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Caregivers Need to Correct Children’s Errors to Help Them to Acquire Language

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‘Caregivers need to correct children’s errors to help them to acquire language’

Referring to the data set in detail, and to relevant ideas from language study, evaluate this view of children’s language development

It is often acknowledged that children are likely to make grammatical mistakes, which are referred to as ‘virtuous errors’, when developing their ability to acquire language and by being corrected by caregivers/adults it allows them to acquire this language more effectively. However, there are several viewpoints, which oppose this statement as some believe that children are able to acquire language through other factors, which is exemplified by English Language Theorist Skinner who argued that language acquisition is concerned with imitation and reinforcement. He had argued that rather than being solely corrected for their grammatical mistakes, children should also be rewarded for making correct utterances.  

One reason as to why one could argue that caregivers must correct children's errors to help them acquire language is that, when a child makes an utterance, if they're not given a response from their caregiver then the child may not know whether or not the way in which they're using language is correct. This lack of response from the caregiver could potentially lead to the child continually making the same errors or, the child could develop a tendency to make irregular errors due to not ascertaining what is/isn't appropriate. Linguist, B.F. Skinner argued that children learn speech by imitating the speech of other people (such as, their caregivers). He stated that they learn through positive and negative reinforcement – (rewarding the child for correct language use yet, responding unpleasantly towards incorrect use of language). For example, if a child uses the declarative, "Hate shop" as opposed to including the first person singular pronoun (I) or the determiner (the) then the caregiver might shake their head in response to convey the deficiency. Alternatively, if a child forms a grammatically complete sentence then their caregiver might smile/nod to illustrate their affirmation. Both of these responses help to clarify what is appropriate in terms of language use and since a child isn't capable of deciphering this on their own, it once again, reinforces the notion that caregivers do in fact, need to correct children's errors in order to help them acquire language.  

However, in contrast to the previous argument, one theorist who clearly expressed in his research that children do not necessarily acquire language by consistently being reprimanded and corrected is Theorist Skinner who argued that language is dependent on parental imitation and reinforcement which as a result would lead to more variation and individualism within a child’s speech. Evidence from the text supports this concept as Jess, the child, imitates her mother by attempting to repeat the plural concrete noun ‘Bananas’ by saying ‘nanas’ (the child had deleted the unstressed syllable ‘Ba’ to make it easier to pronounce). This which suggests that although the correction of ‘virtuous errors’ may contribute and better develop a child’s ability to acquire language, other language techniques such as imitation and reinforcement could potentially be more effective.

From one perspective, it could be argued that children's ability to acquire language is dependent on the caregiver's persistence in correcting the grammatical errors of said child. Linguist, Jerome Bruner believes that caregivers must use a technique known as 'scaffolding' (when caregivers support a child through modelling how speech ought to take place) in order to facilitate the child's language development. 'Scaffolding' is a form of Child Directed Speech - (one of the various ways in which a caregiver adapts their speech to assist a child in their language development), and an example of this could be demonstrated in the event that a child uses the phrase, "have it?" As an interrogative (attempting to ask, "Can I have it?" In reference to an object). In this example, a caregiver might reinforce the omission of the epistemic modal verb (can/could) by recasting the phrase back to the child (relaying the child's grammatically crude utterance back to the them in an edified/grammatically correct form) to help the child understand that merely saying "have it" isn't grammatically sufficient. In this context, a caregiver would in fact, have to correct the error of the child in order to help the child cultivate the ability to use language more appropriately.      

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