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4.

YOUNG LEARNER

The term young learner might be described as children from the first year of formal schooling, which is in the Czech Republic six or seven years old, to eleven or twelve years of age. However, it is not the age that matters the most but their journey from youth to the maturity. There are various types of factors influencing childrens maturity such as their culture [and] environment, their sex, the expectation of their peers and parents. (Phillips 1993, 3) Primary school is extremely important for children because that is where they develop their intellectual, physical, emotional and social skills. As children mature they bring more intellectual, motor and social skills to the classroom, as well as a wider knowledge of the world. (Phillips 1993, 5) These skills together with the knowledge might be utilised to the process of gaining a second language. Every childs development is very individual, some children develop earlier some later. Nonetheless, there are some general characteristics of young learners and their age which teachers should be aware of and take into account in their teaching. Susan Halliwell asserts that children can easily interpret meaning without indispensably understanding the individual words and that they use language creatively thanks to their imagination. It is experienced that even young children understand what teachers say or what they are trying to explain without understanding the individual words. To help them understand what the word they do not know might be, teachers of young learners use gestures, intonation, facial expressions, actions or other circumstances. By understanding the message in this way they start to understand the language. In later life we all maintain this first source of understanding alongside our knowledge of the language itself. It remains a fundamental part of human communication. (Halliwell 1992, 3) According to Scott and Ytreberg, most vital years in a childs development is between five to eleven years. Scott and Ytreberg divide young learners into two groups, a group of five to seven years old learners and a group of eight to eleven years old. They claim that children at the age of five to seven years are able to tell us what they are doing or what they have done, that they can also argue for something and that they can

say what do they think of and why. Children already use language skills long before they realize them. It is well known that they have a very short attention and concentration span. (Scott and Ytreberg 1990, 2) However, the concentration span differs from child to child. Some children are able to concentrate for about five minutes while others lose their concentration after ten to fifteen minutes. (Dunn 1983, 9) Teachers should be aware of this attribute and prepare lots of enjoyable activities. Another feature is that children either simulate that they understand, or they understand it in their own way and do what they think teachers want them to do. Very young learners are eager to learn something new to them. The best way to learn new things is to learn it through games. Children love to play, and learn the best when they are enjoying themselves.(Scott and Ytreberg 1990, 3) On the other hand, children of age eight to eleven years are relatively mature. There is an adult and childish side in them. They still love to play games, but they want to show how mature they are. Learners of this age bracket ask questions all the time and rely on the spoken word as well as the physical world to convey and understand meaning. (Scott and Ytreberg 1990, 4)
4.1.

Childrens development As stated above, Phillips claims that primary school learning is very important

for childs development. There are certain factors of developing childrens intellectual, emotional, physical and social development. These factors might be more important than the age of learner itself. (Phillips 1993, 3) According to what Dunn (1983) asserts in his book it is very difficult for teachers to learn children second language effectively without knowledge of their development levels and without an ability to identify its changes. (p. 8) The rate of development may not necessarily indicate a young childs ability (Dunn 1983, 9) to learn new language. As it was already mentioned, child differs from one another. Some children may be slow developers but on the other hand some might make bigger progress. Childs mother tongue has to be considered also as a major subject. Their ability to use their first language is a crucial factor in learning second language. The degree to which child can use his first language to communicate will rebound on his ability to gain the second language. (Dunn 1983, 10) Teachers have to take into consideration every single childs first language development to sufficiently develop the second language while teaching.

Although there is more than one stage of childs development in this thesis are discussed briefly only some of them due to its length. 4.1.1. Cognitive development Dunn asserted that language-learning skills of a child are not isolated from the rest of his mental growth (Dunn 1983, 10) and that theories the child has learned in his mother tongue might be converted into the second language he is learning. (Dunn 1983, 10) Cognitive development is how children are developing acquiring, processing and organising information and how they become more proficient and capable in their understanding of the world in their mental processes. Cognitive development includes the study of a number of areas such as information processing, moral understanding, perception, memory, imagination, attention, etc. (Oakley 2004, 2 [online]) 4.1.2. Emotional development According to Dunn, childs emotional development is difficult to discuss in all conditions since it is very extensive. Every single child differs in temperament which influences their learning. Some children are aggressive, other shy, some are over-anxious to please and in some cases frightened of making a mistake, others are moody, especially if they do not get what they want. (Dunn 1983, 13) Teachers have to consider all these aspects in planning the lesson. They have to be aware of differences in temperament of the learners and prepare activities which should give them the chance to develop. To sum up, primary school is very important time period in childs life because he/she experiences a lot of changes during the school years, some of them might influence his/her later life.