Vygotsky in 1978 coined a term called talking to learn, which emphasizes the importance of social interactions and subsequent observations that shapes the way we perceive a language and then subsequently use it to organize and express our thoughts. In this context, cultural influence and mental processing together have a holistic effect on the linguistic expression of a person. The first impact makers of a child are his/her parents. The social interactions and cues used by parents are often picked up by a child through observation and then processed during the cognitive development period. Language plays an important role in the social integration of a person within a cultural unit. This has quite a far-reaching effect on the belief system of the person. In the formative years of a child, the integration of these cultural behaviors shapes the thinking and outlook to a great extent, and this, in turn, is greatly influenced by observational behavior. For a child irrespective of culture, society, or region, the basic instinct is to watch and copy the elders. This is exemplified by the fact that in the initial years babies have a common language of expression across the world. According to Noam Chomsky, the human brain has been â€œhardwired with the ability of languageâ€. Infants have a whole different range of languages available to them after they are born. Depending on their regular exposure to a particular language, this is in part dependent on the cultural setting, the infant starts acquiring a language. The initial babbling patterns are thus very similar across different languages. Moreover, culture-based studies on cognition have shown increasing evidence that even in infancy culture has an active role in cognitive abilities. It has been found the concept of language and words spoken in a particular tongue, initiates with observation-based learning. Children learn to say small portions of a sentence and everything involved in that process comes from observing their nearby elders which are mostly the parents.
To provide factual evidence to this theory Ochs in 1988 conducted extensive studies about the acquisition of language in a Samoan village. She found the presence of two forms of speaking the language which is classified as good speech and bad speech. A good speech is the preferred form of speech in a formal setting or stranger and considered appropriate in school, church, and officials of higher rank or status. The bad speech, on the other hand, had fewer consonants and was used in informal settings. Ochs found that Samoan children learned about these two forms of speech and the social context of each, through observing their elders, and thus assimilated their cultural norms.
Scaffolding in observational learning:
Observational learning has several stages such as attention, retention, application, and motivation. In the attention stage, the child first comes in contact with a new activity that could range from anything like language, hand gestures, etc. In the next step, the child retains whatever has been observed by them. This is followed by the reproduction of whatever has been retained and then consolidation of it through motivation from parents. Now the synthesis of information and its subsequent application is the most critical part of the learning process. Unless the observation is consolidated as an application-based output it cannot be termed as learning behavior. In this context, scaffolding plays an important role. It can be defined as â€œthe guidance or temporary support rendered to a child by parents, elder siblings, peers, or other adults in the process of solving a problemâ€. Scaffolding is a support system that is accessible to a child for a particular situation or on a larger scale to a particular age. Thus, scaffolding will also influence a childâ€™s initial decision-making capacity and since it is directly linked to his/her environmental impact, cognitive development is also affected accordingly. In language learning, motor skill development, or any new skill set development, scaffolding promotes observation-based learning processes. For example, suppose a child finds it difficult to pronounce a big word. It is a common phenomenon, that in such cases the parent tries to break down the word into small chunks and pronounce it with exaggerated mouth gestures. The child then observes the movement of the mouth and tongue rolling, and mimics it to produce the same kind of pronunciation. This scaffolding step followed by an appreciation for correct pronunciation by the child consolidates the learning process achieved through observation.
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