The professional term for it is psycholinguistic, but today we will be brushing the surface on the psychology of language. Make sure to check out some of the other Psychology 101 posts if you’d like! As usual, let’s start with the basics…
What are languages?
A language is (usually) a spoken form of communication. Different languages have different letters and alphabets, pronunciations, syntaxes and grammar. There are three things you need to be able to do to be fluent in a language; speak the language, write the language and read the language. Most of the time, people from different countries speak different languages. There are over 6,500 living languages (including dialects) spoken around the world. There are, however, languages that people consider to be “dead” because no one speaks them anymore, an example of this would be Latin.
How are bilingual people different from monolingual people?
Obviously, speaking various languages is better than only knowing one nowadays, because it’ll get you farther in life, but what are the other advantages? If you didn’t know, a bilingual individual is a person who can speak more than one language, on the other hand, a monolingual person only speaks one language. The interesting part is that their brains are actually different! And no, not because bilingual people are more international and in touch with culture, their brains are actually different.
First of all, scientists have shown that bilingual people are generally “smarter” than monolinguals. “Smarter” meaning they have higher levels of cognitive brain function, were better planners and were more proficient at solving problems. This is because since bilingual speakers have to alternate between languages, and are overall better at multitasking, quicker thinkers and actually considered to be smarter. A few other reasons being bilingual is pretty great are: being bilingual can open up new job opportunities in the future, strengthen your memory and prevent dementia, and you can converse with people from many different cultures. Those are only a few of the upsides, so it’s safe to say you should try learning a new language.
There are many, many, many theories of language development. I’ve chosen two of the more popular ones to talk about, so if you don’t recognize either of them, you can research on your own.
The first one is the Nativist theory, proposed by Noam Chomsky. This theory is about Universal Grammar and the Language Acquisition Device (LAD). Basically, Chomsky believed humans have a special LAD in their brains that helps them learn languages. He didn’t think there was a specific part of the brain that has this, it was just the idea that it existed. This theoretical device helps children learn any language because of the concept of universal grammar. He theorized that this device runs on the knowledge of universal grammar, meaning all children have basic knowledge of grammar. This knowledge can be used to learn any language, which is why babies pick up on languages so quickly. Basically, he believed language acquisition is a natural instinct we are born with.
The second theory being discussed in this article is the Interactionist theory, proposed by Lev Vygotsky. According to this theory, children aren’t born with the special ability to learn languages, but they are motivated to do it. Babies want to interact and be able to communicate with the people around them, this determination motivates them to communicate through language. Basically, this theory states social interaction is a crucial part of language acquisition and development.
I hope you all enjoyed the article and learned a thing or two about language and how it’s more complicated as well as more important than you initially thought!