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(Kelsey Konecky)

World Languages Methods


Exam 1
Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition
Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Learning
The Comprehension Hypothesis
I.

Explain and give examples which illustrate Stephen Krashens theory of second
language acquisition with regard to the following elements:

Krashens theory of second language acquisition is based around the idea that acquisition
and learning are two separate mechanisms and that fluent and communicative second
language ability for most people comes primarily from acquisition of the language and not
primarily from language learning. Language acquisition is much more similar to the way we
learn our first language, by focusing not on form but rather on communicating a message.
Taking from the research of Noam Chomsky, Krashen works off of the theory that
humansthat is, not just children, but adults toopossess a Language Acquisition Device
(LAD) in their brain that allows us to pick up languages and the rules of their individual
grammars under certain circumstances (without necessarily being explicitly taught the
grammar). It used to be theorized that this LAD worked within a certain window of
opportunity, that is that second language acquisition was only feasible until puberty. This is
where Krashen diverges, theorizing that adults can also acquire second languages much like
they did their L1, but that the difficulty lies in the circumstances of their encounters with the
target language.
A central part of these circumstances in Krashens model is the availability of
Comprehensible Input to the learner. The idea is that all that is theoretically necessary for
language acquisition is Comprehensible Input, communication in the target language that is
understandable for the language learner. In fact Krashens Input Hypothesis goes so far as to
say that theoretically L2 output isnt strictly necessary; with a large amount of
comprehensible input the learner can acquire an L2 without ever speaking it. When learner
output does help to advance language acquisition it is through the role it plays in encouraging
and controlling the comprehensible input being received and not through any inherent benefit
in language production on its own. In other words, output may serve a language learner in a
conversation with a native speaker by encouraging/controlling comprehensible input from
that speaker, but a language learner cannot acquire an L2 by sitting alone in their home
attempting to talk to themselves in the target language.
Because input needs to be comprehensible it is not sufficient to simply be in a country
where the target language is spoken. Much of the language used in the real world is
abstract or difficult to understand. For this reason any learner but especially adult learners
need supports to acquire the target language even in an immersive environment. A perfect
example of this necessity can be seen in the Supreme Court case Lau v. Nichols, which was
brought to court after Chinese ELLs were left to sink or swim in mainstream classes in San
Francisco. These ELLs were not given any supports to make their classes or English in

general comprehensible to them and many of them ended up graduating from San Francisco
high schools with little to no knowledge of or ability to speak in English. The sink or swim
idea was that they should be able pick up English simply by being in an immersive
environment (the school setting), which was not the case.
In order to make L2 input comprehensible teachersand those communicating with
children still learning their L1will often use realia, pictures, and focus topics on the here
and now. Teacher, parents, friends, and others who use strategies like these, slow their
speech, use teacher-speak, foreigner-speak, etc. with the learner to increase the likelihood of
comprehensibility. These strategies and the people who help to provide the learner with a
large quantity of comprehensible input make up what is called the Language Acquisition
Support System (LASS)
As discussed earlier Krashen hypothesizes that learner L2 output isnt strictly necessary
for acquisition, however that doesnt mean that there isnt anything different about the L2
output that acquisition produces. For one, learners who are beginning to acquire a new
language will go through a silent period, that is there will be a period of time (length
depending on the individual) that can last weeks and even months while they are acquiring
the skills necessary to use the target language themselves.
The first utterances used as learners emerge from this silent period are often patterns or
routines that allow them to communicate in some very basic ways, encourage
comprehensible input from their environment, and modify the input they are receiving. These
patterns and routines can give the learner some level of control over their environment and
allow the learner to use complex constructions that they have not yet acquired. These can
include commonly occurring or repeated (taken directly from experienced input) sentences
and phrases; they may be complete sentences, questions, or a kind of sentence starter such as
Thats a ____.
Once learners begin speaking more they will begin by using early acquired constructions
and their patterns and routines to fill in the gaps in their speaking abilities. When lateracquired structures are required they will first use these strategies, then later on begin using
closer approximations or overgeneralized rulessuch as when a child says I telled him
rather than I told him, overgeneralizing the past tense ed ending until they learn irregular
formsuntil the later structures are acquired. There may be one or even more of these
transitional constructions used before the learner acquires the right form such as in examples
of transitional negation constructions made by ELLs who might begin by saying such things
as No like apples before moving to I do no like apples and finally the correct form I do
not like apples.
Krashens research and hypotheses about second language acquisition also take into
account the influences on successful acquisition that come from the differences among
individual learners. These differences can come from outside the individual as with their
environment or experiences (and the effect these have on the person) to those differences that
come from within the individual learner, for example their personality, openness to learning
the language, and level of motivation.
The Affective Filter Hypothesis allows for the consideration of some of these individual
influences. The idea is that a learners level of anxiety (about language learning and
specifically in the language environment), their self-confidence (both in general and
specifically as it relates to language), and their level of motivation to become competent in
the language all have an effect on that specific learners ability to acquire the target language

and to do so easily. The individuals affective filter will be raised or lowered in accordance
with these factors, a lower affective filter will result in an increased ability/likelihood of
acquisition taking place while a high or raised affective filter will lead to a decreased ability
to acquire a second language.
High anxiety about language or high anxiety in the language environment would raise the
affective filter while low anxiety would lower it. High self-esteem/self-confidence in general
and/or in regards to language abilities will lower the affective filter while low levels of these
would raise it. In general higher motivation will lower the affective filter while low
motivation will raise it but it is also important to note that the reasoning behind motivation
also matters in regards to the affects it has on language acquisition. Learners who are
motivated are more likely to acquire language than those who are not motivated but learners
who are motivated because they want to be included/involved in the culture of the target
language or want to be like native speakers of the target languagesuch as ELLs who want
to become acculturatedare more likely to acquire than learners who are motivated because
language ability will benefit them in some practical wayBilingualism will make me more
employable.
A final hypothesis that Krashen includes in his theory of second language acquisition is
the Monitor Hypothesis. This hypothesis regards the importance of the way a learner uses
their Monitorhow they utilize their learned knowledge of a language and its grammar.
Krashen discussed three kinds of Monitor users: over-users, under-users, and optimal users.
A monitor over-user depends too much on their learned language abilities as opposed to
their acquired abilities. This can take the form of hesitant or halting and usually unnatural
sounding speech, many corrections and a focus on speaking grammatically correctly. A
monitor under-user does the opposite, depending highly on their feel for the language
(acquired knowledge) and not using or only barely using their monitor (learned knowledge).
The under-user will speak with a natural pace and may be more or less grammatically correct
in their production. They may make mistakes in grammar that they have learned but simply
do not apply or correct when speaking. These users frequently say they think grammar is
important in language use but do not often make the effort to apply it themselves. The
optimal user is somewhere between these two. The optimal user will depend on their
acquired knowledge for fluency but will utilize their learned knowledge to edit and correct
their speech (and other output) before, during, and after production.
II. Explain the difference between language learning and language acquisition. Include a
discussion of why the concept of acquisition is difficult for many L2 teachers to accept and/or to
put into practice.
Language acquisition is the primary process by which we learn our
first language as well as a means through which we can learn subsequent
languages, through understanding language directed at us, through
communication. It is the use of comprehensible input in the target language
by our brains LAD that produces acquisition or a feel for the target
language. By acquiring a language we learn how to use it and its grammar
without necessarily being explicitly taught these.

Language learning is more akin to studying linguistics. It consists of


memorization and explicit study of a language and its grammatical
structures and rules. Language learning contributes primarily to the
conscious Monitor, so it can be helpful in addition to acquisition as a
supplement but language learning on its own does not usually produce fluent
speakers or long-term abilities.
I think that the concept of acquisition can be a difficult one to accept in
part because it is often not the way we ourselves were taught in elementary
and high school language classes and because, as Krashen points out,
people who become language teachers are often people who enjoy studying
grammar in the first place and/or are super monitors themselvespeople
able to achieve fluent speech with heavy conscious Monitor useneither of
which are the norm for language learners. Language acquisition is also a
difficult concept to accept as a viable method in the classroom because it
takes time. Language learning seems to go so much more quickly in the
early stages and is an obvious preparation for language tests, while
language acquisition can seem to work more slowlyespecially when
students are in their silent period and it is still difficult to see how much they
have already learned. In a school environment like we currently have, with
great emphasis placed on testing students and preparing students for tests
and complete mastery of content, which in regards to language proficiency
just isnt feasible in a standard year of studyits much easier to lean on
language learning and its associated methods to produce results.
III. Evaluate the following language teaching approaches on their effectiveness in supplying the
six requirements for optimal input for language acquisition (comprehensible, interesting/relevant,
not grammatically sequenced, quantity, affective filter level, tools for conversation management):
a. Grammar-Translation
Comprehensible: There may be some comprehensible input in the classroom using this approach
but any that occurs would be coincidental as this is not the main goal of this method. The focus
in this method is on form, not communication, therefore we would expect to see little if any truly
valuable comprehensible input.
Interesting/relevant: People who are truly interested in the study of grammar are few and far
between and while teachers may make an effort to use examples that relate to students interests
and lives the focus is still on form, so these connections may be easily ignored and arent likely
to make the lessons much more interesting overall. This method isnt very interesting or relevant
to most students.
Not grammatically sequenced: This method is by definition grammatically sequenced.
Quantity: If there is comprehensible input it is few and far between.
Affective filter level: With its focus on form, this method requires early errorless language
production, which in turn causes anxiety and a raised affective filter.
Tools for conversation: Focus in this method is not on communicative competence so there is
little if any teaching of tools for conversation.
b. Audio-lingual

Comprehensible: While class content may be comprehensible to the students it is not necessarily
rooted in the here and now and may be more abstract or removed, which may lessen
comprehensibility.
Interesting/relevant: Attempts may be made to draw connections between content and student
interests dialogues are still grammatically focused and may not be very natural or authentic.
Not grammatically sequenced: The dialogues and practices in this method tend to be focused on
targeting and practicing specific grammatical structures, therefore it is grammatically sequenced.
Quantity: The entire class time is intended to be in the target language.
Affective filter level: The focus again, is on early errorless language production, which often
causes great anxiety and a raised affective filter.
Tools for conversation: Some tools for conversation may be picked up from the patterns of the
dialogues but are not explicitly taught in this method.
c. Total Physical Response and TPRS
Comprehensible: The goal of this method is to provide comprehensible input directed at the
students.
Interesting/relevant: Attempts may be made to draw connections between class content and
students interests and since speech is directed at students (and requires responses) it is relevant.
Not grammatically sequenced: There is no attempt to grammatically sequence class content.
Quantity: Most if not the entire class time is intended to be in the target language, thus there is an
abundance of comprehensible input.
Affective filter level: Students are allowed a silent period (responses are physical and students
may watch to see what other students are doing first) so anxiety about early production is
reduced and the affective filter level is lower.
Tools for conversation: In individual classrooms this may occur but to my knowledge this is not
inherently part of these methods.
d. The Natural Approach
Comprehensible: The goal of this method is to provide comprehensible input.
Interesting/relevant: Attempts may be made to draw connections to students interests. (Of
course, actual interest level will depend on the material/activity and the individual students.)
Not grammatically sequenced: There is no attempt to grammatically sequence class content.
Quantity: The entire class time is meant to be filled with comprehensible input.
Affective filter level: When students are focused on communicating rather than correctness their
anxiety and affective filter tend to be lowered and they may forget which language they are
using. Students are also allowed a silent period in the second language and answers are accepted
in the first language to aid in this.
Tools for conversation: These may occasionally be explicitly taught and practiced in this method.