In this episode we'll explore:
- Why language learning is still largely ineffective and hasn't fundamentally improved over the last decades
- How Krashen's theory about language acquisition, despite it being over 40 years old, remains groundbreaking
- Why you can't learn a language by simply speaking it, contrary to popular belief
- How he can boldly claim that everyone acquires language in the same manner
- Why language learning is a subconscious process that can't be „turned off"
- Why there's a strict separation between language acquisition and learning and why consciously learned language can only be used to monitor language output, but never be the source of spontaneous speech
- In which particular order language is acquired and why that order does not change between learners, and is also not affected by explicit instruction
- Why learning grammar does not improve language acquisition
- Why it's simply not true that children acquire languages more easily than adults and provide overwhelming scientific evidence to back up this claim
- How to apply his theory in practice
- And finally, discuss the the most powerful tool we have in language education.
- Today's language learning approaches are still based on old theories and misconceptions about how we humans effectively acquire language. One misconception is that that children acquire language much more easily and quickly than adults. But there is overwhelming evidence that this is not true.
- Furthermore, most schools and language institutions still teach with antiquated methods (even though we have made some progress) that is not only very ineffective, but also slows down language acquisition and causes lots of anxiety among language learners.
- We've relied the „old" approach for decades on end (over 40 years at least). We've tried teaching grammar. We've had students memorize vocabulary. We've had people memorize dialogues. This has to stop!
- We acquire language when we understand what people are saying not how it is said. Notice when we teach language today, we usually do the opposite. We first memorize vocabulary and learn grammar rules consciously and then practice them in output until they become "automatic". It is assumed, in other words, that consciously learned knowledge eventually becomes subconsciously "acquired" knowledge. This „skill-building" approach also states that we can adjust our consciously learned rules when we are corrected.
- Methods based on the "Comprehension Hypothesis" have been shown to be not only much more effective, but also much more enjoyable.
- The old way, or skill-building approach, has not done well in the research, and is often painful. Yet the Skill-Building Hypothesis for most people is not a hypothesis: It's the widely accepted default. And yet, most people are unaware that the groundbreaking Comprehension Hypothesis exists.
- What could more encouraging than that? Not having to learn tons of grammar or hundreds of vocals at the start?
- Krashen's theory of second language acquisition consists of 5 main hypotheses, which can briefly be summarized by the following:
- Input hypothesis
We acquire language in one way and one way only - by understanding comprehensible input. Which means learners progress in their knowledge of the language when they comprehend language input that is slightly more advanced than their current level.
- Acquisition-learning hypothesis
There is a strict separation between acquisition and learning. This means adults have two distinctive ways of developing competence in a second languages: acquisition, that is by using language for real communication, and learning about the language.
- Monitor hypothesis
Consciously learned language can only be used to monitor language output; it can never be the source of spontaneous speech. Language acquisition does not require extensive use of conscious grammatical rules, and does not require tedious drill. By now, it should also be clear that analyzing the language, formulating rules, setting irregularities apart, and teaching complex facts about the target language is not language teaching, but rather is "language appreciation" or linguistics, which does not lead to language proficiency.
- Natural order hypothesis
Language gets acquired in a predictable order, and that this order does not change among learners, and is not affected by explicit instruction.
- Affective filter hypothesis
Learners' ability to acquire language is constrained if they are experiencing negative emotions (metals blocks such as fear, anxiety) such as fear or embarrassment. At such times the affective filter is said to be "up".
- Input hypothesis
- The best methods are therefore those that supply 'comprehensible input' in low anxiety situations, containing messages that students really want to hear. These methods do not force early production in the second language, but allow students to produce when they are 'ready', recognizing that improvement comes from supplying communicative and comprehensible input, and not from forcing and correcting production.
- Applied correctly, it can have a profound impact. This also gives student (no matter their age) no excuse not to acquire a new language.
- If children acquire language at a much slower rate than adults, adults have no reason to doubt their capabilities of acquiring new languages.
Links & Resources Mentioned
- The English Connection: The 40 years war (Vol 22, #3: 6-7. 2018), Prof. Stephen Krashen
- The Washington Post: The wrong and right way to learn a foreign language, by Stephen Krashen
(*) These links contain affiliate/advertising links. If you click on one of these affiliate links and make a purchase, I will receive a commission from the corresponding online store. Our impartial podcasts are funded in part by affiliate commissions, at no extra cost to our readers. Your support really helps us out, creating even better episodes! ?
- Winnetou from Karl May*
- Jim Trelease's Read-Aloud Handbook from Jim Trelease & Cyndi Giorgis*
- Polyglot - How I Learn Languages (PDF) by Kató Lomb (FREE to download)
- YouTube: Stephen Krashen on Language Acquisition (highly recommend!)
- International Multilingual Research Journal: Arnold's Advantages: How Governor Schwarzenegger Acquired English Through De Facto Bilingual Education 7(3):220-229, Stephen Krashen, Francisco Ramos Calvo
- The potential of technology: in language acquisition, 25th International Symposium on English Teaching, English Teachers Association)
- Does anyone finish the Berlitz tapes? (IJFLT4(1); 2-5, 2008), Jeff McQuillan
- International Journal of Foreign Language Teaching: Effectiveness of comprehensible-input based instruction, Victoria Rodrigo, Stephen Krashen, Barry Gribbons
- American Anthropologist: Multilingualism in the northwest Amazon(Cultures in which a silent period is expected), Arthur P. Sorensen Jr.
- Noam Chomsky, American philosopher, linguist, cognitive scientist, historian and political activist (sometimes called "the father of modern linguistics")
- Leonard Newmark, Professor Emeritus at San Diego University
- Beniko Mason (Professor emerita at Shitennoji University Junior College, Osaka)
- Bill VanPatten, former Professor of Spanish and Second Language Acquisition at Michigan State University
- Karl May, German writer
- Eric Lenneberg, Linguist & neurologist who pioneered ideas on language acquisition and cognitive psychology
- Steve Kaufmann (Polyglot who can speak around 16 languages)
- Kató Lomb (Polyglot, who was able to speak 22 languages)
- Arnold Schwarzenegger
- Donald Trump, President of the USA
- Jeff McQuillan, Senior Research Associate at Center for Educational Development
- Barry Switzer, former American football coach and player
- Steve Sternfield, Associate Professor at University of Utah
David C. Luna: LinkedIn
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