Are you worried that your child isn’t speaking enough in their language classes? If so, there’s no need to be anxious; it’s natural! Renowned linguists and scientists everywhere regard listening as a crucial part of the language acquisition process. One of those leading linguists is Stephen Krashen, who changed the ESL landscape forever by highlighting the importance of listening, engaging in everyday conversation, and promoting the natural process of language acquisition. But who is Steven Krashen, and how do his theories connect to Trufluency Kids’ teaching mission?
This post will introduce you to Krashen’s most important theories, explain why they are effective, and show you that listening is an active and crucial part of language acquisition.
The Importance of Steven Krashen’s Language Acquisition Theory
Who is Stephen Krashen? Stephen Krashen is a linguist, educator, and activist whose research on non-English and bilingual language acquisition shifted the way scholars and teachers think about ESL. Besides being an advocate for bilingual education law in his home state of California, he has published over 100 books and articles and has delivered over 300 lectures at universities throughout the United States and Canada.
Krashen published his seminal work Principles and Practice of Language in Second Language Acquisition in 1982, after receiving his Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of Southern California in 1972.
Krashen believes ‘communication’ is the main function of language.
His teachings focus on improving the learner’s communicative abilities as opposed to perfecting their grammar.
There are currently 7,117 known languages in the world today, but what’s even more amazing is how humans acquire a language and learn to communicate with each other. Read on to discover the top three things Krashen’s theory can teach us about this incredible phenomenon.
Rethinking The Textbook Language Learning Approach
Language Learning Is Different Than Acquisition: In everyday speech, the terms “acquire” and “learn” are seen as interchangeable. The two terms, however, are more different than you might think. Language learning involves receiving information about the language and retaining it through memorization and intellectual exercises.
Language acquisition, on the other hand, is a more natural process in which learners develop communication skills. This “natural approach” is more similar to how children learn languages through immersion in their childhood. In 1983 Krashen published his book The Natural Approach, which describes language acquisition as follows:
“Language acquisition does not require extensive use of conscious grammatical rules and does not require tedious drill. Acquisition requires meaningful interaction in the target language – natural communication – in which speakers are concerned not with the form of their utterances but with the messages they are conveying and understanding.”
At TruFluency Kids, we believe that language acquisition is at the heart of linguistic and personal growth. By encouraging learners to engage in meaningful, everyday scenarios in their target language, we help build not only their language skills but their communication skills as well.
The First Step Isn’t Grammar: Think about how you learned your mother tongue as a baby. Do you remember taking timed tests, spending hours studying grammar rules, and working through massive textbooks to assess your skills? Of course not! While language is complex, our methods of learning don’t necessarily have to be.
A study conducted by Harvard University confirmed that children already know most of the grammar of their native language(s) before they are five years old.
Children acquire language without explicitly taught grammar, partly because many adults don’t even know the ins and outs of their mother tongue’s syntax and semantics! According to Krashen, teaching complex facts about the target language is not language acquisition, but rather is “language appreciation.” While language appreciation is important, it won’t necessarily help us get our ideas across in our target language.
Not Speaking Right Away? That’s OK!
Comprehensible Input is Key: While perfect grammar is impressive, in real-life situations it won’t get you very far. When traveling to a new country or trying to communicate with someone in another language, all we want is to be able to get our point across and get to where we need to go. Krashen’s theory of comprehensible input is concerned with learners understanding a language as opposed to learning it on a surface level and is much more useful for learners looking to engage with foreign cultures and locals.
According to Krashen, comprehensible input is a language that can be understood by learners, even if they don’t comprehend the grammar in use or all of the vocabulary being spoken.
Examples of “input” include stories, hearing everyday speech, and listening to conversations with a native speaker. An example of “output” would be when the learner begins producing sentences on their own.
Studies have shown that when students hear stories they enjoy in their target language, they acquire more language per unit time than when they study more formally.
This comprehensible input method doesn’t force the learner to immediately start speaking in the target language, but rather, it encourages the learner to listen, observe, and speak when they are ready. While this might seem nontraditional, it’s perfectly natural. Even babies go through a phase linguists have coined “The Silent Period”, which signifies the time before babies learn to talk and produce the words in their language. But don’t mistake silence for passivity. The “Silent Period” is an extremely fruitful time in which the child’s brain is busy processing sounds, tones, and inflections of a new language. Only once the child or language learner has listened for a long period will they be able to start producing their sentences and phrases.
TruFluency Kids Is Here To Kickstart Your Child’s Language Acquisition Journey
At TruFluency Kids, we focus on communication, not form. By engaging learners with authentic, everyday phrases and situations, we help students understand a language from its roots and produce their phrases only after they have spent the necessary time actively listening. Our tutors look to researchers and scholars for the most effective and modern teaching methods and will use them to help your child reach their goals. If you want to help your child learn a language through a natural, highly effective process, come to us at Trufluency Kids and click HERE to find out more.