Behavioral psychologists’ point of view regarding language acquisition
A number of single subject studies which have specifically focused on the language responses of language impaired children have demonstrated diverse language behaviors in this group of children[12,20].
Behavioral psychologists usually emphasize on a noticeable relationship between child’s encouragement and language acquisition. They believe that as well as any other behavior, language acquisition might happen through operant conditioning. In addition, they suggest that immediate reinforcement of child’s language behavior causes him to acquire the language as fast as he can. So, learning language has a positive relationship with visual and auditory reinforcements that the child receives when making improvements. Based on this theory, language acquisition is not dependent on complex mental development but the most critical variable in language acquisition is functional feedback. Hence, teaching a new behavior with step by step reinforcements is the effective way of acquiring that behavior.
Also, in behavioral psychology, repetition and modeling a word or a verb are recommended to facilitate language acquisition. Therefore, the clinician is asked to model an appropriate response to help the child imitate it.
The behavioral theory is the basis of most conventional language treatment programs for various language disordered children, including those with hearing impairment who have undergone cochlear implantation. Actually, the first step in auditory verbal training of cochlear implanted children is to help them be aware of the verbal and non-verbal sounds by conditional responses. The normal process in such programs is that first, every correctly imitated response is encouraged. After 4-5 times of encouragement, the reinforcements are reduced to once for every 2-3 correct responses in a fixed rate. Finally, the child cannot predict the exact time of receiving prizes because of the variant rate of reinforcements. By this method the number of child’s correct responses will increase dramatically[8,18].
Cognitive psychologist’s point of view in language acquisition
Cognitive psychologists emphasize that the complexity of language structures in a child indicates his level of cognitive development and vice versa[8,15]. Although it seems that young language learners acquire language simply by exposure to their mother’s tongue in a natural trend, the process is actually more complex than it appears. In fact, a young child’s language acquisition is based on a series of perceptual and cognitive skills. Language in humans is acquired in unique ways that require information processing. As a result, early sensory deprivation, especially hearing loss will cause impairments in language acquisition that may last a life time.
Information processing generally refers to a complex set of mental processes that include perception, cognition and thought. It is concerned with many functions that are themselves based on cognition, such as object recognition, perceptual learning, memory development, and language processing skills like speech perception and production. In fact, different aspects of information processing such as sensation, perception, memory, thought, language processing and problem-solving are all part of a spectrum and are all related to cognitive processing and cannot be considered independently and separately. Appreciation of one requires understanding and consideration of the others. Also, the more complex aspects of information processing that appear at older age are hierarchically dependent on the more simple aspects that have occurred earlier[13,15,22].
The information processing approach helps better understand the cognitive and language development in language impaired children.
Based on the cognitive psychologists’ point of view, one of the preconditions of language acquisition is memory and memory improvement. In fact, it is said that separation of the process that supports language perception from that which supports memory is impossible. When a word is produced, the meaning is derived from a life-long storage of knowledge, experience and memory in the brain. Evidence has shown that this storage of knowledge is organized in different dimensions and can be used flexibly.
For young children to understand the meaning of a new word among the various word-referent pairs in their environment, it is commonly presumed that this needs the repeated accompanying of auditory stimuli in the form of a word with a simultaneous extra-linguistic stimulus such as seeing and experiencing an object or an action. This mechanism of word learning is called “associationism” and usually starts with the most familiar objects and actions in a child’s environment[5,8,9]. “Association” improves memory and helps the child keep visual and auditory stimulations in his mind.
As with any other young language learner, perception and production of intelligible speech in a cochlear implanted child needs to have a structured system for symbolizing and coding sounds in the brain[9,21-23]. According to cognitive psychologists’ point of view, this is actually what happens among cochlear implanted children during the process of language acquisition. So, cognitive psychologists suggest that one of the best methods of language treatment in cochlear implanted children is to strengthen memory via repetitively using words along with “associated” pictures and objects.
In addition, one other precondition for language acquisition that is often overlooked and thus requires additional attention is the child’s motor development. The impact of this developmental domain on the child’s language acquisition is an issue that requires further attention.
In human beings, movement and thought have always been correlated. Nowadays, research has shown that movement in human life occurs with other intentions than movement itself. The main reason that causes the psychologists to believe in interrelationship between motor and language development is derived from the idea that infant’s motor development encourages him to explore his surrounding as much as he can. The children’s locomotion ability enable them to achieve new experiences by investigation of the environment and object manipulation. These new experiences provide an opportunity to develop communication skills. According to these finding, psychologists and other scientists need to explore the link between motor development and language acquisition furthermore[17,19].
Locomotion and object-manipulation are two important components of motor movement that facilitate language acquisition in children, especially those with language impairment. This finding has resulted from research on monkeys’ brains which have shown connections between their motor cortex and that part of their cortex which is similar to the human language cortex. So, it can be assumed that faster information processing is the consequence of correlating language and action[17,19].