2009年1月15日木曜日

Learning a language? Here's Stephen Krashen.

Stephen Krashen is a well known and respected linguist who's theories have influenced All Japanese All The Time and Antimoon.

Stephen Krashen's Theory of Second Language Acquisition:

Acquisition-Learning hypothesis
The Acquisition-Learning hypothesis basically states that there's a difference between learning a language and acquiring a language. Learning a language is to learn about the language, to be aware of grammar rules and consciously think about the language. Whereas language acquisition is a subconscious process similar to the way children learn and requires learning in the form of meaningful communication. Krashen argues that acquisition is more important that learning.

Monitor hypothesis
The Monitor hypothesis tells us that what is learned 'about' the language will only be useful when the learner has time to carefully edit and parse what they've said or written. In a sense, what's learned because they're 'monitor' when it can. Krashen notes two different types of learners, those who are "under-users" and those who are "over-users".

Natural Order hypothesis
The Natural Order hypothesis states that there is a 'natural' order in which grammar structures are acquired. That means despite how grammar is introduced to the learner, they're only going to be acquired in their 'natural' order (remember that there is a difference between acquisition and learning).

Input hypothesis
The Input hypothesis concerns itself purely with the acquisition process. It states that the learner will only learn 'i+1'. That is, if the learner is at level 'i', they will only learn when they are exposed to comprehensible input that is slightly beyond they're level.

Affective Filter hypothesis
The Affective Filter basically says that negative emotions such as self-doubt, anxiety, boredom, all serve to get between the learner and the language. When the learner is plagued with negative feelings, they tend to either prevent effective learning, or prevent time spent with the language.

These five hypotheses make up Krashen's theory on second language acquisition. Most of my conclusions about acquiring Japanese are drawn from his theories.

I believe reaching fluency is only going to be accomplished when the language has been acquired. Because of this I try to acquire the language as much as possible through meaningful communication and experience. (See: Getting addicted to reading, Role models in language learning, An English explanation)

I believe that grammar will be acquired in a natural order (which I've experienced myself here: Grammar points? Don't make me laugh.) and as such don't bother trying to learn grammar and focus on exposure.

And through exposure, I try and focus on what I do know and go from there. (See: Read and watch anyway) Because when you focus on what you do know and maintain constant exposure you're going to inevitably encounter i+1 items that will expand your knowledge. Little bits of understanding will become larger chucks, which will become whole paragraphs, which will be whole pages, which will become whole books. There's always i+1 material to be found in everything.

But why not stick to i+1 material in the first place? Stick to books that are at your level? Well, for one it's very hard to find reading and listening material that's at the level to give you +1. Life and language is not organized in to neat little steps. Second, any method that relies on the learner's level is eventually going to run against the interest of the learner, which is not conducive to language acquisition. You will always learn more when you are engaged and interested. (Also, I'm not learning Japanese)

Everything else is just icing. I use an SRS+sentences because it's the most effective way to maintain what I've acquired. I use a monolingual dictionary because removing the English makes me feel closer to the language and boosted my understanding of the language significantly.

Sources and further reading:
http://www.sk.com.br/sk-krash.html
http://www.languageimpact.com/articles/rw/krashenbk.htm

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