Sunday, August 20, 2017

Who Invented Compehensible Input?

Stephen Krashen  (the author of this paper, not the answer to the question)
International Journal of Language Teaching 2017. 12(2) 32-33.

On page 49 of his new book,  While We're on the Topic,  Bill VanPatten writes: "The role of input is often credited to Stephen Krashen. Although Krashen popularized the notion of comprehensible input .... the idea of communicative input has been around longer, and began with first language acquisition. What Krashen distilled for many people ... is this: acquisition happens through understanding messages. In short, acquisition is a byproduct of comprehension..."

VanPatten is correct. In fact, I wasn't even the first person to talk about comprehensible input in second language acquisition.

First language acquisition researchers have indeed talked about communication, but have not explicitly acknowledged the centrality of comprehensible input.  Several first language literacy researchers, however, have been very clear about the role of comprehensible input: We learn to read by reading (making sense of what is on the page), and develop other aspects of literacy (vocabulary, writing style, complex grammar, spelling) through reading (e.g. Frank Smith, Kenneth Goodman, Richard Anderson, Richard Allington, Warwick Elley and others), all independent of my work.

Several second language researchers arrived at versions of the Comprehension Hypothesis before I did, including Leonard Newmark, Harris Winitz and James Asher.  In addition, both S.P. Corder and Larry Selinker made distinctions similar to the acquisition-learning distinction and hypothesized that acquisition is available to the adult. (1)

I have acknowledged these scholars in several publications, including Krashen (2013).  

My thanks to Bill VanPatten for making this point, and for reminding us to honor our lineage and learn from the pioneers in our field.

(1) Those doing research in animal language (animals acquiring their own languages and acquiring human languages) have been vague, even though some of their conclusions appear similar to what is stated in the Comprehension Hypothesis. To my knowledge, only Pepperberg has explicitly related animal language findings to comprehensible input.  In Krashen (2013), I review animal language studies from the point of the view of the Comprehension Hypothesis.

Krashen, S. 2013. The comprehension hypothesis and animal language. József Horváth, and Péter Medgyes.  Studies in Honor of Marianne Nikolov.  Pécs: (pp. 243-258). Lingua Franca Csoport.
VanPatten, B. 2017. While We're on the Topic. Alexandria, VA: American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Reading Program Reaps Rewards

 Published in Education Week, Sept. 5, 2017, Vol. 37, Issue 03, pp. 20-21
Education Week reports that the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a policy report pushing for greater early-childhood-education advocacy by its members (Pediatricians Urged to Get Involved With Early-Childhood Education). Both Education Week and the policy report itself note that cost is a significant problem.
There's one program with consistently positive effects that costs relatively little: Reach Out and Read. The core of the program is reading aloud to children in doctors' offices. There is overwhelming evidence showing that read-alouds are beneficial: Children who are read to regularly consistently do better on tests of vocabulary, grammar, and listening comprehension, and read-alouds do an excellent job of stimulating interest in books.
Reach Out and Read makes books available and informs parents of the value and pleasure of reading aloud. The intervention is modest: While in waiting rooms for well-child pediatrician's appointments, medical staff members show parents reading activities they can do with their children. Staff members and the physician also discuss the importance of reading. The families receive free books at each doctor visit. Reach Out and Read is aimed at lower-income groups that have little access to books and thus typically score considerably lower than average on vocabulary tests. Studies show that children participating in these programs make excellent gains in vocabulary.
In one three-year study, subjects had an average of only three well-child appointments in which their doctors discussed books, and they received an average of four books. Nevertheless, the children did far better than comparison children on vocabulary tests, scoring closer to middle-class norms.

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

Krashen, S. 2011. Reach out and read (aloud). Language Magazine 10  (12): 17-19.
Mendelsohn A., Mogiler L., Dreyer B., Forman J., Weinstein S., Broderick M., Cheng K., Magloire T., Moore T. and Napier C. 2001. The impact of a clinic-based literacy intervention on language development in inner-city preschool children. Pediatrics 107(1): 130–134.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Trump English Language Academy

Published in the Los Angeles Times, August 6, 2017 (“New view of immigration.”)
Re: “Trump backs tough border limits” August 3, Business section

Donald Trump and Republican Senators have just announced that their new immigration plan will favor candidates who speak English well
I predict that Mr. Trump will soon announce the establishment of the Trump Language Academy, a series of schools around the world to help potential immigrants increase their English proficiency., located in Trump hotels. Tuition will include food and lodging at the hotels.
Textbooks (including “The Art of the Deal,”) educational technology and English tests will be provided by the Trump Language Academy.
Tiffany Trump will serve as academic director.
All prospective immigrants must pass the official Trump English Language Examination, regardless of country of origin and educational level. The examination will not cover spelling.

Stephen Krashen

Requiring "English ability" is a bad idea

Submitted to the Washington Post, August 2, 2017.

The Trump/GOP immigration proposal includes "English ability" as a factor in determining eligibility ("Trump, GOP senators introduce bill to slash legal immigration levels,” August 2).
This is another example of sloppy, uniformed policy making by this administration.  Studies show consistently that immigrants succeed in acquiring English.  According to the 2012 Census, 15% of the foreign-born population in the US speak English at home and another 56% speak English either "very well" or"well" – a total of over 70%.  Over 90% of the children of immigrants speak English well or very well.
Even if there were a need for an English-language requirement, making it mandatory before immigrants arrive favors language schools in other countries at the expense of our own ESL programs, and ignores the obvious advantage of acquiring the language while living in the country in which it is spoken.
Finally, such a requirement requires language testing,  a huge and unnecessary expense.

Stephen Krashen

Original article:

Gambino, C.,  Acosta, Y., and Grieco, E. 2014.  English-speaking Ability of the Foreign-Born Population in the United States, 2012.  United States Census Bureau.
Pew Research Center, 2013. Second Generation Americans, A Portrait of Adult Children of Immigrants