Sunday, January 21, 2018

A source of confusion: the terms “immersion” and “dual language”

Submitted to Language Magazine, January 21, 2018

I have a suggestion that might improve communication among language educators as well as communication between language educators and the public.   

For language education professionals, the term “immersion” usually means subject-matter instruction through a second language, with efforts made to make sure the language used is comprehensible to students. For the public, however, “immersion” generally means “submersion,” surrounding yourself with the target language, whether comprehensible or not. I suggest we simply stop using the term “immersion.”

“Dual language” is used in two ways: It could mean “bilingual education” in general or it could mean a specific program known as “two-way” bilingual education.  I suggest we avoid confusion by dropping the term “dual language” and using either “bilingual education” or “two-way bilingual education.”

And please, let’s avoid creative but even more confusing terminology such as  “dual immersion” and “bilingual immersion.”

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus

University of Southern California

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Phonics Fever in New Zealand

Published as a comment to a website called “Stuff” from New Zealand as a response to “Kids battling to learn because of gaps in teaching fundamentals” January 3: 

Whenever a country’s international reading test scores show the slightest drop, there is a call for more phonics. New Zealand ten-year olds scored eight points lower on the international PIRLS examination than ten-year olds in 2011, a very small drop. Nevertheless, phonics fever is in full force in New Zealand.

Increasing phonics study won’t help on tests of this kind.  A number of studies have confirmed that Intensive phonics study will only improve scores on tests in which children pronounce words presented on a list. It has no impact on tests such as the PIRLS, in which children have to understand what they read. 

Research has, however, confirmed that students who do the best on reading comprehension tests are those who have done more self-selected (recreational) reading. In fact, those who read more not only read better, they write better, have larger vocabularies, spell better, and have better control of grammar. 

In order to develop a pleasure reading habit, children need access to books. The best way to insure this is investing in libraries and librarians. 

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

Monday, January 1, 2018

Read alouds lead to reading, reading requires access to books

Sent to the Los Angeles Times,  December 31, 2017

Re: If you want your kids to be fully literate, start reading to them when they are babies. 

Professors Allen and Adele Gottfried inform us that their studies show that reading aloud to children early in their lives correlates with educational success later on (letters, Dec. 30).  

Read-alouds help because they provide exposure to the vocabulary and grammar used in books, making independent reading more comprehensible, and also because they get children interested in reading on their own. Those who become avid readers read better, write better, have larger vocabularies, better grammar, and spell better.

Having a reading habit only happens if children have access to books. A number of studies, including our own, have shown that access to libraries correlates with reading proficiency, and our recent work suggests that availability of libraries can balance the negative effect of poverty on literacy development. 

California has consistently invested little in libraries, often the only source of books for children of poverty, and little in librarians, who help children find the right books for them.

Stephen Krashen
Syying Lee
Jeff McQuillan

Original letter to the Times:

Some sources: 
Access to books: 
McQuillan, J. (1998). The Literacy Crisis: False Claims, Real Solutions. Heinemann. 
Krashen, S. (2004). The Power of Reading. Libraries Unlimited.

Our recent studies: 
Krashen, S., Lee, S.Y. and McQuillan, J. 2012. Is the library important? Multivariate studies at the national and international level. Journal of Language and Literacy Education, 8(1): 26-36.
Krashen, S. Lee, SY, and Lao, C. 2017. Comprehensible and Compelling: The Causes and Effects of Free Voluntary Reading. Santa Barbara: Libraries Unlimited. ABC-CLIO, LLC.