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Last week’s article touched on second-language learning and acquisition influenced by Stephen Krashen, as defined: learning is the conscious, traditional grammar-based teaching method.

Acquisition is the influence or process, thereby which a person’s first language is learned naturally, and the latter,  being the preferred approach recommended by Krashen.

The three strategies last week, Learning a Second Language, Part 1:

1. We Acquire Languages When We Can Understand Messages: responding accordingly to foster a clear understanding of the message through a meaningful interaction, as not to focus on correcting the grammatical output or form is essential in the instructional process.

2. Getting The Right Level Is Crucial: Exposure to both interesting and understandable listening and reading material at the learner’s reading level.

3. The Silent Period: Children and adults will begin speaking when there is internal motivation, and it takes time to process. Krashen offers the following additional components to his theoretical perspective with application of learning a second language:

4. Anxiety is the Student’s Arch Enemy: Learning a second language can be slowed-down if a child or adult is under stress or in an environment that preempts anxiety. Krashen described this as the affective filter, or rate of acquisition decreasing in a stressful language-learning environment.
Moreover, Krashen’s theory that learners of a second language in a classroom environment may can cause of anxiety, greatly affecting the way they receive and process comprehensible input. In contrast, a child at home with their family members would be inclined to be more relaxed, so the idea of creating a similar environment by turning the classroom into a sort of house party where people feel comfortable and relaxed is highly recommended.

5. The Monitor Hypothesis: According to Krashen, “…conscious language-learning cannot be the source of spontaneous speech, it can only monitor output, i.e., production in speech or writing. In other words, when learners freely formulate an utterance in the target language, they can only draw upon their repertoire of acquired language to check whether it is grammatically correct. This reduces errors as the learner can apply consciously learned rules to an utterance before producing it, or after production through self-correction. As many people place a high value on accuracy, especially in formal situations, the existence of the ‘monitor’ could be seen as a reason for retaining a grammar focus in a given lesson…”

6. The Natural Order Hypothesis: The grammar and vocabulary of a language are acquired in the same general order, meaning that teaching proper sentences does not necessarily mean that the learner will acquire it. Some students speak using particular dialog, even though they have been exposed and mastered complex grammatical structures. Second language reading can be spontaneous with Big Universe’s online library, as the learner has access to e-books, allowing for opportunities to review many different languages to determine a preferred language for further exploration. Moreover,  e-books are published in the following languages: Albanian, Arabic, Armenian, Chinese, Czech, English (UK), English (US), French, Hungarian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Spanish, and Ukrainian and each selection has the reading level listed on the book.

Before looking at the classroom implications of Krashen’s insights, we should remind ourselves of some of the advantages that children learning their first language have over adults learning a second language. One of the advantages is that children are exposed to copious amounts of comprehensible input at just the right level, and there is no pressure on them to speak until they are ready to do so. Children can also take their time and wait until they feel confident before attempting to speak. Moreover, they often have lower expectations of themselves and this helps to ensure that their anxiety levels are low, which, in turn, increases their rate of acquisition.

One of the most surprising things is that when children acquire a language, the language acquisition itself is not their objective. Rather, it is a by-product of the achievement of some other purpose, such as making friends in a school playground. Moreover, they pick up the elements of their first language in its natural order. They are not ‘force-fed’ grammar too early before their language acquisition devices are ready for it. Instead, they acquire the language first and then consider its structure after acquisition has already taken place. Finally, they learn the elements of a language in the natural order.

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