Sometimes those that set out to learn a language or even those that want to teach it don’t give much thought to the theory behind what they’re doing. Whether you want to acquire a language, or help others acquire it, probably the most important question that could be asked is:
How do humans acquire language?
It’s a simple question, but one that breaks into many different theories about the language acquisition process. Today’s discussion point is…Universal Grammar.
Prior to Noam Chomsky language “learning” was viewed as a process similar to traditional learning. A person exposed to a body of information (the language), through time and repetitive behavior (imitation or learning the rules), mastered the language and fluency was achieved.
Chomsky challenged that belief by explaining that there is no way a human could learn a system as deep, expansive, and complex as a language to proficiency by their pre-school years. Instead he assumed that every human is already born with a language’s grammar built into their brain. We’re already programmed to speak language, what we need is the correct environment to activate this ability.
When looked through the lens of Universal Grammar, acquiring a language becomes much easier. The learner already has the “system” in place to learn any language: Japanese, Russian, Spanish, Uzbek, Arabic, and so on. The foundation is already there, only the right conditions need to be meet. All native-speaking children of a language are inherently born into this ideal language learning environment, and it’s up to the second language learner to create their own language learning “path” that mimics it: a massive amount of comprehensible input.
Absorb language 言語を吸収する