Stephen Krashen at KOTESOL (part 2 of conference remarks)

I am hugely embarrassed that I had no idea of who Krashen was before the conference.  A coworker told me that he hadn’t planned to go but since Krashen was speaking, he would probably go.  Geez.  Another huge lacuna in my knowledge of ESL.

On Sunday, I was chatting with Jeff Lebow of Koreabridge when this old guy walked up.  Lebow leaped to his feet and organized a time for an interview with the man, calling him “Dr. Krashen”.  Another embarrassment for me but now is a good time to offer a link to Lebow’s interview of Krashen.

His main point in his KOTESOL talk seemed to be that effective language learning can be achieved primarily through input.  Reading books, listening to various forms of audio and watching TV and the like is the main way to learn a foreign language.  Expensive and resource consuming lessons involving grammar, lectures and production of language don’t show value for money, he claims.

Learners won’t gain much from full-on native speaker language but need ‘comprehensible input’ and he suggests in the Lebow video that a ‘sheltered English’ TV channel would help.

At his talk, he used examples of people who have learned language from the study of grammar.  Daniel Tammet was one example.  The people who learned this way were exceptional and unlike the typical language student.

I understand and accept his claim but he only used one or two examples -it was, after all, a short talk – of people who learned through comprehensible input.  Who can say that these examples were not also exceptional language learners, albeit in a different way?

I seem to have chosen not to study Korean in the way I should, but perhaps I merely need to read more of my son’s Korean books.  That’s good news for me as a language learner.  As a language teacher, this is terrible news.

Krashen even defends TV.  Apparently, up to forty minutes a day of TV is beneficial and the problems associated with TV are only significant after four hours or more.

I am reminded of Dr. Semmelweis.  He found that if a doctor simply washed his hands before surgery, the mortality rate of his patients would drop greatly.  No one believed him and no one wanted to.  I think Doctors who heard his claims didn’t want to believe him because if he were right, they had personally been responsible for many deaths.

I am not sure if I believe Krashen’s claims and I don’t see many people working to change language instruction in ways he suggests.  I did not attend the extensive reading symposium at the conference because there is nothing at my university to encourage it.

I do feel that my own skill with English and large vocabulary are the result of great amounts of ‘free, voluntary reading’, a phrase he used in his talk.

In the video, Krashen mentioned his own website and a free language journal.  Here are some links:  sdkrashen.com , International Journal of Foreign Language Teaching

Elsewhere: a bilingual (Spanish/English) site with no clear name, wikipedia,  Education Week Teacher, and Krashen on Twitter.  A few sites have criticisms of Krashen: Frankfurt International School, Timothy Mason, and Jill Stewart of angelfire -who really dislikes him.

I was interested in his speech and look forward to learning more.

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3 Responses to “Stephen Krashen at KOTESOL (part 2 of conference remarks)”

  1. Mom Says:

    Bri: Didn’t you use “Friends” for some of your classes. Now – I guess the Big Bang Theory would be the popular sit-com.
    Let me know if I can send anything that would be of help.

  2. Kevin Kim Says:

    I didn’t realize Krashen was still active in the business. He’s famous for his “affective filter” hypothesis, and as I see from your writeup of him, he’s still beating the “L2 through acquisition, not learning” drum pretty loudly. Good for him.

  3. surprisesaplenty Says:

    Thanks, ma. It needs to be ‘comprehensible input’. For books, that means around five or fewer new words per page. Most TV for North American audiences is too difficult.

    One big challenge with Krashen’s theory is the effort it would take to find the exact level of difficulty that the learner needs.

    Kevin, it’s definitely thought provoking.

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