Summary: Language

Humans in all cultures go through the same stages of language development. While normal humans learn their native languages with little effort, learning a second language becomes more difficult after about the age of 11. Language instructors are experimenting with new techniques to try to improve language instruction for older students. Language comprehension develops faster than language production, and many people can understand more of a specialized language than they can produce. Language comprehension would be easier if every word had just one meaning, but language is full of ambiguities or expressions with more than one meaning.

Reading involves at least three interacting parallel processes. Lexical processing involves retrieval of word meanings. Structural processing involves larger scale patterns such as sentence grammar and story structure. Phonetic processing is the translation of letters into sounds and sounds into words.

Good readers attempt to reconstruct the author's meaning. Unsuccessful students are more likely to concentrate on memorizing vocabulary or finishing a reading assignment without really understanding it. Speedreading appears to be based on a series of wrong assumptions or bad advice. Good readers often read slowly.

Summarization processes are important in reading. Even if no summary is provided, readers must summarize what they read as they go along, because nobody can remember every word of a passage. Reviews and summaries are common in professional writing.

Revision is important for good writing. Studies show that beginning writers seldom make large-scale revisions. They correct spelling and grammatical errors but they seldom rearrange major sections of their work. Large-scale revision is highly desirable, if it produces better organization. Modern word processors make it easy, so today's students should be encouraged to draw up an outline of their work then revise it until the structure of ideas is clear and effective.


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