Lev Vygotsky was a genius developmental psychologist. Perhaps his best known theories relate to the construct of the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). TeacherJay is also fascinated with Vygotsky’s work reagarding the connections between thought and language and wanted to post a few words about Vygotsky’s 1934 book with the same title. Thought and Language first discusses the issue at hand, i.e. how language develops, how a child’s intellect develops and how these two processes are inter-related. He brings up the works of Jean Piaget and William Stern, among others. Vygotsky is harshly critical of his predecessors and doesn’t hesitate to point out where they were wrong – even bringing up the question in regards to Piaget’s work if thought precedes language or language precedes thought. He then describes his own theories and describes the methods he used for experimenting to come to his conclusions.
Despite the negativity towards other researchers, Vygotsky’s work is critical in understanding the interplay that is occuring in a student’s mind. We use language to make sense of the world and communicate our thoughts. According to Vygotsky, we even develop an “inner speech” that serves as the language in which our minds communicate internally. When working with language learners, whether they be young children, adults immigrating to a new culture, or students in a bilinguals school, it is important for their instructors to learn just how words are being constructed into ideas that are relevant to the individual.
While this book will not provide teachers with help in the classroom for learners developing literacy in a language, it may provide them with some background on psychological theory to develop some of their own understanding of the phenomenon and to better serve language learners. TeacherJay has used the book and the concept of “inner speech” as the basis for some research that may show how learning a second language in school at a young age may actually increase the ability of a child to think more critically and abstractly at a younger age.