Pros & Cons for Vygotsky's Theory of Language Development

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Lev Vygotsky was born in 1896 and studied law at the University of Moscow. Beginning in 1924 Vygotsky began working in developmental psychology, education and psychopathology. His theories on language development describe how children begin to build language and communication skills along with the inner voice. Vygotsky's theories are easy to understand, though they do have their critics.

Plausible Stage Theories

Vygotsky's language development theory offers a plausible explanation of obtaining and utilizing language. These theories include the Primitive Stage, in which a baby makes noise and does not think in terms of words. In the Naive Stage the child learns words before the meaning and function. In the external stage the child can associate words to external objects like flash cards. The final stage is the Ingrowth Stage a child enters the final stage of development. Mental processes can be completed inside without verbalization. An example would be counting objects mentally rather than saying the numbers out loud.

Zone of Proximal Development

One of the most powerful idea that came from Vygotsky's language development and other psychological theories includes the Zone of Proximal Development, which shows what a student can learn with assistance. This is an offshoot of Vygotsky's idea that language comes before thought. The language must be relayed for a thought or concept to be understood. The Zone of Proximal Development is an important aspect of teaching in education classrooms.

Separates Language and Thought

One major criticism of Vygotsky's theories is how they separate out the ideas of language and thought. Many psychologists think that language and thought develop on parallel pathways instead of separate tracks. For example, a child knows what a ball is before his is able to say the word. A parent may ask the child to find the ball and the child is able to retrieve the correct item before he is able to accurately speak the word "ball." This is direct opposition to Vygotsky's idea that the spoken word must be acquired before the thought or concept of ball can develop.

Other Issues

Vygotsky's language theories have a broad outline and are not well drawn out. One reason for this is because Vygotsky died at age 37. Vygotsky's theories also rest heavily on the ideas of cultural influence. It is the cultural that helps develop the individual including language and development. Vygotsky states that very little of language and development come from biological factors. Modern psychologists dismiss this idea that cultural influences play a dominant role in development of language.

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