Children acquire language from their mothers or caregivers. How they acquire language will be the focus of this essay. I use the word “acquire” I do not use the word “learn”. New born children can not speak any languages. They only cry and coo to express their feeling. When their mothers or caregivers talk to them they listen, distinguish the voice then they store all those sounds and voice in their brain. This is not a learning process but this is an acquiring process. Children will acquire all words addressed to them. Those words, types of syntaxes and intonations will be the foundation to their language competence in the future.
While mothers are holding and talking to their children, the children listen and store the entire mothers’ utterance. The mothers’ intonation, syntaxes, and accent will be copied. It is going to be language patterns for the children. When the children grow up and they are ready to speak they will use those language patterns in their spoken language. Language acquisition process can be divided into some stages. Each stage has different language competence. The older children are the better their language competence. Here are some stages and competences.
Beginning 0, 0 to 0, 2 months old, children can response to human voice, mainly their mothers’. After 0, 2 months old they usually reduce crying and cooing to hear noise and sound.
In normal situation they can distinguish between noise and human voice even they can recognize their mothers’ voice (Sanger 1955) (Tampubolon, 1933. Mengembangkan Minat dan Kebiasaan Membaca pada Anak, Bandung, Angkasa).
There are three utterances on children at the age 0, 0 to 0, 5 years old. They are crying, cooing and babbling. Crying is the most used expression before they reach 0, 3 months old but they have produce cooing. Crying is considered as training to articulation organs to prepare producing words. When children are at the age 0, 4 to 0, 5 months old they like babbling. They produce words like “ Ba-ba” and “ ah-ah”. Their voice has intonation at this stage. Their voice has not had any meaning because the voice looks like sound. Children will be more responsive until they reach 1,0 year old but they still use babbling , cooing and less crying to convey their emotion.
Children can say one word at the age 1,0 to 2,0 years old but the period between 1,0 to 2,0 years old is not fixed. The period varies among children. At this stage children can speak one word like ‘Mama’ to call their mom. The word represents a simple syntax. When children say “Mama”, it can mean that they say “Mama is here “. One word has a sentence pattern behind the utterance. I have a year old baby. She often says “ Pee-pee”. I know she is going to say ‘ I am pee”. Environment and people have strong influence in this language development process at this stage.
Children can speak two or three words between 1,6 to 2,6 years old Lenneberg (1967)( Tampubolon, 1933. Mengembangkan Minat dan Kebiasaan Membaca pada Anak, Bandung, Angkasa) .
However, this competence is not standard to all children. There is no specific time mentioned from many researchers. Prof. Dr. Tampubolon Medan (1911) followed his grand children language development. He recorded that competence of saying two or three words was 1,0 – 2,0 or 2, 0 – 3,0 years old. The development at this period has been built at the previous period. Children can utter two or three words. Their achievement shows that children have acquired types of syntaxes even though children’s utterances are not clear due to the immature of articulation organs.
The ability to say full sentences takes place from 3,0 to 6,0 years old. It means that children can say simple sentences. They can say “This is book” or “I want milk”. The development of language competence grows continuously. Children can produce more complex sentences. They have used prefixes and suffixes to speak.
When children enter kindergarten at the age 4,0 or 5,0 they have skill to transform all language syntaxes Menyuk (1971) .( Tampubolon, 1933. Mengembangkan Minat dan Kebiasaan Membaca pada Anak, Bandung, Angkasa)
Finally, Verbal and visual stimulations are very important aspects that influence language development on children. Language acquisition process on children start from 0,0 to 3,0 years old. After these periods, the language develops and extends to reach the ideal patterns. Parents, caregivers and educators should know these stages and periods so that they will be the best figures to be duplicated.
Fauzi Ahmad, 2003. Children Language Development, The Faculty of Letters and Culture , “ Yogyakarta “ University of Technology.
DSAK, Soetjiningsih,1955. Tumbuh Kembang Anak, Bali, Universtas Udayana.
Tampubolon, 1933. Mengembangkan Minat dan Kebiasaan Membaca pada Anak, Bandung, Angkasa