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Improving Language Acquisition In Bilingual Children

3205 words - 13 pages

For most bilingual speakers, the English language is hard to navigate. Like an unknown street, not natural to them, they stumble to find the words to say what they want to say; they trip over cracks of pronunciation, taking wrong turns over careless misuse, out of context phrasing, as they attempt to follow the rules of ambiguous signage established by others. “Uh, um, hmmm, how do you say…?” A long pause follows. The image that comes to mind is of a student scratching at their head, hesitating before finally delivering the “right” word. It’s a matter of translating it to convey the correct meaning. Many bilingual speakers think out a process of word sorting that allows them to think through their vocabularies, sort, and choose a word that sounds right and is easy to say. A significant amount of bilingual speakers make every effort to learn how to say pronunciations that do not always readily translate from their native language; thus they struggle to express themselves correctly in everyday conversations. Today in the U.S., The Department of Education reports that 21% of school-age children between the ages of 5 and 17 speak a language other than English at home. Studies have shown that students that first learn to speak languages other than English often face neurolinguistic challenges, especially with the formation of organized thoughts for pronunciations and syntax. It is important that bilingual speakers in the U.S. become more comfortable and confident speaking English, but this can only be carried out and developed correctly if done at the right age and in the right environment.

What makes for better bilingual speakers? It all depends on timing. Widely acclaimed linguistic psychologists like Patricia K. Kuhl and Steven Pinker argue that early language interactions and phonological acquisition are critical for babies even in the first months following birth. In 2001, Patricia Kuhl was invited to give a T.E.D. talk, in which she presented The Linguistic Genius of Babies. Her research shows that at two months, babies are beginning to recognize and process different sounds used in language. Language acquisition is achieved by a baby’s first birthday, all through learned behavior of sounds during the critical period, at 6 to 7 months of age, where a baby successfully absorbs and retains most of this new language knowledge. Most people are under the general impression that learning a language at a young age is best, and that there are more difficulties learning a language as an adult. However, it is surprising to most that the peak of language acquisition is in such early stages, especially before most babies can even begin to repeat sounds and speak (TEDTalk: Kuhl). Research shows that from the time of birth to the age of 7, children impressively absorb and collect patterns of language unlike at any other age, despite the contrastingly different sounds that can clash as a result of exposure to more than one language.

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