Tuesday, November 29, 2016

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

S. Krashen
March, 2017

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

Nontargeted input (NT):  I argued for this option in Krashen (2013).  It rests on a corollary of the Comprehension Hypothesis: 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 aspects of grammar will be acquired in the predictable natural order as the result of exposure to comprehensible input.

Targeted Input
With nontargeted input, unfamiliar vocabulary and unacquired grammar are made comprehensible with the help of context, linguistic and non-linguistic. There are times, however, 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 and that will not be comprehensible without special attention.

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 it can be easily retrieved and used in production.
2.     The source of the items 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 conscious knowledge of the rule or meaning of the word. "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, 2016). The best we can hope for with T1 is highly monitored performance.

 Targeting 2 (T2):
1. Unlike T1, the goal of T2 is comprehension of the story or activity, not full mastery of the targeted item in a short time.  It can be done in a variety of ways, e.g. via visual content (e.g. pictures), translation.
3. The source of the items to be targeted is internal; e.g. the story.
4. This kind of targeting generally results in partial acquisition, enough to understand the text. Full acquisition of the targeted item develops gradually, 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, language acquirers will receive non-targeted comprehensible/compelling input. This is probably not the case with targeting 1.

Table 1 The contrast between targeting 1 and targeting 2

source of target



rapid mastery
Compr. Hyp.








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. 2016. Why explicit knowledge cannot become implicit knowledge. Foreign Language Annals doi:10.1111/flan.12226.


  1. 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.


  2. Sorry for delay in responding The discussion is meant to cover language instruction in general. In the case of T1, output does not necessarily have any real communicative intent. For T2, it does.

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