21 Feb 2013

Cognitive Transfer and English writing

Cognitive Transfer and English writing
(Free ELT Journal)

The author examines the cognitive learning theory and cognitive transfer in English writing, tries to find out how it relates to English writing, and how it influences English writing.

Keywords: Cognitive, Transfer, Writing 

From the learner’s preparation to the completion of English writing a series of mental activities are involved: logical thinking, reasoning and deduction. Learners need to conceive the ideas, choose the appropriate words and material to construct the paragraphs, complete the sentences in logical order, use certain writing techniques and do the revisions, etc. So the English writing process is actually a cognitive process. Then in order to know much about Chinese influence on English writing process the author examined cognitive theory. 

1. Cognitive learning theory 
Cognition is a psychological term. It refers to the action or process of acquiring knowledge by reasoning or by intuition or through senses. Cognitive psychology mainly studies the nature of knowledge, the way of obtaining knowledge and how to apply it. So it focuses on active role of human cognitive organism (sense, understanding, and logical thinking) in acquiring knowledge. Cognitive psychologists applied this theory to second language and foreign language teaching and learning. 

In the late 1960s the linguistic research began to move into the essence of language: the deepest level of language. Linguists began to find one manifestation of general developments, one aspect of cognitive ability to deal with the world and with self. These beliefs are found theoretical basis from Lois Bloom’s research, along with that of Jean Piaget. Their research centers on the cognitive prerequisites of linguistic behavior. Piaget viewed that the overall development was the result of child’s interaction with his environment, with a complementary interaction between the child’s developing perceptual cognitive capacities and his linguistic experience. Bloom noted that an explanation of language development depended upon an explanation of the cognitive underpinnings of language: what children know will determine what they learn about the code for both speaking and understanding message. As to the second language research the cognitive psychologist David Ausubel (1964) warned against the trends of drawing direct global analogies between first and second language acquisition.He warned that adults learning a foreign language could, with their full cognitive capacities, benefit from deductive presentations of grammar, that the native language of the learner was not just an interfering factor—it could facilitate learning a second language, that the written form of the language could be beneficial, that students could be overwhelmed by language spoken at its ‘natural speed’ and that they, like children, could benefit from more deliberate speech from the teacher. 

The famous Swedish cognitive psychologist Piaget believed there were two different organizational functions. One was functional invariant, which was an unchangeable inherited psychological function. It determined how human interacted with environment and society and learned from them. This function worked both for child discovering environment and for scientists discovering the world. Another function was cognitive structures or cognitive schemata, which was the result of functional invariant interacting with environment. The objective existence was the production of human learning from environment. In what form it appears was determined by the former organizational function, or the features of learning environment.

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