Compare and Contrast Essay on Language Learning Theory

Published: 2023-12-16
Compare and Contrast Essay on Language Learning Theory
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Learning Pedagogy Languages
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 942 words
8 min read


Language gets considered a cognition that makes us regarded as human. Although other species are known to communicate using limited vocalizations, there are no other species in the world known to use symbols in their communications except human beings (Clark, 2016). The ability itself gets considered as remarkable. The mastery of communication skills has been proven to increase in young children. Infants who are as young as one year have been reported to understand some grammar required to understand some things. Different theories have been raised regarding the development of child language. The current paper discusses the theories of nativist language learning and behaviorist language learning. Additionally, the paper will also give my view on which between the two theories is more suitable for acquiring language by a child.

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Behaviorist Language Learning Theory

The behaviorist theory dwells on the belief that children usually learn their language from adults through imitation, getting rewards, and practicing (Clark, 2016). The role models to the children typically give them rewards that stimulate their desire to learn. When an infant tries to speak through imitating adults, they are given praise and affection, usually for trying to speak. Therefore, in this case, the compliments and the adoration acts as the reward that the child gets. However, there is the scrutiny that comes in with this theory. One of the reasons for scrutinizing the behaviorist theory is in the scenario that a parent is absent when their child is learning to speak (Clark, 2016). The second scenario is that if a child's ability to speak is only motivated by rewards, then in the absence of a reward, does it mean that the child will not learn how to communicate?

Behaviorist theory is regarded as a psychological theory founded by J.B. Watson (Clark, 2016). The theory helps children in the learning of their native language. In America, the behaviorist theory got advanced in the 20th century.

The behaviorist theory's primary principle is on human behavior and the observation from infants. The behaviorist theory mainly considers learning to establish habits, which results from reward and support (Clark, 2016). Babies get to know their native language through the observation and repetition of words from people around them. On the side of the adults, their task is to encourage the children and then reward them for their learning efforts to speak. Therefore, the child learns words from the adult and afterward combines the words to come up with sentences, which enables the child to communicate effectively.

Nativist Language Learning Theory

The nativist theory concludes that natural ability helps children to learn their native language. However, according to the idea, infants cannot learn without other human beings (O'grady & Archibald, 2015). However, this does not imply that infants usually need formal learning to acquire the skills to communicate using their native language. The theory claims that infants are usually born with a device in their brains that help them learn their language. According to the theory, in the case that a child gets exposed to a particular language, their language acquisition device makes it possible for the infants to learn the grammatical principles in the language.

When an infant starts to listen to her parents, she unconsciously discovers the language that the parents communicate. The infant then matches the language with whatever is happening around him. The language acquisition device further helps the child to identify words that are nouns, verbs, and how the terms are used (O'grady & Archibald, 2015). The information is not formally taught to the child by the adults around, but the child learns the information by himself. In fact, in some instances, parents make some grammatical errors when speaking, but this does not affect their language learning capabilities. Despite adults making grammatical errors around children learning to speak, the children do not make any grammar errors.

The development of effective language learning largely depends on the growth of the post-natal brain. If the post-natal brain development gets prolonged, it means that the child will take much time to learn the given language (O'grady & Archibald, 2015). Consequently, if the post-natal brain takes less time to grow, then it means that the child will take less time to have the ability to talk. The language learning of children depends on persistence.

Which Is Suitable

I think that the nativist language acquisition theory is more effective for a child when acquiring skills on how to communicate. The reason for this is that infants naturally learn how to speak with other human beings. The theory seems to apply in real-life situations whereby most of the children naturally learn how to speak, without formal teaching from other people.

Some reasons make me doubt the suitability of the behaviorist theory in infants learning how to speak. One of the reasons is that behaviorist theory depends much on rewarding the child for him to have the capability to communicate. In the case that there is no rewarding, then it means that the theory cannot apply in the prices of language learning. Therefore, the behaviorist theory can be said to be most useful in the experimentation and leaning of animals.


Language learning is essential for children. The reason for this is that language gives human beings the distinctive character of communication. The behaviorist and the nativist theory try to explain the process of language learning for children. I think that the nativist theory is more effective and suitable in the language learning process by children.


Clark, E. (2016). The Acquisition of Romance, With Special Reference To French: The Crosslinguistic Study of Language Acquisition, Volume 1, Chapter 7. Psychology Press

O'grady, W., & Archibald, J. (2015). Contemporary linguistic analysis: An introduction. Pearson Canada.

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