The Meeting Point between Vygotsky’s and Piaget’s Theory in the Language Development*

By Zainurrahman

The Role of Interaction in Human Knowledge Acquisition

Vygotsky and Piaget may not be in a line and this brief discourse does not mean to place both experts in a same position. Plenty of literatures have mentioned their philosophy altogether or separately, and for the sake of language philosophy, hereby I will present the meeting point of both experts’ theory of human skill development; in this case, human language development.
As you can see, the title of this article is started by word “interaction”. Honestly, I believe that interaction is the main element in human skills development process, very special in language development process. Generally, human have at least two types of knowledge that lately are useful for their skills development; they are (1) logic and (2) experience. Both logic and experience are managed by human mind to make it is accepted as rational and important to be developed. Everything become logic because it can be thought, experienced and also human can interact with it. However, human mind sometimes must deal with plenty of limitation and then bring human to a final line; here rationalization becomes an attempt to make irrational things to be rational.
Whatever the problem, both logic and experience need the interaction process. Interaction with the world make human recognize, know and understanding the world. In other side, interaction will build experience as the affect or impact from the interaction itself. Once again, here, human skills are developed by interaction. It sounds like uncompleted theory. Let us walk around and see what can be a foundation of this thesis. However, I still stand to present language development theory, not the other.

Vygotsky and Interaction
Interaction may have a little room in Vygotsky’s philosophy of language development. However, in his Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), he emphasizes the interaction process in language learning. He believes that human (alone) will deal with difficulties in developing their language skills and it will be handled easier if they deal the difficulties with other human (together).
In language field, human develop their language skill by using it every day. Interaction plays important role here, where language is used as the interaction tool. By using language for interaction, human language skill will be developed. The process of the language development from stage to stage is called “development from actual to potential.”
In interaction, error feedback and error correction take place; not only that, new experience also takes place. Human find something new in every stage of interaction. The first stage is communicating idea and the second stage is responding someone’s idea. Here, communicating and responding idea will generate particular language development; both in expressing and also impressing. The last stage in interaction is packaging new idea. The language development generated by interaction stage is vary, depends on the content and the goal of interaction. Thereby, it can be said that interaction mediate human to develop their language skill.

Piaget and Interaction
Interaction in Piaget’s philosophy has a bigger room than Vygotsky, if I dare say. Piaget places interaction as the second important element in his theory of cognitive development. The other elements are organic development and the neurological readiness, training and experience and equilibration and its mechanism. Language development and cognitive development is in a line. As Ideolinguistics believes that human use language to think, to recognize object, and to manage idea. Thereby, human cognitive ability only will be developed with language; and by using the language, the language will be developed.
Piaget believes that human learn or find language from their social environment and through the frequently interaction by using the language, human language will develop. For the example, a child acquires his or her first language by imitating parent’s language. However, the child’s language will only be developed when he or she tries to use it. If the child makes mistakes, the parent corrects it.
If Vygotsky uses the term of “actual to potential development”, Piaget should use the term “transition” because although interaction is the meeting point of their theory of human, especially children, language development but Vygotsky focuses on the ability meanwhile Piaget more focuses on the cognition. Ability or skill is developed, it can be measured. Nevertheless, measuring cognition change is another story; it is more appropriate to say cognition change is recognized then measured. The children experience a transition process from one cognition level to other cognition level.
Children cognition level is not about which the lower is and which the higher is, but it is recognized that it is changed. I will not elaborate those problems, because here I just mention to you that interaction is the meeting point of both experts philosophy of human language development.

*This article is written by Zainurrahman on May 09th 2009, and downloaded from Zainurrahman’s Personal Journal of Philosophy of Language and Education. Click here to download PDF version of this article

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