Can we really be taught how to use English?

Is the uptake of our native language an innate genetic gift or a cognitive learning process?

Alicia Cresswell, our speaker for the day, is an applied linguistics and language teacher from the university’s writing development centre. She is involved in “preparing international students for undergraduate and postgraduate study in the UK”; which got me thinking…how does someone really learn a language?

Noam Chomsky, also a linguistic scholar, was one of the first to question this and led the cognitive revolution, with a proposed theory of ‘Universal grammar’.


With babies not being able to string a proper sentence together till about 18 months of age, it has been suggested that we acquire language over time through imitation of what we hear. However without the built in innate ability, would we ever have had the mental capacity to learn the language?

This brings me back to all those times when my primary school teacher used to correct my numerous grammatical errors in language. Since these ungrammatical forms wouldn’t have been taught in the classroom, I wondered if they were as a result of me hearing my parents use them (English isn’t the first language in our household).

But anyway, back to the question; how did we learn the language which we now speak?

It’s a hard question to answer in 250 words but for the time being my answer is…I don’t know!


About hyau93

What is faster Hot or cold? Hot, because you can catch a cold! Haha sorry, hopefully my blogs are better than my jokes! :) Hamish
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