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Cognition and Language Development

From time to time, we hear from other people that learning a new language is an impossible task. Some of them say that they do not have an affinity for foreign languages; others are afraid of mistakes, not realizing that mistakes help us to improve. There are different biases towards an ability to study languages, such as a belief that people can learn words only in adolescence, and it is hard to acquire knowledge when you are an adult person. This paper will discuss a video about the story of Genie Wiley that provides insights about the ability to study languages after being speechless and experiencing an abusive situation in the family for years.

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My initial reaction to the video was overwhelming as it showed the story of a girl who was neglected, abused, and abandoned in a cage by her family for years. Afterward, I was impressed by the fact that Genie was able to progress from speechless child to be able to talk again. Genie’s story can teach us that language development depends on socialization and usually forms during critical periods in childhood, according to scientists (Weston, 2002). It can be noted that despite severe deprivation, it was proved by a Genie’s example that a person can still have a capacity to learn words in older age, but not a language comprehensively. In Genie’s case, there was no interrelation between cognition and language that is usually fostered in children. As she could not speak, her perception was deficient as well because she did not learn how to think by using language and speech. However, it was concluded that despite being speechless, her cognitive skills were slightly developed (Weston, 2002). It implied that cognition and language are at least partially independent.

Genie encountered several linguistic and cognitive challenges during her therapy, such as not being able to speak in sentences and link words with grammar. She stopped making progress due to the severe effect of her upbringing. She was advancing in the process of expanding her vocabulary, which was an indicator of developed cognitive abilities. However, she had difficulty utilizing discursive constructions and grammar rules, although researchers found that she was able to understand more than she articulated by her speech (Curtiss et al., 1978). Genie’s story can teach us a lot about the rewards and the risks of conducting such experiments as these studies done by doctors and psychologists led her to be speechless again after the advancement. Reporters noted that there were significant combative camps that were accusing each other of Genie’s exploitation (James, 2008). Genie repressed because researchers could not agree on testing processes while pursuing scientific interests instead of thinking about the state of Genie. Therefore, some researchers intentionally risked girl’s life to get results about cognition and language development, which was a questionable decision.

By the example of Genie, I believe that there are specific scientific results that should be noted. For instance, it can be noted that despite severe deprivation, a person can learn new words and a language. Nevertheless, cognitive abilities may be separated from language development, implying that words can be acquired, but grammar cannot be utilized. What is more crucial in the situation with Genie is that the ethical issues that were raised due to experiments researchers conducted. I think that this information is vital as it proves that a person can learn a new language at any point in life, and new cognitive links can be acquired despite challenges.

To conclude, one can say that socialization during childhood time and critical periods are essential for the development of cognition and language. The speech of a person is one of the leading indicators of progress. The clearer a person expresses needs, thoughts, and emotions, the faster adults will respond to requests. Therefore, it is crucial to develop knowledge and do not neglect children. However, it is possible to learn a new language even in adulthood.


Curtiss, S., Fromkin, V., & Krashen, S. (1978). Language development in the mature (minor) right hemisphere. Journal of Applied Linguistics, 39(1), 23-27. Web.

James, S. (2008). Wild child speechless after tortured life. ABCNews. Web.

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Weston, J. (2002). Wild child: The story of feral children. Web.

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