Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Top tips for ENGA1 - part 2

Part 2 Language Development (question 2b)

Again, here are some quick pointers gleaned from my marking experiences over the years about what to do and what not to do when answering essay questions on child language acquisition.

Do these:
  • Answer the question! This is an obvious point, but one which about 20-30% of students don't do. You have to think about what the question is actually asking you and write your first paragraph in response to the question itself. Don't launch into a generalised "Children make their first sounds straight after birth and move through three different stages..." when the question is asking you about grammar, interaction or imitation.
  • Make sure you use plenty of real examples of child language, either from your text book, your own research and experience, or from the data given to you in question 2a. Explain what the examples show and try to make sure you're linguistic in your approach (i.e. using technical terminology to describe the processes shown by your data).
  • Link in research and theory to your arguments, but don't just wheel out the old Chomsky versus Skinner battle at every opportunity. Examiners get very bored of seeing the same old arguments in the same old words. Try to think of a clear way of explaining the problems different theoretical positions have when accounting for how children acquire language.
  • Try to conceptualise your answer: think of the bigger picture. What is actually happening when children say things like "I runned" or "She falled over"? Yes, they're overgeneralising, but why?
  • Think about your structure and guide your reader. Try to use paragraphs and discourse markers to make your answer fluent and easy to follow.
For a list of (nearly) all the past questions set on language development on the old spec (which is very similar to your spec) look here.

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