Learning a language is said to be connected to two centers in the brain cortex: Sensorial center and Motor center.
The sensorial center uses the ears as the instrument of hearing for the brain.
The motor center is related to the production of speech by the using the muscle movement of the mouth, throat, nose, tongue and vocal cords.
Children: source of knowledge
Montessori argued that children provide a great source of knowledge on how language is developed.
“Language development is natural in children and follows fixed laws which are the same in all children.”
Development here means the progressive achievement upon knowledge and skills which are useful and good; and one of the attributes of development is that it exposes the mental processes that take place in the human body. Like when a baby speaks a new word, the sounds he produces from physically moving his jaws to let out air from his vocal chords, are the result of culmination of his sense of hearing and the movements required for vocalizing words.
A human baby is endowed with the natural powers to absorb sounds and images surrounding him, through the sensorial center. Also by the natural powers endowed upon him to create his own intelligence, his impulses will his muscles to move. However, until he is able to try to crawl or sit, he incarnates in him knowledge to move like others by sight (eyes) and hearing (ears). These two senses, hearing and sight are the ones most concerned in the child’s ‘psychophysical development’. At first, language comes to his subconscious mind, an entity in the brain, consisting of psychic and instinctive intelligence.
He makes visual images in his absorbent mind by listening and seeing “the world in which he is about to move” to incarnate his personal knowledge of movement. The child begins his journey as a human being by forming himself inwardly, soaking in the images from his environment and make impressions of these images in his subconscious mind.
This mind, intending only to process human voices, makes connection between his muscles and the organs to which these muscles are connected to use. This is the human ears. For example, within 3 months, he knows how to cry for milk, he can clearly smile at his parents when his is picked up, even giggle when he is tickled. These and many more sounds he is able to produce awaken his consciousness after a process of incarnation within his subconscious, supported only by his psychic and instinctive intelligence.
Why doesn’t a child raised in a farm, neigh like a horse or moo like a cow? Why doesn’t the ‘wolf-child’ roar like a lion or snort like wild boar? This is a wonder of nature and for the religious, the beauty of God’s creation. Humans are born with the natural mechanics that can be used for the purpose of creating their own communication instrument called language. The human ears hear everything and in a special isolation of sensitivity, are directed to receive and capture only human voices.
“I reason that these centers are specially designed for the capture of language of words; so it may be that his powerful hearing mechanism only responds and acts in relation to sounds of a particular kind – those of speech.”
The intricate and intimate relationship between ears and sounds awakens our appreciation for the child’s readiness to absorb language. His natural laws of development guide him carefully isolating human voices from non-human ones. A child does not attend school can speak his mother tongue just as well as another who does;
‘language develops naturally, like a spontaneous creation and the mother does not teach her child language.’ (Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind.)