Vygotsky’s view of development differs from Piaget’s in the importance he gives to language and to other people in the child’s world. Although Vygotsky’s theory currently most noted for his central focus on the social, modern developments are often labeled ‘sociocultural theory’, he did not neglect the individual or individual cognitive development. The development of the child’s first language in the second year of life is held to generate a fundamental shift in cognitive development. Language provides the child with a new tool, opens up opportunities for doing things and for organizing information through the use of words as symbols. Young children can often be heard as talking to themselves as they carry out tasks or play, in what is called private speech. As children get older they speak less and less aloud, and differentiates between social speech for others and ‘inner speech’, which continues to play an important role in regulating and controlling behavior (Wertsch, 1985). Adults sometimes resort to speaking aloud when faced with a tricky task, like finding the way to an unfamiliar place, verbalizing to help themselves think and recall: Turn left then right at the roundabout …
In considering the early speech of infants and its development into language, Vygotsky distinguishes the outward talk and what is happening in the child’s mind. The infant begins with using single words, but these words convey whole messages: when a child say ‘juice’, s/he may mean ‘I want some more juice’ or ‘my juice has spilt’. As the child’s language develops, the whole undivided thought message can be broken down into smaller units and expressed by putting together words that are units of talk.
Underlying Vygotskyan theory is the central observation that development and learning take place in a social context, i.e. in a world full of other people, who interact with the child form birth onwards. Whereas for Piaget the child is an active learner alone in a world full of objects, for Vygotsky the child is an active learner in a world full of other people. Those people play important roles in helping children to learn, bringing objects and ideas to their attention, talking while playing and about playing, reading stories, asking questions. In a whole range of ways, adults mediate the world for children and make it accessible to them. The ability to learn through instruction and mediation is characteristic of human intelligence. With the help of adults, children can do and understand much more than they can on their own.
Vygotsky used the idea of the ZPD (Zone of Proximal Development) to give a new meaning to ‘intelligence’. Rather than measuring intelligence by what a child can do alone, Vygotsky suggested that intelligence was better measured by what a child can do with a skilled help. Different children at the same point in development will make different uses of the same help from an adult. Take an example of children learning a foreign language. We might imagine children listening to the teacher model a new question: Do you like swimming?’ and being encouraged to ask similar questions. One child may be able to use other phrases he has leant previously and say ‘Do you like drinking orange juice?’ whereas another may be able to repeat ‘Do you like swimming?’ and yet another would have trouble repeating it accurately. In each case, ZPD or what the child can do with the help of the adult is different. This, Vygotsky suggested, is a more useful measure of intelligence or ability.
Learning to do things and learning to think are both helped by interacting with adult. Vygotsky saw the child as first doing things in a social context, with other people and language helping in various ways, and gradually shifting away from reliance from others to independence action or thinking. The shifting from thinking aloud and talking through what is being done, to thinking inside the head, is called internalization. Wertsch (1985) emphasizes that internalization for Vygotsky was not just a transfer but also a transformation; being able to think about something is qualitatively different from being able to do it. In the internalization process, the interpersonal, joint talk and joint activity, later becomes intrapersonal, mental action by one individual.
(quoted from Cameron, Lynne. 2001. Teaching Languages to Young Learners. CUP. Pp.5-7).



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