How Children Learn Language

It is commonly accepted that babies learn language through practice and development associative comprehension of words’ meaning. Parents use child-directed speech or baby talk to develop these associative connections.

For example, an adult shows an object or a person by directly bringing it to a child’s face or using a universal hand sign – pointing through an index finger. With the continuous repetition of such actions and following praise of the children’s efforts after successful speech imitation or correct vocabulary usage, they draw a logical associative conclusion. The baby, at some point, starts to use the acquired vocabulary to build his or her knowledge base, and through constant exposure to different experiences, he or she reaches a higher level of comprehension. This later shapes the baby’s language capability and contributes to the later grasp of complex grammar.

However, this opinion might contradict Piaget’s theory of cognitive development stages. According to Piaget, children undergo the process of language learning in different stages such as sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operations, and formal operations. These stages mark a qualitative change in cognitive ability. The first sensorimotor stage lasts two years since birth, during which children start to comprehend objects through sensory activity (Babakr et al., 2019).

Moreover, Piaget highlighted that in the first eight months, children have no understanding of hidden objects (Babakr et al., 2019). Although it was proven to be a false statement in the different research, children understand that the object is present and has not disappeared (Babakr et al., 2019). Therefore, limitations of his theory are not applied to the proposed hypothesis.

However, recent research objects to such proclaim as they discovered that children’s comprehension capability is more excellent than that proposed by Piaget. Some even argue that infants have innate knowledge about the external world, and their learning ability is faster than Piaget believed (Babakr et al., 2019). The argument proposed in the beginning is complemented by the aforementioned theory of innateness because logical conclusions are necessary to understand and implement the knowledge introduced by parents. It also requires a certain level of understanding about the external world to draw conclusions about similarly shaped objects.


Babakr, Z. H., Mohamedamin, P., & Kakamad, K. (2019). Piaget’s Cognitive Developmental Theory: Critical Review. Education Quarterly Reviews, 2(3). Web.

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ChalkyPapers. "How Children Learn Language." April 15, 2023.