Learning any language at any age is a challenging task. Even though it is an integral part of human life, with the help of which people communicate, create, and exist, there are many important aspects to learning a language. The most crucial period is at an early age when a child is just starting to realize its first language and cannot understand what its parents are saying to them correctly. Over time, the child can learn the language by mimicking and cheering its parents, but it should not be forgotten that the child needs to know at least one other, additional language in the future. In this case, parents cannot always help as they often do not have the necessary knowledge to teach their child. For this, various educational institutions can help, using different teaching methods.
The person who put forward the theories on second language learning is Stephen Krashen. He has repeatedly stated that teaching a child a language has nothing to do with grammar rules or rote learning. He advocates the communicative method of learning, where the child learns a language by listening to others and repeating it. It resembles the primary language learning system back with the parents (Krashen 1). The situations in which the child has to learn a second language should be as comfortable and relaxed as possible so that the child does not feel stressed or misunderstood by the teachers. At the same time, these teachers are native speakers and the same children as those being taught. This removes the barrier between the age groups and allows communication on an equal footing. In this way, the child will not be afraid of saying the wrong thing and, as a consequence, will not be scared to continue learning.
Stephen Krashen suggested several theories for teaching children a second language. The most fundamental one is the Acquisition-Learning hypothesis. He divides all the participants in the learning process into students and teachers, into givers and receivers. This hypothesis is based on direct communication between the participants and their direct interaction with each other. The author of the hypothesis himself says that it is as close as possible to the one used in first language teaching and is an indispensable part of the learning process. To apply it correctly, several necessary conditions have to be met, such as the competence and interest of the teacher in the process and the moral connection between the teacher and the learner. Then the child will find it easier to understand what is required of him and will not perceive the teacher as an enemy but instead as a friend.
The end product of this hypothesis is not how the child speaks or hears the language but its understanding and the formation of a shared vision of what is going on. This is considered an introduction to language and helps the child to adapt more quickly to the new environment (Mitchell et al. 4.). Learning a language is always very stressful. If the information is presented correctly and shown that there is nothing to be afraid of in a new way of communicating, it is encouraged. The child will reach for the knowledge and want to learn more. The establishment of a moral bond between the participants will reinforce this process. It will set the mood that if everyone around them is communicating in this way, the pupil should also try to discover this new kind of interaction.
The next part of the training is the Monitor hypothesis. Its essence is that the teacher can already build the child’s basic communication skills through direct interaction and speech corrections. This hypothesis aims to establish and consolidate basic grammar knowledge and improve it by observing the child and giving small clues as to whether they have made a mistake. At this stage, the role of an observer is introduced, who will spot mispronunciations and give advice on how to speak correctly and which words can be better used. In this hypothesis, the connection between the observer and the child does not have to be as strong and coordinated as between the pupil and the teacher. Still, recommendations should be given in a very gentle way. This ensures that the child does not lose interest in learning after minor reprimands but instead has an incentive to improve. When interacting with the child, one should also be careful about statements and the interaction itself. It is unnecessary to explain complicated grammar rules but clarify what the child said wrong and how to correct it playfully. The pupil needs time and developed ability to understand and comprehend the material. Then it will be a matter of practice, and the role of the observer is to monitor and help correct mistakes constantly.
The Input hypothesis is the following critical hypothesis. It does not determine the learning process but the learner’s understanding of the material and how they interact with it. At this stage, basic vocabulary knowledge is introduced, and the use of certain words is explained. Many things depend on this hypothesis, such as the future development of the child’s language skills and how they will express themselves. This stage is called because it introduces data that will contribute to developing the child’s speech in the future. As in the past, the correct interaction between the pupil and the teacher is essential here, as introducing new material requires a tremendous effort from both parties. It is crucial to let the pupil know that the new material will help them in the future and not discourage learning because the child’s attitude is highly unambiguous – they are afraid to learn something else that they might not like. The so-called law of naturalness of education must be observed when everything is scripted, and new vocabulary is introduced simultaneously as illustrative examples from life. It is essential to explain that this knowledge is not meaningless, but on the contrary, it improves his abilities and encourages him to learn more and more material.
The Affective Filter hypothesis embodies all of the minor aspects discussed earlier. It includes interactions between participants in the process, child and teacher confidence, stress, and, just as importantly, personal character traits. It is no secret that each person is unique and has personality traits. However, in the situation with the child’s education, the problem is a little different because he is a vessel that needs to be filled with knowledge and distinctive traits. Children often copy the behavior of adults, which actively affects their future development. The teacher should also set only a positive example so that the child growing up will be able to adopt them and translate them into reality. A positive model affects the child’s overall development and helps in learning. Children with good self-confidence and excellent motivation will learn a second language much more willingly than children who lack these skills. Although this hypothesis seems to have little relevance to the learning process, it plays a considerable role and pulls all aspects together.
Only by mastering all of the above hypotheses will the child understand the arrangement of language and the general principles of its operation and interaction. Mastering grammar is the final step in learning a second language. Since the basic skills are already formed and the vocabulary is mastered, the child can proceed to the most challenging part of learning, namely grammar (Hancin-Bhatt and Juffs 3). Here also play a role, not the rules, which are often incomprehensible even to adults, and the interaction of knowledge and illustrative example from life. The teacher can help the student learn new things and demonstrate them, as well as with the help of various media devices. The last principle, the Natural Order hypothesis, states that everything must be ordered and have its ultimate goal. The same is true for the education of the child, who must come to this stage already prepared both morally and educationally. Although this stage is at the end of the list, it should not be underestimated because it gives the final shape to all the aspects that have been described above.
In summary, we can say that teaching child is a challenging process from a moral and physical point of view. This is especially true of the second language, which can be incredibly difficult to give since the child is not yet articulated as a person. It is by following the suggested hypotheses that a unique and distinctive path is developed for each student, and the knowledge gained can be converted into the future mental abilities of the child.
Hancin-Bhatt, Barbara, and Alan Juffs. “Learnability and the Lexicon: Theories and Second Language Acquisition Research.” Language, vol. 74, no. 2, 2018, p. 423.
Krashen, Stephen D. Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Learning. Pergamon Press, 2017.
Mitchell, Rosamond, et al. Second Language Learning Theories. New York Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2019.