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Language Acquisition As A Cognition Ability

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As a human, we cannot avoid ourselves from using language to interact with one another. According to Simanjuntak (1978), language is a structure in which units of sound and speech are selected and arranged arbitrarily for use by a community to communicate. Language acquisition is a process of human language development. Usually, first language acquisition is associated with children’s language development while second language acquisition focuses on adult language development. The acquisition of the child’s native language or mother tongue will influence the development of their language. But there are other views suggest that there are two processes involved in language acquisition among children which are language acquisition and language learning. The two main factors often associated with language acquisition are nurture and nature factors. However, linguists do not deny the importance of factors such as biology and the environment. Studies have been conducted to see if humans are already equipped with biological tools for language abilities as claimed by linguists Noam Chomsky and Lenneberg or whether language abilities are the result of general cognition ability and human interaction with the environment.

According to Piaget, all children since birth was equipped with a general mechanical form of conscience for all human abilities including language ability. This common cognitive mechanism tool is used to master everything including language. For Chomsky and Miller, however, this specialized tool is known as the Language Acquisition Device (LAD), which is similar to Lenneberg’s previously known ‘Innate Propensity for Language’. LAD is said to be inherited by every child naturally and with this mindset will enable children to acquire their mother tongue easily and quickly. Recent studies by Bates, Snow and Tomasello have hypothesized that language learning is a result of the general ability of human cognition and its interaction with the surrounding community. One of the latest tools used to study language acquisition is CHILDES (Child Language Data Exchange System) by Brian MacWhinney and Catherine Snow. According to Bowen, language learning begins from birth. Newborns will begin to recognize the sounds around them. According to Brookes, the birth or acquisition of language in the simplest form of each infant begins at the age of about 18 months and attains almost perfect form at the age of about four years. Language acquisition means the use of language by an individual and is said to be active in children between the ages of 2-6 years (Simanjuntak, 1982). This does not mean that adults do not have the language but the level is not as great children. Language acquisition is associated with mastery of a language without realizing it or learning it directly without having formal education to learn it, instead acquiring it from a language that spoken by community members around him. He further emphasized that the study of language acquisition is important especially in the field of language teaching. Adequate knowledge of the process and importance of language acquisition can help even determine success in the field of language teaching.

In general, every normal baby will undergo a gradual and arbitrary process of language development. The development of the language will be more robust and perfect as the child ages. According to Simanjuntak (1987), the developmental stage of this language can be divided into five stages which are one-word stage or holophrastic stage, two-word speech stage, the beginning stages of grammar, stages of adult grammar and full efficiency levels. A child will go through three language acquisition processes, namely phonological, syntactic and semantic components. These three components are said to occur simultaneously. According to Stoel Gammon, C. (1992), in language development, prelinguistic vocalization can be divided into five stages which are crying, cooing, vocal playing, canonical babbling (starting at age 6) and conversational babbling which starts at about 10 months old. Later, when they reach the age of 12-18 months, children will start using a sound or a word to refer to something meaningful, such as a ‘car’ sound to refer to a car object or to utter a word ‘car’ to represent a possible sentence meaning ‘Mommy, I want to ride a car’. By the time they reach the age of 18-24 months, children can already make words which form short sentences. Parenting is a normal process. Children’s vocalization and language will continue to develop along with their age stages. The purpose of this study is to learn more about the basic theory of language development and its application in language teaching in the classroom.

Principles of interactionist theory

The ability to think and speak is a key feature that distinguishes between humans and other beings. With the existence of languages, humans can communicate their thoughts. One of the objects of human thinking is the way people talk. There are various scholars’ views on language learning. One of the theories of language acquisition is the interactionist theory. Interactionist theory was pioneered by Halliday. The development of this theory took place around the 60s and 70s. Halliday’s Interactionist Theory states that children learn the meaning of language because there is a parallel systematic relationship with what they hear and what happens around them. This theory sees that literacy and language proficiency can occur in daily communication situations. Communication is a human need and interaction happen using language as a medium. From the very beginning of childhood learn to speak, interactions will apply naturally and based on curious instincts. Communication is not happen in every phase of implementation. Curiosity in children has encouraged them to communicate and this helps them to master their literacy and language. Based on Interactionist Theory, children build understanding through interaction with their environment and this interaction requires them to communicate.

From the point of view of interactionists, children need to be exposed to linguistic interactions in order to portray a clear and precise linguistic form. They also think that semantic delivery (meaning) is important, and should work in tandem with the language structure so that students can use the language system correctly. This theory also emphasizes the importance of the process of forming hypotheses about the laws of language in such learning. A student should be able to use the language structures correctly in terms of grammar and meaning. This is important to enable them to communicate effectively with the community. Thus, teachers are encouraged to give their students a lot of practice.

There are three principles in interactionist theory. Firstly, meaning is more important in every language communication. Learning the language is not only structurally, but more importantly, learning to interact. Secondly, language learning is a mental and linguistic process. In language teaching and learning, the language spoken and its meaning are closely linked. This interactionist theory is concerned with both elements of meaning and language structure. Furthermore, the third principle states that this theory emphasizes the focus on meaningful activities. If teachers can convey their teaching in meaningful forms of activities, then students will be able to use the language fluently.

Some of the characteristics of interactional theory are children master language because they want to meet the need to interact with the community. After they have mastered the language function, they will master the language informative function as well. The children’s language system is capable of expressing functions such as eating and hunger. Children are helped to master the language rules. They use proper language structure in grammatical aspects. The delivery of meaning is more important than the structure of the language.

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In addition, the development of childhood language from perspective of interactionalism, Mok (2009) states that the theory of childhood language development prioritizing interaction between potential and the natural environment of childhood itself. Vygotsky (1986) believes that the theory of interactionalism emphasizes language learning under social contexts in which children with language skills, observers and participants in social interactions.

Implications of the theory to teaching language in the classroom

At every level, teachers are teaching their students language. They help their students to gain the language proficiency that needed to succeed in school. Their understanding on how students develop language will guide their curricular decisions. Halliday’s Interactionalist Theory (1977) points out that, children learn the meaning of language because there is a systematic relationship to what they hear and what happens around them. This theory focuses on the literacy and language skills that can occur in everyday communication situations. Communication is a human need and interaction takes place using language as a medium. As children begin to learn to speak, naturally and based on their curious instincts, interactions will occur.

There are many implications of the theory to teaching language in the classroom. In the context of teaching, this trend argues that schools are a social group and that students should develop their social capacity as much as possible. Indirect communication will occur during each implementation phase during the teaching process in the classroom. In language learning, this theory suggests that teachers should give students a lot of practice. In addition, meaningful and engaging language activities are also important to consider as it enable students not only to master and improve the use of the language system but also to be able to use it fluently. Children’s communication takes place throughout the implementation of teaching and learning activities between children and teachers with the aim of obtaining information and sharing ideas on learning topics.

Teachers as an adults play a role in trying to learn to understand what children are saying should and teach them the correct way to express the meaning of language. At the pre-school age of five to six years development in all aspects of communication skills is critical because at this stage, basic language functions include communication, expression and making sense will increase as they engage in conversation. The involvement of children in the learning approach is also influenced by the activities provided in the classroom. Through hands-on activities of interest, motivation, initiative to try and learning fun will encourage children to engage in this approach. Activities provided based on children’s interests and existing knowledge of the topic have helped increase their engagement when these activities are accompanied by ‘hands-on’ activities in which the topics of learning activities implemented in the classroom. The curiosity of children has encouraged them to communicate and this will help them to master their literacy and language. According to Interactionist Theory, children build understanding through interaction with their environment and these interactions require them to communicate. Therefore, the activity designed in each phase involves exploration and investigation based on topics of interest to children that occur in their environment. In the process of learning, students should be able to learn in real life situations and contexts, which give them opportunities to interact, communicate, cooperate, take responsibility and be confident.

As a group activity, there are aspects of working together, waiting for turns, being tolerant and sharing materials that enhance the social skills of preschool children. They are able to work well with their teammates and complete tasks well. Group activities enhance the social skills of preschool children so that they can control and interact with their teachers or peers. Group activity is a pedagogical strategy involving small groups of children collaborating with each other based on the tasks assigned by the teacher. Through group activities, children learn about learning not only for them but also for their friends. This strategy enhances students’ positive attitudes towards learning and is effective in improving children’s achievement in pedagogical processes (Gillies & Ashman, 2000). Children are also capable of predicting their peers’ actions and prefer to share objects and collaborate on activities in groups. Although this theory assumes that the delivery of meaning is more important than the structure of the language, both meaning and structure should work simultaneously. This step can help students to use the language they learn correctly.

One of the advantages of interactionist theory are it is a daily social interaction. People interact with each other to achieve their motives and goals. Many use symbols such as colors, lights, gestures, symbols and so on in the process of creating social relationships. Human communication and way of life have its own symbols that are very important and understood by each social individual. Meanwhile, there are also weaknesses in the interactionist theory in which it does not look at social life as a whole. However, this theory of interactionalism is only one of the perspectives of understanding and thinking about the social world. These differences in understanding of the social world indicate that human relations with society are infinite. Thus, any sociological approach can only provide a partial description of humanity and society.


In conclusion, learning is a mental and linguistic process. Ability to use correct language structure in terms of grammar and meaning prioritized to enable children to interact. Teachers need to provide meaningful and effective teaching situations and materials. The language structure will be effectively mastered if students are engaging in activities that are effective and relevant to daily life. This theory emphasizes verbal communication based on a communicative approach. Preschool education is the foundation of all children’s skills and knowledge building. This solid foundation must be well-established in order to produce preschool children who are skilled in all aspects. It is the responsibility of educators to understand and apply language development theory approaches such as interactionist theory. This can provide educators with a deeper understanding of the importance of designing activities and using appropriate approaches to enhance children’s skills and knowledge in all areas of development.

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Language Acquisition As A Cognition Ability. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 22, 2023, from
“Language Acquisition As A Cognition Ability.” Edubirdie, 17 Feb. 2022,
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