The primary purpose of language is to communicate. Yet, many children who spend years learning a language in school, are unable to communicate freely in that language. This issue is visible with regard to English. Even as the age for learning English is reduced and states are moving to English as the medium of instruction, we find that children do not acquire communicative skills in English.
Stephen Krashen a linguist, has done extensive research on second language learning, and his 'hypotheses' governing language learning are relevant to ELT. His hypotheses are:
- acquisition-learning hypothesis,
- input hypothesis,
- monitor hypothesis,
- affective filter and
- natural order hypothesis
Understanding these hypotheses and integrating the principles into our ELT program can enable the classroom to support learners acquire communicative skills in the English Language (and any other language as well).
Krashen says "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. The best methods are therefore those that supply 'comprehensible input' in low anxiety situations, containing messages that students really want to hear. These methods do not force early production in the second language, but allow students to produce when they are 'ready', recognizing that improvement comes from supplying communicative and comprehensible input, and not from forcing and correcting production."
Download concept map on Krashen's hypotheses
Integrating Krashen's hypotheses in work with Government schools
In the 'Teachers Communities of Learning' (TCOL) program, IT for Change has attempted to bring these hypotheses into program design and transaction and seen significant validity for these.
Apart from the application of the hypotheses, there is one more significant benefit to ELT - we can identify pedagogies that are actually harmful to language learning, such as
- not providing adequate meaningful input (which has to focus a lot on listening (audio), not only reading (print)
- most input provided is not very contextual or meaningful to the learner
- memorizing entire script without any other activity in the initial stages
- Textbook chapters, which may be of contexts not easily understandable
- expecting production too soon - both speaking and writing
- premature and excessive focus on formal grammar
- not providing adequate peer learning possibilities
- creating a stressful environment of 'achievement/production'
Books written by Krashen
Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Learning - Stephen D Krashen URL. This book available for free download for non-commercial purposes, following chapters are especially useful:
5. The Role of the First Language in Second Language Acquisition
7. On Routines and Patterns in Language Acquisition and Performance
8. Relating Theory and Practice in Adult Second Language Acquisition
Book available for free download for non-commercial purposes. Chapter III in this book focuses on 'Providing Input for Acquisition' - how the teacher can encourage subconscious acquisition of language. Chapter V discusses practical "Approaches to Language Teaching"