English Language

How Do Children Acquire Language?

Written by Inzamam Aziz

How Do Children Acquire Language?

Children acquire language in cultural heritage. Parents don’t teach them how to talk. They acquire language easily and without any effort and formal teaching. Although we know that we can’t teach a child his mother tongue but still parents and family members play a vital role in talking to the child. 

Language Acquisition Through Interaction

Children acquire language through interaction. They interact not only with their parents but with other children also. When parents and family members talk children listen to them and it is also the way they acquire language. Generally, it is believed that a child listens to his mother talk even when he or she is in the womb of his mother. Even a child can acquire more than two languages as long as he interacts with the family.  The  “baby talk” is very simple and contains basic vocabulary and sentences but it is the first step toward Language acquisition. 

How Do Children Learn To Talk?

There is no one point at which a child learns to talk. By the time a child first utters a single meaningful word, he or she has already spent many months playing around with the sounds and intonation of language and connecting words with meanings. Children acquire language in stages at different times. 

How to children learn English?

First Stage:

The first sound a child makes is the sound of a cry. Then after six to eight months, a child starts making vowel sounds by starting with ah, ee, and oh. At about six to eight months of age, a child starts making strings of consonant-vowel pairs like boo and da. In this stage, the child is playing with the sounds of speech and sorting out the sounds that are important for making words in his or her language from the sounds that are not. Many parents hear a child making useful words like mama and papa etc.

Second stage:

Around the age of one and half years, the child will actually begin to utter single words with meaning. These are always content words like a cookie, doggie etc. Then, Around the age of two years, the child will begin putting these words together to make a complete sentence. A little later, the child then produces longer sentences that lack functional words.

How to children learn English?

How Does Language Acquisition Work?

If we look at how language acquisition works, every individual has the inherent capacity to speak a language. If we do not have the conditions to learn a language, we will not develop that ability to speak, even if it is natural. If a human child is left in the forest and grows up there with no human contact, they may express themselves in grunts as animals do, but they will not be able to communicate in human language.

We similarly have a natural ability to love. But if we do not put ourselves in situations where we can develop, it will not grow to its full power. That means we need an environment where at least we hear the words love and compassion– even that can help.

First language acquisition and Second Language Acquisition

Since the second language is an additional language after we acquire the first language, the L2 learning process can be influenced by the L1 learning process

Introduction To First Language Acquisition

First Language Acquisition also known as ‘Child Language Acquisition is a process whereby children from infancy through early school years acquire their first languages. The term ‘First Language Acquisition’ or ‘FLA’ can be referred to the field that investigates the process by which children develop to use words and sentences in their first language, to communicate with other people.

Introduction To Second Language Acquisition

It is the additional languages other than the first language. It involves the ability of people to use and develop ‘a complex system of sound, word, sentence structure, and meaning in any non-native language. It also tries to understand factors such as environment, individual differences, and social aspects which can be crucial factors underlining the acquisition of a second language.

How to children learn English?

Theories in First Language Acquisition

There are two main theories that explain the learning process of the child’s first language: “Behaviourism” and “Nativist or Innateness theory”.


The behaviourism theory assumes how children speak that children imitate what they hear, and then continue with positive support, children learn language through conditioning and habit formation.

According to B.F. Skinner and his colleagues learning or a change of behaviour on the part of the learner is brought about by a process known as ‘operant conditioning which is the result of repeated training. Operant means ‘voluntary behaviour’ which is the result of the learner’s own free will and is not forced by any outsider or thing. The learner will demonstrate the new behaviour first as a response to a system of a reward or punishment, and finally, it will become an automatic response. Behaviourists believe that learning a language is no different from learning anything else. It becomes a habit through the stimulus-response-reinforcement-repetition process.

Nativist or Innateness theory

The ‘Innateness Hypothesis’ proposed by linguist Noam Chomsky supports the idea that language acquisition has a biological foundation (Ortega, 2009). He claims that children learn their first languages through cognitive learning and acquire them through natural exposure. That means both nature and nurture influence the acquisition of language in children. He hypothesized that children are born with a specific innate ability to discover for themselves the underlying rules of a language system on the basis of the samples of a natural language they are exposed to. Chomsky also introduced the ‘Language Acquisition Device’ or ‘LAD’ to explain that there is some innate mental capacity that helps children to process all the languages they hear since they were born.

Theories In Second Language Acquisition


Behaviourism is a set of structures and acquisition as a matter of habit formation. By ignoring any internal mechanisms, it takes into account the linguistic environment and the stimuli it produces. It is suggested that learning is an observable behaviour which is automatically acquired by means of stimulus and response in the form of mechanical repetition.

How to children learn English?

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Inzamam Aziz

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