Tag Archives: language acquisition

Confusing Words for Small Children

In this post, we will look at some commonly used words that can bring a great deal of frustration to adults when communicating with small children. The terms are presented in the following categories

  • Deictic terms
  • Interrogatives
  • Locational terms
  • Temporal terms

Deictic Terms

Deictic terms fall under the umbrella of pragmatic development or understanding of the context in which words are used. Examples of deictic terms include such words as this, that, these, those, here, there, etc. What makes these words confusing for young children and even ESL speakers is that the meaning of these words depends on the context. Below is a clear way to communicate followed by a way that is unclear using a deixis term

Clear communication: Take the book
Unclear communication: Take that

The first sentence makes it clear what to take which in this example is the book. However, for a child or ESL speaker, the second sentences can be mysterious. What does “that” mean. It takes pragmatic or contextual knowledge to determine what “that” is referring to in the sentence. Children usually cannot figure this out while an ESL speaker will watch the body language (nonlinguistic cues) of the speaker to figure this out.

Interrogatives

A unique challenge for children is understanding interrogatives. These are such words as who, what, where, when, and why. The challenge with these questions is they involve explaining the cause, time, and or reasons. Many parents have asked the following question without receiving an adequate answer

Why did you take the book?

The typical 3-year old is going to wonder what the word “why” means. Off course, you can combine a deictic term with an interrogative and completely lose a child

Why did you do that?

Locational Terms

Locational terms are prepositions words such as in, under, above, behind etc. These words can be challenging for young children because they have to understand the perspective of the person speaking. Below is an example.

Put the book under the table.

Naturally, the child is trying to understand what “under” means. We can also completely confuse a child by using terms from all the categories we have discussed so far.

Why did you put that under the table?

This sentence would probably be unclear to many native speakers. The ambiguity is high especially with the term “that” included.

Temporal Terms

Temporal terms are about time. Commonly used words include before, after, while, etc. These terms are difficult for children because young children do not quite grasp the concept of time. Below is an example of a sentence with a temporal term.

Before, dinner, grab the book

The child is probably wondering when they are supposed to get the book. Naturally, we can combine all of our terms to make a truly nightmarish sentence.

Why did you put that under the table after dinner?

Conclusion

The different terms mentioned here are terms that can cause frustration when trying to communicate. To alleviate, these problems parents and teachers should avoid these terms when possible by using nouns. In addition, using body language to indicate position or pointing to whatever you are talking about can help young children to infer the meaning

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Drill Pattern Activities for ESL Students

Drill and practice is a behavioral approach to acquiring language. Through the frequent use of drills, students will hopefully uncover the pattern and structure of the language.

Although there is criticism of drill and practice such as the focus on memorization and the common inability of the student to generate language on their own. This method is still used frequently in language teaching.

The purpose of this post is to provide several drill and practice activities that can be used in teaching language. In particular, we will look at the following activities

  • Inflection
  • Replacement
  • Restatement
  • Completion
  • Transportation
  • Contraction
  • Integration
  • Rejoinder
  • Restoration

Inflection

Inflection involves the modification of a word in one sentence in another sentence

Example

I bought the dog —–> I bought the dogs

Replacement

Replacement is the changing of one word for another

Example

I ate the apple —–> I ate it.

Restatement

Restatement is the rewording of a statement so that it is addressed to someone else

Example

Convert the sentence from 2nd person to third person

Where are you going?—–>Where is he going?

Completion

Completion is when the student hears a sentence and is required to finish it.

Example

The woman lost _____ shoes—–>The woman lost her shoes

Transposition

A change in word order is needed when a word is added to the sentence

Example

I am tired. (add the word so)—–>I am so tired.

Contraction

A single word replaces a phrase or clause

Example

Put the books on the table—–>Put the books there

Integration

Two separate sentences are combined

Example

They are kind. This is nice—–>It is nice that they are kind

Rejoinder

These are responses to something that is said. A general answer based on a theme is expected from the student

Example say something polite

Thank you

Example agree with someone

I think you are right

Restoration

The student is given several words and they need to combine them into a sentence

Example

boy/playing/toy—–>The boy is playing with the toy

Conclusion

The examples in this post provide some simple ways in which English can be taught to students.  These drill and practice tools are one of many ways to support ESL students in their language acquisition.

Components of Language

There are three major components of language. These components are form, content, and use. Form involves three sub components of syntax, morphology, and phonology. Content is also known as semantics and use is also known as pragmatics. In this post we will look at the sub-components of form which are…

  • Syntax
  • Morphology
  • Phonology

Syntax

Syntax is the rules for the structure of a sentence. Syntax deals with such details such as sentence organization, the order of clauses, relationships between words, elements of a sentence, etc. Syntax also determines which word combinations are acceptable. For example, if I say “He went to town.” it is acceptable, however, if I say, “town to went he” it does not work because of the syntax of English.

There are certain common rules of syntax. A sentence must contain a noun phrase and a verb phrase. Using are previous example “He went to town” contains a noun phrase “He” and a verb phrase “went to town.” Another example would be the “The big dog ran to the house.” The noun phrase for this example is “The big dog” and the verb phrase is “ran to the house.”

Morphology

Morphology is focused on the organization of words. Morphemes are the smallest grammatical units possible. Examples of morphemes would be any letter or vowel of the English alphabet.

There are two types of morphemes free and bound. Free morphemes can stand only. Examples include many words such as boy, small, and sad. These morphemes do not need any help to make sense. Bound morphemes must be connected to a larger word to make sense. Examples include prefixes and suffixes such as un-, non-, -ly, -s.

Phonology

Phonology looks at the sound of speech and the shaping of syllables. The sound for /p/ is different depending on its placement in a word and the vowels near it. For example, /p/ can vary in sound in such words as pea, poor, and soup. Each word contains /p/ but the sound is slightly different.

Sequencing also changes the of words the -ed sound is different in “jogged” than it is in “walked” the first has a /d/ sound while the second has a /t/ sound.

Conclusion

There is much more to be said about language form. The understanding of syntax, morphology, and phonology helps in better understanding language acquisition. Therefore, ESL teachers need an exposure to the basics of this in order to be able to provide better support for their students.