Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Three Options: Non-targeted input, and two kinds of targeted input

S. Krashen
November 29, 2016

I propose here that there are three options for targeting of grammar and vocabulary: not targeting at all, and two types of explicit targeting.   

Nontargeted input (NT):  I argued for this option in Krashen (2013).  It rests on a corollary of the Comprehension Hypothes: Given enough comprehensible input, all the structures and vocabulary items the acquirer is ready to acquire are present in the input, and naturally reviewed. In other words, we don't have to aim at i+1; i+1 will be there.

NT asserts that we should not use a grammatical syllabus even if it is based on the natural order. Rather, aspects of grammar will be acquired in the predictable natural order as the result of exposure to comprehensible input.

Targeted Input
There are times when targeting is useful – when acquirers are or will soon be faced with tasks that require knowledge of some specific vocabulary and/or grammar that they have not yet acquired or have not yet fully acquired.
TPRS uses targeting to prepare students to understand stories that the teacher and student will co-construct in class, called "backwards planning." The teacher determines in advance what aspects of language are needed and provides add focus on these items.
We can distinguish two kinds of targeting: The first is consistent with the "skill-building" view of language development and the second is consistent with the Comprehension Hypothesis.
Targeting 1 (T1):
1.     The goal is full mastery of the rule or vocabulary in a short time, so complete that the rule can be easily retrieved and used in production.
2.     The source of the rules to be targeted is external, from a syllabus made by others (not the teacher).  The teacher's job when doing T1 is to find a story or activity that will provide extra exposure to and use of the target items. Thus, Targeting 1 is a way of "contextualizing" grammar or vocabulary.
3.     T1 consists of "practice" in using the target items. "Practice" generally consists of skill-building, first consciously learning the new items, and then "automatizing" them by using them in output, and getting corrected to fine-tune knowledge of the rule. "Automatizing" means converting explicit, or consciously learned competence into implicit, or acquired competence.  It has been argued that T1 does not result in the automatization or acquisition of language (Krashen, 1982, VanPatten, in press). The best we can hope for with T1 is well-learned and highly monitored performance.

Targeting 2 (T2):
1.T2 targets new items in order to help students understand input, and promotes the development of spoken fluency because it results in acquisition of new items. 
2. Unlike T1, the goal is comprehension of the story or activity, not full mastery of the targeted item in a short time.  
3. The source of the rules to be targeted is internal; in TPRS classes, the source is the story.
4. This kind of targeting may result in full acquisition of the target item when used in one or just a few sessions, but it generally results in partial acquisition, enough to understand the text. Full acquisition comes when the item appears in the input again and again, in other stories or activities, assuming that the targeted item is at the students' i+1.

My previous arguments (Krashen, 2013) against targeting are arguments against Targeting 1, not Targeting 2.

Note that even when a great deal of Targeting 2 is used, TPRS students receive a great deal of non-targeted comprehensible/compelling input during the creation of a TPRS story, i.e. during circling and related discussion: This is probablhy not the case with targeting 1.

Table 1 The contrast between targeting 1 and targeting 2

source of target



rapid mastery
Compr. Hyp.








Nontargeted input is the "default mode."  With nontargeted input, unfamiliar vocabulary and unacquired grammar is made comprehensible with the help of context, linguistic and non-linguistic.  Sometimes, however, this is not enough, especially when the first and second languages have few or no cognates. 

There are two options for dealing with this situation: Use Targeting 2 or supply more comprehensible input with more contextual support, eg pictures.  I have noticed that there are fewer comprehensible texts available in just those languages where they are the most needed.

Krashen, S. 1982. Principles and Pratice in Second Language Acquisition.  Available at www.sdkrashen.com.
Krashen, S. 2013. The Case for Non-Targeted, Comprehensible Input. Journal of Bilingual Education Research & Instruction 15(1): 102-110. Available at www.sdkrashen.com, "language acquisition" section.
VanPatten, B. Why explicit knowledge cannot become implicit knowledge. Foreign Language Annals, in press.


  1. An instructive post. People to really know who they want to reach and why or else, they'll have no way to know what they're trying to achieve. People need to hear this and have it drilled in their brains..
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  2. Hello Dr, Krashen,

    Is your discussion on this topic exclusive to using TPRS or are you talking about language instruction in general?

    Also is your definition of output to mean when the learner seeks to make their own meaning while communicating or is output to mean something.

    Thanks you for sharing these ideas.