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Factors Contributing to Variations in Rate of Language Acquistion (page 2)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

Cultural Influences

The rate of language acquisition may be somewhat different for children of different cultures. Since spoken language is a reflection of the culture from which it emerges, it is necessary to consider the needs verbal language serves in the culture. Communication may be accomplished in other meaningful nonverbal ways (González, Oviedo, & O’Brien de Ramirez, 2001; Bhavnagri & Gonzalez-Mena, 1997).

Likewise, some cultures do not view babies’ vocal attempts as meaningful communication. Shirley Brice Heath (1983) describes a community in which infants’ early vocalizations are virtually ignored and adults do not generally address much of their talk directly to infants. Many cultures emphasize receptive language, and children listen as adults speak.

Medical Concerns

Beyond gender, socioeconomic, and culture differences, other reasons that children’s language may be delayed include temporary medical problems and congenital complications. Estimates of hearing impairments vary considerably, with one widely accepted figure of 5 percent representing the portion of young children with hearing levels outside the normal range. Detection and diagnosis of hearing impairment have become very sophisticated. It is possible to detect hearing loss and evaluate its severity in a newborn child.

Congenital Language Disorders

For most children, learning to communicate is a natural, predictable developmental progression. Unfortunately, some children have congenital language disorders that impair their ability to learn language or use it effectively. The origin of these disorders may be physical or neurological. Examples of physical problems include malformation of the structures in the inner ear or a poorly formed palate. Neurological problems could include dysfunction in the brain’s ability to perceive or interpret the sounds of language.

Though the symptoms of various language disorders may appear similar, effective treatment may differ significantly, depending on the cause of the problem. For example, articulation problems caused by a physical malformation of the palate might require reconstructive surgery, while articulation problems caused by hearing impairment might require a combination of auditory amplification and speech therapy. Two of the most common symptoms of congenital language disorders are disfluency and pronunciation.

Disfluency

Children with fluency disorders have difficulty speaking rapidly and continuously. They may speak at an abnormal rate—too fast or too slow; in either case, their speech is often incomprehensible and unclearly articulated. The rhythm of their speech may also be severely affected. Stuttering is the most common form of this disorder. Many children may have temporary fluency disruptions or stuttering problems as they are learning to express themselves in sentences. Children who are making a transition to a second language may also experience brief stuttering episodes. It is important for parents or teachers to be patient and supportive, as it may take time to distinguish normal developmental or temporary lapses in fluency from a true pathology. Stuttering may have multiple origins and may vary from child to child. Regardless of cause, recently developed treatment protocols have been effective in helping stutterers. (Dodd & Bradford, 2000).

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