Language as a Foundation for Learning in Educational Contexts - Essay Sample

Published: 2023-11-27
Language as a Foundation for Learning in Educational Contexts - Essay Sample
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Learning Education Languages
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1158 words
10 min read


Educational contexts entail the interactions among individuals from different demographic contexts. Such interactions may only be possible when the involved individuals can communicate through verbal and non-verbal cues (Ornat & Gallo, 2004). Over the course of human existence, language has been a central component of interactions and information exchange. Language competencies are thereby the foundational requirements for the success of any human interactions. In the educational sector, the importance of language is much more pronounced than anywhere else. Education and learning contexts are environments for knowledge exchange and propagation. In the increasingly globalized educational systems, educational contexts continue to shift to multicultural and multi-linguistic settings. As such, educators in the modern age must focus centrally on investigating the role of language (first language – L1 – and second language – L2) in the learning process for individuals (De Houwer et al., 2017). In this present analysis, the author is motivated by the central role that language acquisition plays in the learning process of individuals in the increasingly multicultural educational contexts.

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Language Acquisition Theory

During the age of enlightenment, philosophers, and academics in human interactions began to emphasize the central role of language as an essential factor in knowledge gain and learning (Bohren, 2020). These philosophers believed that language was an innate factor in individuals and not an acquired ability. Through the years of language research, however, authors have continued to expand the knowledge around the language ability and acquisition processes for individuals. Various schools of thought in education, sociology, and behavioral science have posited different methodologies for language acquisition over the years (De Houwer et al., 2017). From the timeless educational reform work of psychologists such as John Dewey, Language acquisition has been proposed to arise from sensory experiences and operant conditioning (Bohren, 2020). Presently, three popular theories intend to explain and further knowledge around language acquisition. The three main theories are the Nativist Theory, the Sociocultural Theory, and the Learning Theory, as discussed below.

The Nativist Theory

This first theory of language acquisition has gained large scale acceptance in academia and practice (Bohren, 2020). The nativist theory posits that the human ability to learn a language is naturally ingrained in the language acquisition device (LAD) that is present in the human brain. The nativist theory thereby ascertains that the language concepts and rules are built in our brains. It furthermore, agrees on the presence of universal grammar as established in every human's genetic makeup. As proposed by this theory, humans are the only species with complex language acquisition ability due to specialized genetic coding. This language gene allows humans to develop and decipher complicated communication through language.

The nativist theory of language acquisition has been developed through studies of the process of language acquisition in children (Bohren, 2020). Analysts have noted that kids learn new languages and language ideas much easier than adults. The universal grammar concept explains this. At a young age, a child has all the language acquisition device (LAD) active and ready to learn any language non-discriminately. As such, a child may acquire a new and complex language's competence easily. As the child learns the new language, they start to associate a symbol to a particular word based on their usage. When children, for instance, consistently hear the word "chair" when they are shown a structure that looks like a chair, they will learn to associate the word "chair" in the language they learn it to the structure or symbol associated with the word. Such language competence is built and instilled in the child through the sensory experience and LAD. It has, however, been determined that adult learners who have acquired the competence in one language find trouble learning a new language as they have conditioned the LAD to one consistent language pattern (Ornat & Gallo, 2004).

The Sociocultural Theory

Also referred to as the interactionist approach, this theory places language acquisition on the individual's socio-cultural context and desires to interact with peers (Baghdadi, 2017). Under this theory, individuals learn a new language in contextualized settings. Thus, the language that individuals acquire depends on their social and cultural environments and the people they learn from and with whom they aim to communicate (Baghdadi, 2017). Human beings are naturally social organisms. As such, their needs to interact with their colleagues often push them to learn new ways of communicating and interacting with such colleagues. The language that arises from such settings is thereby sensitive to the contexts of the individuals.

In a modern society that is increasingly multicultural, the socio-cultural theory has grown in importance. Researchers and practitioners continue to investigate second language competencies of students in culturally diverse classrooms. Such L2 competencies and abilities of students are thereby posited to be possible through the contextualized language abilities. Students in such L2 settings may learn the second language through interactions with their colleagues and subsequently adopt the contextually sensitive competences (Westergaard, 2014).

The Learning Theory

The third language theory approaches language from a cognitive and learning process approach (Bohren, 2020). In this theory, language is identified as a learning goal, just like math or science. The students in a language class are thereby taught to speak and write a new language through repetition and reinforcement. Babies are, for instance, taught to say a word say "dada," "baba" through constant repetition of the words. As they grow up, they learn to associate words into phrases by constantly practicing and listening to adults (Bohren, 2020).

The learning theory may adopt the various philosophies of knowledge acquisition, including cognitivist theory, behaviorism, constructivism, and connectivism (Ornat & Gallo, 2004). As such, the learner may learn the new language just like a student learns in a classroom. Babies and other language learners may, in this case, be introduced to stimulus-response processes to enhance language learning. For the advanced learners, the language teachers may apply the more advanced philosophies like cognition and metacognition to enhance more autonomous language learning interactions. In the learning theory for language acquisition, the students are allowed to experience typical learning, assessment, and reward experiences that are practiced in everyday learning experiences.


Language acquisition is an essential component of any learning context. In modern society, the need for L2 competencies cannot be ignored. Classroom and workplace culture and language diversity require an intimate understanding of various language acquisition competences. As such, the author of this short essay is highly attracted to the theory development and practice in language acquisition. The author is driven by the essential works from educational philosophers like John Dewey in understanding and theorizing the trends in language and cultural acquisition in the increasingly diversifying and globalizing social structures. The author has noted the contributions of the three language acquisition theories. As these theories are highly interested in the psychological analysis of the individual as a social being, the author will be keenly interested in exploring the theories in greater detail. The author is highly motivated to continue the research into the socio-cultural, cognitive, and behavioral factors that continue to influence L2 learning and acquisition.

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