Dr. Stephen Krashen on Language Acquisition
Dr. Stephen Krashen on language acquisition. His talks are brilliant and entertaining and this presentation is no different. If you’ve seen him before then you’ll definitely see more than a few things repeated from previous videos but it’s like watching one of your favorite movies over and over and never tiring of it. Certainly you’ll remember and be amused/informed by his trademark German language lesson in which you get bombarded with what might as well be gobbledygook and then lesson 2 which is fabulously full of comprehensible input.
He always starts with some humor which makes everyone feel comfortable. Here he jokes about catching up to Justin Beiber and Lady Gaga on Twitter and Facebook. Let’s help him out a bit and follow him @skrashen and add Stephen Krashen as a friend.
Getting to the talk he defines acquisition as the natural way or picking up a language and learning as conscious or dealing with grammar rules but more on that later. While you’re acquiring you don’t know you’re acquiring because it’s subconscious. Also, you aren’t aware you’ve acquired the new knowledge like a language. The great news is that the ability to pick up a language never goes away. It is with us our entire lives and doesn’t disappear because our Language Acquisition Device (LAD) never shuts down.
Get ready to be shocked some of you and in particular your students who are striving to make every utterance perfect and want you to make sure that any wayward word or missed preposition is caught. Krashen talks about what we think error correction is suppose to do as far as getting students to learn the rules but if you’ve read him before you’ll know that his research and that of others as he cites suggest that error-correction has no or little effect upon learner’s competence.
Another fun joke is Dr. Krashen stating that he has a PhD in grammar and yet he cannon always tell what rule of English has been broken an ESL or EFL student makes a mistake while speaking. It does make us all feel better, doesn’t it? Another good one about one study where they found that chalkboards are more effective that overhead projectors like the one he is using in the video and he says what a waste of money. Ha!
Empathy time as he gets you to put yourself in that place where you are struggling yourself using a 2nd, 3rd or 4th language. For him that would be Spanish. More about how we learn all these rules in school about language and grammar and all that is good for is building our internal monitor which doesn’t help at all with fluency and should only be engaged when we are writing something formally because if we let that monitor run wild then our speech will be greatly halted and rather annoying to listen to. What you have to appreciate is how this is all based on rigourus research and he elludes to that by directing you to his cure for insomnia which is his book titled ‘Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Learning‘ and you can read it all online.
Way back in 1975 Dr. Krashen concluded that acquisition gives us our fluency and learning gives us our accuracy. Isn’t that nice? He went on to devise a lovely balanced program of 2 days a week of conversation and 2 days a week of grammar. How fair, yet it’s all wrong! What the research has been saying since 1975 is that acquisition is the most important and it will give you both fluency and accuracy and there is very little difference for kids or adult ESL learners. Even the most hardcore grammar person of which he is will be shocked by that as he was but you just can’t bury your head in the sand and reject the research. He then goes on to another funny bit about how a good time for him is reading about a grammar of a language he doesn’t know.
Getting back to talk he states that when he was the Director of ESL in Queens College, NY he told his teachers that the universals of language teachers where; 1) Explain the rules clearly. 2) Correct errors. That’s what he told them and what he wrote about and most people thought and some still do that it was his best work. Guess what? All those papers are wrong! The research has changed his position to one that is all about acquisition. This all begs the question; How do we acquire language? That’s where he goes into his 2 language lessons and how can you tire of seeing those. Such a great reminder of what a good ESL lesson should look and sound like.
Well let’s not spoil all of the talk here. Push play on the youtube video above or listen/download to Dr. Krashen’s talk at Yeonsei university on ‘Optimal English Education’ below which is essentially the same talk with a few other jokes. You’ll be glad you did and you’re students will be ecstatic. Enjoy!
Stephen Krashen quote
“Language acquisition proceeds best when the input is not just comprehensible, but really interesting, even compelling; so interesting that you forget you are listening to or reading another language.”
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