Reflection Essay: Cognitive Abilities and Language Learning

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Effects of Cognitive Abilities on Language Learning

Reflection Essay Example: Introduction

In this reflective paper, the main topic will be encircling around the cognitive psychology and learning. Furthermore, in a more specific content, the effect of cognitive abilities will be discussed along with a personal reflection of a paper named “Speaking more than one language may have a cognitive trade-off” by Prince, which is published in 2010. The paper layout is designed to be from general to specific. Therefore, firstly, the definition of the term “cognitive” and the concept “cognitive psychology” will be given. Along with the definition of cognitive psychology, the definition of the “cognitive learning” concept will also be found in this paper. Afterward, the basics of language learning and the relation between language learning and cognitive skills will be defined, along with the reflection from real-life experiences will be included. Lastly, an analysis of the aforementioned paper and reflection related to the paper will be given, respectively.

Cognitive Psychology and Cognitive Learning

The term cognitive refers to “knowing” in the context of this paper. This means that memorizing information and learning it are two different processes. Thus, there is a crucial difference between closing your eyes and repeating a word or piece of information until you memorize it and learning something by understanding and knowing it. As the term “cognitive” is defined until this point, it is now time to define what cognitive psychology is. The content of cognitive psychology involves the way we think, understand, feel, and decide. Thus, cognitive psychology could be defined as the field of science that researches the way the human brain works (Solso et al., 2005). The main scope of cognitive psychology is the analysis of the processes of understanding, learning, and recalling information. Therefore, cognitive learning, which is defined as understanding the process of learning or learning by knowing, is, for sure, is under the scope of the research that this paper focuses on.

As one of the sub-topics of cognitive psychology, cognitive learning could be defined the science of learning, and it aims to understand the process of learning of the human brain and maximize its capacity. According to Tennyson and Rasch (1988), cognitive learning is a process that enhances the potential of learners’ brains to get the maximum possible performance in the process of learning. Cognitive learning is an active process, and it helps the learner to observe information in order to keep it in the long-term memory in an easier manner. This method aims to enhance learners’ memory and retention capacity and ease the learning process as a result.

There are three components of cognitive learning. These are comprehension, memory, and application. Comprehension could be defined as reasoning. If you understand why you are learning a piece of information, then it is easier to establish neuron bridges to observe the information itself. The next part of cognitive learning is memory is called memory. This is the stage that the actual learning process happens. However, it is worth paying attention to. The memory stage has nothing to do with memorizing. This stage means learning the subject with the help of the neuro-bridges that were established in the first stage.

Cognitive learning aims to get the benefit of long-term memory, and it is more efficient compared to memorizing, which uses short-term memory. The last stage of cognitive learning is application. This stage aims to root the newly learned information in the brain. Several examples of application could be listed as having a conversation for language learning, building a simple mechanism for mechanical physics, free format drawing for 3D design. In the first stage, the learner is prepared to learn the actual information. In the second stage, the actual information was observed, and in the third stage, the fresh information is rooted in the brain. This way, thanks to these three stages, the information is more easily put into the brain of the learner using long-term memory.

Language Learning and Cognitive Learning

Learning a language is one of the learning processes that people have to use long-term memory at a maximum level. Since learning a language is not a temporary exercise, it requires cognitive learning instead of memorizing or placing linguistic information into short-term memory. Learning a language and being able to use it spontaneously requires adaptation, practice, and time. The link between learning how to speak a new language and cognitive learning starts at this point if we recall three main steps of cognitive learning, which are comprehension, memory, and application.

Personally, I totally agree with this linkage between the two. Skehan (1998) claims in his work that cognitive strategies while learning a second language give better results compared to others. Someone, who has an aim for learning a new language, studies sufficiently, and practices more than others can surely learn a language better and faster to people, who have no specific aim, do not study as much, and do not practice enough. This information should not be surprising.

Lastly, I personally believe that as cognitive learning is helping to learn a second language, the benefit is mutual in the other way as well. This means I believe that as a person learns to speak a new language, he or she improves cognitive skills, which he or she can use anywhere else other than learning the targeted language. Therefore, cognitively learning a new language is a double benefit deal.

Reflection Part

In his article Prince (2010) claims that learning a second language, especially at an early age, has some cognitive trade-off. The scientific research he mentioned in his article found out that children who grow up being bilingual perform slightly worse in a test, which is based on vocabulary capacity than the children who grow up being monolingual. The test that Prince (2010) gave place in the article is announcing the name of an object for the participants and asking them to select the pronounced object on a screen in front of them.

For myself, there are two sides to this claim. However, I will start with the one that I am more prone to believe. The first side, also the one I believe to be true, is that these test results might be a result of integrated thinking. This means that searching for a piece of information in the brain takes more time for someone to have more of that similar information. The second side to be considered is that people’s mind is limited to a capacity and filling our brain with more than one language, we have to optimize the number of useful vocabularies in each language.

This could be exampled as follows; having a cup of 5 liters and we are trying to fit two different types of fluid into this cup. We can have combinations such as one plus four, two plus three, or four plus one, and such. In the end, we are able to have 5 liters of liquid in the cup and two different types of liquids to put in it. Similarly, as it could differ from one person to another, an average human is able to keep a limited number of words from any language in his or her mind.

Let’s begin with the first side, which is also the one I am more inclined to find logical. The test results in the work of Prince (2010) might be a result of having more of the same kind of information in the brain and having to scan through this as a result. This case could be exampled as having toys in two different baskets. The first basket has the toys A, B, and C, where the second basket has the toys A, B, C, D, E, and F in them. If someone were asked to find the toy B, finding it in the second basket would probably take more time.

The other side of this research, having limited space for storage and the amount of information to be stored larger than the available space. However, this approach is not really viable for me since, in the tests, people were able to find the correct answer, although bilingual people needed a slightly longer time to finalize the search in the brain. If this approach were correct, then one of the tested people should not have been able to find the correct answer.

Reflection Essay: Conclusion

After all, I genuinely believe that the research in the article of Prince (2010) has meaningful results. However, I do not agree with Prince’s claim that people growing up being bilingual are cognitively disadvantaged compared to people who grew up being monolingual. The reason that I think this way is that there are people who can sufficiently speak up to ten languages. This proves that the human brain is able to keep more than the needed number of vocabularies in more than one language. However, as it was stated before, I believe that having more information of the same kind might be the reason for the given test results.

References

Skehan, P. (1998). A cognitive approach to language learning. Oxford University Press.

Solso, R. L., MacLin, M. K., & MacLin, O. H. (2005). Cognitive psychology. Pearson Education New Zealand.

Price, M. (2010, April). Speaking more than one language may have a cognitive trade-off. Monitor on Psychology, 41(4). http://apa.org/monitor/2010/04/language

Tennyson, R. D., & Rasch, M. (1988). Linking cognitive learning theory to instructional prescriptions. Instructional Science, 17(4), 369-385.

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