If you’ve been reading my blog, you will already know that my purpose is to document my journey of increasing students’ oral proficiency in French. I am constantly looking for ways to get my students to interact in meaningful ways in French to build their confidence. At the same time, I try to provide them with explanations of the linguistic structures to give them the tools that they need in order to be able to communicate. I was doing some research on second language acquisition and came across a website that has ideas from some leaders in the field. I thought that I would share these two quotes from Stephen Krashen, a professor at the University of Southern California who has contributed many theories to the field of second language acquisition:
“Language acquisition does not require extensive use of conscious grammatical rules, and does not require tedious drill.”
“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.”
This is how we learn our mother tongue. We are exposed as infants to constant language input, and we somehow figure out how it works. However, if I reflect back on my experiences, I was taught grammar in elementary school and I do believe that those lessons helped me to further develop my linguistic skills in English.
Krashen does have a view about teaching grammar for language acquisition:
“The Role of Grammar in Krashen’s View
According to Krashen, the study of the structure of the language can have general educational advantages and values that high schools and colleges may want to include in their language programs. It should be clear, however, that examining irregularity, formulating rules and teaching complex facts about the target language is not language teaching, but rather is “language appreciation” or linguistics.
The only instance in which the teaching of grammar can result in language acquisition (and proficiency) is when the students are interested in the subject and the target language is used as a medium of instruction.”
It’s a tall order, but I’m up for the challenge…
As for the second quote, I’m not sure how much I agree or disagree. I understand that in theory, it’s OK if there are mistakes when speaking if the speaker gets his/her message across because they have achieved their goal. On the other hand, I have had students request that I correct them when they make mistakes, even though I understood their message. I feel like I should tell them what the forms are, and not just let them continue on with these errors. There is something to be said about speaking and writing correctly.
These are definitely interesting issues in second language teaching.
What do you think?
Schütz, Ricardo. “Stephen Krashen’s Theory of Second Language Acquisition.” English Made in Brazil <http://www.sk.com.br/sk-krash.html>. Online. July 2nd, 2007.