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Full text of "The Discovery Of The Child"

THE SPEECH OF THE CHILD                   319

The age which is most favourable for the development of
written language is that of childhood, about the age of four, when
there are in active operation the natural processes concerned in
the development of spoken language, that is, during the sensitive
period (v. Secret of Childhood) in which speech is developed
and established naturally. It is the sensitiveness of the develop-
ment from which arises the enthusiasm about the alphabet and
which fixes spontaneously the phonetic analysis of the word into its
component sounds. Later (six to seven years of age), his creative
period being ended, there is no longer the same natural interest
in these analyses, either of the spoken word or of the written (the
alphabet). It is this which is responsible for the amazing fact
that small children make better and more rapid progress than
older children; instead of growing bored and tired like the latter,
they display an inexhaustible activity which seems to strengthen
them.

Besides the confirmation of this surprising fact which is related
to the special psychology of childhood, other discoveries have led
to interesting modifications in the application of the method which
also must be referred to psychology.

The conclusion of this lengthy analysis is that written language
in its mechanisms can be directly associated with spoken language,
and almost derive from it as another form of expression. This is
the case during the very period when, by nature, spoken language
is established, i.e. during the sensitive period. Written language
then becomes an exterior means to direct and perfect spoken lan-
guage and to purify it from all its defects and errors. Written
language thus becomes a means to educate spoken language.

Thus the dictoriwn, language that expresses thought, the work
of intelligence, finds at its disposal two mechanisms which integrate
each other; that of the spoken word and that of the written word.
The experience related above had its final result when the
children read long sentences conveying an action to be fulfilled.
Hence it was easy to pass on to the reading of books as soon as
the children were capable of understanding them (5-6 years of age),