Language acquisition is a developmental process. It begins from birth and continues throughout the primary school and beyond. The child comes to school with considerable verbal facility. This is achieved not in any formal learning or teaching situation but in the day-to-day social context of the home, and its most important characteristic is the engagement of the child in a stimulating and challenging way. This process of language learning is linked inextricably with a growing knowledge of the world. Language, therefore, is also a central factor in the expansion of the child’s conceptual framework and body of knowledge.
A large part of the child’s language experience is verbal and it is through oral language activity that much of his/her learning takes place, both in and out of school. The potential of oral language activity as a learning and teaching medium is acknowledged in the key role it is given throughout the curriculum.
The ability to read effectively is an essential requirement if the child is to benefit fully from the educational process, to develop his/her potential, and to participate appropriately as a citizen in society. This is a crucial element in the child’s language learning.
The acquisition of literacy is a principal concern of the English curriculum and this reflects stated national policy. It is important that reading, comprehension and writing skills are acquired systematically and that children with particular learning needs are identified at an early stage and provided with adequate remedial support.
Writing has an equal contribution to make to the child’s language development. The ability to write clearly and expressively provides him/her with a skill that can greatly enhance personal, social and vocational experience. Furthermore, through the process of expressing thoughts and feelings he/she can clarify concepts and explore emotions. The child’s writing experience in school can, therefore, contribute greatly to his/her cognitive, emotional and imaginative development.
Language learning is an integrated process in which it is difficult to separate the functions of oral language, reading and writing. All three are intimately related and each interacts with the others in a myriad of ways. For example, the child’s ability with oral language can be a determining factor in the speed and effectiveness with which he/she learns to read, just as his/her experience of reading can enrich vocabulary and improve command of sentence structure.
Similarly, there is a close relationship between competence in reading and expressiveness in writing. Each draws from and feeds into the other in a host of interconnections to form an intergrated process of language learning. Because of its pervasive influence, English is not just concerned with language learning but also with learning through language. In the process of acquiring language skills and in developing the ability to use language other crucial elements of the child’s personality and potential are cultivated. For instance, the learning of a new word, or an extended meaning of a word already known, can entail more than extension of vocabulary. It can interact with ideas already familiar to the child in a way that broadens and deepens understanding. Likewise, in attempting to express emotional or imaginative experience, the act of putting feelings and intuitions into language can give them a focus that deepens the child’s knowledge of himself/herself and of the world.
To give expression to these two principles the curriculum is structured in
- Receptiveness to language
- Competence and confidence in using language
- Developing cognitive abilities through language
- Emotional and imaginative development through language.
Although no one strand is concerned exclusively with either principle, the first two, Receptiveness to language and Competence and confidence in using language , are aimed primarily at language learning while the other two, Developing cognitive abilities through language and Emotional and imaginative development through language , contribute to more general aspects of the child’s development.
Each strand is divided into three st rand units, reflecting the contribution oral language, reading and writing make to that particular facet of the child’s development, and the strand units contain the detailed elements of curriculum content. A number of these elements reflect activities and experiences that, because of the nature of language, will recur from level to level and throughout the strands.
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