Developmental psychology and language acquisition

Humans are oriented towards language even before birth. Infants adjust intuitively to the speech melody of their surroundings. Their very first imitations of sound combinations are communicative acts.

From about the second year of life, language acquisition becomes conscious. Language and thought converge. Self-centred in play, but remaining always in continuous social interaction, the child forms an image of the world and in doing so also acquires the ordering structures of language.

The child’s continued linguistic, cognitive and emotional development will depend on his or her social and cultural situation and on whether he or she is perceived as an individual and treated by others in ways appropriate to his or her needs, inclinations and capabilities.

According to the particular developmental stage that the child has reached, the following recommendations for the foreign language learning process may be noted:
  • Children’s spontaneity and lack of inhibition make them exceptionally capable of enthusiasm and quick to join in playful activity. Their normal abundance of curiosity, their urge to explore, readiness to learn and capacity to absorb should all be turned to good use in the form of practical, activity-oriented learning and experimentation.
  • Children are strongly focused on the here and now, on direct, tangible experience. In a non-target-language environment they need to be motivated in ways that make sense to them.
  • If children are to understand, material must be presented to them in terms of tangible realities that they can visualise. Until they have reached a certain age, they cannot cope with abstract concepts. Situational and action-linked stimulus material and learning procedures are accordingly of key importance for their learning attainment and their pleasure in learning.
  • Children are able to concentrate for short periods; playful means should be sought to address and further develop their usually good memory powers.
  • Children’s fundamentally open-minded attitude invites an engagement with intercultural topics.

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