Krashen’s Theory of Second Language Acquisition and
【 发布时间：2012/2/8 】
Krashen’s Theory of Second Language Acquisition and
Its Application to E.F.L. in China
Stephen Krashen, an expert in the field of linguistics, is widely known and accepted for his theory of second language acquisition. With a set of five hypotheses, he attempts to quantify how and by what processes individuals acquire a second language, so as to create a framework for the manner in which language should be taught. Although some linguists criticize the hypotheses for its insufficient support by scientific research, most language learners and instructors accept and apply his concepts into learning and instruction.
The paper here studies Krashen’s five hypotheses, pointing out the main points of each one. Besides, each hypothesis will be considered for its applicability to EFL teaching methods in China, so as to find out whether or not the hypotheses can be taken as a positive approach for language instruction and learning.
The Acquisition-Learning Hypothesis
i). Key Points
The hypothesis of acquisition-learning is the most fundamental and well-known theory among linguists and language practitioners. In the hypothesis, there are two independent systems as of “acquisition system” and “learning system”. For the acquisition system, it is a subconscious process of “proficiency in a language through its use in a natural or communicative setting where the focus of the language exchange is on meaning, not on actual structure” (Wilson, 2000). “Language acquisition does not require extensive use of conscious grammatical rules, and does not require tedious drill” (Krashen, 2003). However, it is “the central, most important means for gaining linguistic skills even for an adult” (Krashen & Terrell, 1983). Regarding learning, it is a conscious process which results in conscious knowledge about the language, for example, the knowledge of grammar rules and language structures. Thus, in learning, we make alterations and corrections after thought.
According to Krashen, “learning is less important than acquisition” (Ricardo, 2010). He believes that learning can not substitute acquisition, but acquisition can take the place of learning easily. For the separate and virtually unrelated between the two systems, Krashen considers that acquisition will be more beneficial for instructors and language learners.
ii). The Acquisition-Learning hypothesis to E.F.L. in China
According to Krashen’s theory, to the two independent ways of developing competence in a second language, the first and most important is “acquisition” and the second and less important process is “learning”. Fluency in second language performance is a result of what we have acquired, not what we have learned.
In China, the second language taught is for exam taking, not as a way to communicate with others. The Chinese second language teaching system is still largely focused on teaching second language in a manner that encourages deductive reasoning. We can take an example of the content of current English Entry Test. In an English exam paper, the main parts are grammar, chapter structure analysis, reasoning out the most proper word for a sentence, and error words correction and etc. Large Majority of students can only speak in basic English after 3-6 years English learning. According to Krashen’s hypotheses, this type of knowledge would be classified as learning. “Teaching grammar is often so ineffectual precisely because teachers assume that the transfer of knowledge and skills gained in a grammar class to more or less spontaneous production tasks will occur immediately” (Marton, 1994).
Second language study based on “learning” is helpful for teaching via deductive reasoning, however, hard to achieve the target of acquisition. If China Ministry of Education were to adopt Krashen’s theories, then the test format will be changed, as well as that of the textbooks. Deductive reasoning is important for language learning. However, subconsciously acquiring proficiency through meaning and communicative tasks is more important since the final target of language is for communication.
The Monitor Hypothesis
i). Key Points
The monitor hypothesis asserts that the learned system of a learner acts as a monitor to what they are producing. That is meaning, when we do speech, the learned system will carry out to check the words to make it real from errors. Monitor is much more focusing on forms not meaning. Learners shall know the rules first to get it monitored. According to the hypothesis, “such self-monitoring and self-correction are the only functions of conscious language learning” (VanPatten & Williams, 2007). To monitor hypothesis, there are three different monitor users as monitor under-users, monitor over-users and optimal monitor users. To the last users, “they know just the right amount of Monitor to correct their output without major distraction or negative influence on their fluency” (Wilson, 2000). However, to Monitor over and under-users would show problems of fluidity or grammar and pattern mistakes. This can be the reason why second language learners can not achieve the native language speakers’ levels in communication and writing. The Monitor Hypothesis would be also useful in the development of a classroom syllabus. “It states that the teaching of semantically and syntactically simple rules could be helpful, while focus on a grammar-based method could actually be harmful to a language learner” (Pica, 1994). Some linguists add more monitor approaches to Krashen’s theory, as of Carroll’s original “Monitor Theory” (Rivers, 1994), Yorio’s “Super-Monitor”, and Ellis’s “Extended Monitor Theory”. These theories are also adoptable in E.F.L. teaching in China.
ii). The Monitor Hypothesis to E.F.L. in China
According to Krashen, in order to be able to use the Monitor effectively as of optimal monitor users, three elements shall be equipped, as of first, enough time to do correction to the utterance; second, users shall know the rules; third, the awareness of the correctness. In China, grammar rules govern the most percentage of teaching tasks. Students pay high attention to grammar correction, language form, but not content. Therefore, the speaking habits are extremely influenced by the over-monitored consciousness. They are actually losing the natural ability to acquire the language. “Overuse of the monitor results in hesitancy and subsequent difficulty in participating in conversation. Ideal or optimal use of the Monitor occurs when second language speakers use the rules they have learned without interfering with communication” (Krashen, 1995).
For better communication, it is ok to teach grammar rules, language structure and other deductive reasoning to students. However, to cut students from under-monitor users or over-monitor users, instructors shall arrange properly the process from simple rules to difficult ones, but not show out at the same time, or students will be refrained from natural communication.
The Natural Order Hypothesis
i). Key Points
In this hypothesis, it states that there is a natural pre-dominated order in which we can acquire language. A study undertaken by Brown (1973) discovered that most children acquire morphemes in approximately the same order. Under proof of morpheme studies, Krashen says that second language learners show a definite order in language acquisition no matter they are children or adults, regardless of their first language backgrounds (Krashen & Terrell, 1983).
Adherence to the Natural Order Hypothesis does not mean to pay particular attention to a prescribed grammatical order in developing a syllabus. On contrary of providing comprehensible input continuously, it is better for a teacher to provide enough material for each student to acquire the language in their own particular order and at their own pace. This is the reason why schools and universities encourage more communicative activities in second language learning via English Corner, English Salon, etc., rather than adhering to a strictly outlined syllabus.
ii). The Natural Order Hypothesis to E.F.L. Teaching in China
Since the natural order does exist in language learning no matter L1 or L2, teachers should not force students to memorize text structures and grammars beyond their competence. In China, teachers normally instruct students to analyze the texts for grammars and specific meaning rather than the content of a chapter. Since students have not acquired the knowledge yet, comprehensive input and content comprehension are better for students to get acquired at their own pace.
The Input Hypothesis
i). Key Points
Krashen regards this hypothesis as the most crucial portion of his total theory of second language acquisition (VanPatten, 1994). To the hypothesis, in order to successfully acquire a language, learners shall be exposed frequently in every possible situation. Combining with I stage between Acquisition and Learning, the input hypothesis concerns only to “acquisition”, not “learning”. Krashen manages to explain how second language acquisition take place. According to this theory, the learner improves and makes processes along his/ her own “natural order” through “comprehensive input” which is beyond his/ her current stage of linguistic competence. Krashen creates a format to describe the improvement path to achieve by the learner as of “i +
In the stage of comprehensive input, there is a period called “silent period” to be passed by initial learners. A learner would be silent in order to “build up competence by active listening, via input”.
The input hypothesis proves the rationale that the communicative approach to second language learning is more effective to grammar-based or structure analysis methods. These grammar-based or structure analysis methods are designed primarily for “learning” but not “acquisition”. He cites various methods of instruction based on providing comprehensive input which have achieved dramatic results on tests of both comprehension and grammar (Wilson, 2000).
ii). The Input Hypothesis to E.F.L. Teaching in China
Pica (1994) points out that Krashen’s Input Hypothesis has had a major effect on the communicative approach to language teaching because it stresses the need for teacher-student and student-student interaction on an equal level rather than the traditional “teacher-fronted format” or communicative methods which allow the more communicatively competent students to dominate.
According to Hedge (2000), responsibility of teachers are providing study plans, managing mutual activities, controlling study, explaining problems and study feedback. Currently in China, the most common classroom teaching form is that teachers explain grammars and chapter structures on class and students do homework after class, and then, students attend kinds of exams which are set to test them whether or not they have learnt and remembered most of the grammars, words and structures. In this form, teachers use to emphasis on grammar, rules, doing lots of exercises, but seldom have chances for students to touch, use, and conclude language rules in practice. So that, input information acquired by students is limited on classroom.
Many Chinese learners show a tendency towards silent communication that, along with other culture factors, makes the Chinese student a passive learner. It seems if they are not forced to product output, they will never produce the output themselves. More practice and communication is necessary for language improvement. Since Krashen took input hypothesis as the most important factor, the essay here would like to initiate more on three methods to improve current English education in China according to Krashen’s theories.
a). Establishment of the student-centered teaching mode
Traditional teaching model is teacher-centered, which make students be costumed to study and use English passively. Most knowledge that learners get from teachers in class is about grammar, rules, and so on. English is always acted as knowledge for students to study, remember and exercise, just like Mathematics. Learners try to recite more words, making sentences without grammar mistakes. Some students do great in written exams, but they can not follow BBC, ABC or other native English channels and abroad daily life. So, teachers centered mode is limited to improve learners’ quality and quantity of input information and it is harmful to increase students interesting on second language study. Under “student-centered” teaching mode, learners’ creativities and activities can be aroused.
b). Introduction of the Relevant Background Knowledge
To ensure what is taught can be sufficiently understandable, some background knowledge or histories are strongly suggested to provide to students. For culture differences, people will form their own thinking routines and patterns. Although Krashen sees routines and patterns as handy but unnecessary in early language learning (Krashen, 1995), it cannot deny the necessary in the latter period of language learning. For different routines and patterns formed in first language learning, differences will be encountered in the second language learning. These differences will block students from new input. So, culture and history introduction is a must to get learners more close with native speakers.
c). Application of the Multimedia Technology
Teachers should try to make a real language situation for students to imitate native language using, which can stimulate learners to master second language more naturally. Except teachers’ talk in class, TV, radio, movie, network and other technology methods can be used to practice learners’ ability of language input and output.
The Affective Filter Hypothesis
i). Key Points
In Krashen’s theory, second language study not only relates to the previously mentioned four factors but also the “affective variables” which affect the “acquirement” results. The affective variables consist of motivation, self-confidence, and anxiety levels of the learner. As to Dulay and Burt’s term “affective filter”, learners with high motivation, positive self-image, and low anxiety levels will have a lower “affective filter”, thus leading to greater input. Affective filters are a kind of mental blocks that prevents input from reaching the language acquisition device. Therefore, the blockage of affective filters can be reduced by sparking interest, providing low anxiety environments and bolstering the learner’s self-esteem (Lin, 2008).
ii). The Affective Filter Hypothesis to E.F.L. Teaching in China
Krashen states that creating a “low affective filter” involves a “positive orientation to speakers of the language, a low degree of anxiety, and at least some degree of acquirer self-confidence”. In China, under the model of “teacher-centered”, which emphasizes the cognitive aspect but ignores the emotional communication among students, E.F.L. students are blocked from advanced acquisition.
Considering to current situation, implications for E.F.L. teaching is promoted by linguists in China to adjust the misery situation of students.
a). Renewing Teaching Idea
Change from traditional grammar-translation method to communication competence, including grammatical competence, sociolinguistic competence, strategic competence and disclosure competence (Lei, 2007).
b). Improving E.F.L. Teachers’ Personality
An excellent teachers’ personality will embody in their speeches and behaviors, so as to inspire students to get interested in the second language learning.
c). Cultivation of Beneficial Classroom Atmosphere.
Good classroom atmosphere shall be harmonious, pleasant, less anxious, active and motivating. Teachers play an important role in classroom environment cultivation.
d). Respecting Student’s Individual Characteristics
Under “learner-centered” theory, students’ individual characteristics shall be paid more attention. Teachers need to know that each student is an individual who learn in a unique way.
e). Others as of Adoption of Elastic Methods;
More methods shall be researched to make students comfortable in E.F.L. learning.
The essay describes the five hypotheses put forward by Krashen and manages to apply them into China’s E.F.L. teaching, so as to broaden the vision on second language teaching and learning in China. As to the idea of Littlewood, “provided that Krashen’s ideas are accepted as part of a broader process of exploration… rather than as a basis for a new dogma, they have a lot to offer to the teacher of foreign languages in the secondary school” (Littlewood, 1994). In China, knowledge of linguistics theory is comparatively lack to guide language acquisition in students. Although there are many critics to Krashen’s theory of five hypotheses, there are still many points suitable to E.F.L. teaching and learning in China.
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