Typically, preschool English-language learners from low-income families in the United States are dominant in their home language yet attend preschool programs where English is the principal language of instruction (Tabors & Snow, 2001). The conditions under which English-language learners may experience positive language outcomes from storybook reading in these second-language contexts are important to identify.
By implementing this sequential vocabulary-development model, I examined two expectations related to preschool English-language learners’ vocabulary acquisition from storybook reading. One expectation was that primary-language storybook reading at home could support English vocabulary acquisition from storybook reading in preschool classrooms when the shared book reading in each setting was based on conditions for vocabulary acquisition shown to be effective by previous research. A second expectation was that there would be no detrimental effect on English vocabulary acquisition as a result of children participating in a mixture of primary-and second-language storybook reading. I considered English oral proficiency, general English vocabulary knowledge, and initial level of story-specific vocabulary as potential mediators of vocabulary acquisition from storybook reading.
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