I want to share this video where Stephen Krashen, an authority on second-language acquisition, demonstrates what comprehensible input is. And he explains that it’s the only way people acquire a language – we’ve tried everything else!
We acquire a language when we understand messages. That is why I insist on my students doing a lot of listening and reading on their own!
Watch Krashen demonstrate two ways of teaching:
This comprehensible input (reading or listening) has to be interesting and at the right level for you – just slightly beyond your current level; this way, you can guess the meaning of the words you don’t know based on the context.
LANGUAGE LEARNING VS. LANGUAGE ACQUISITION
Also, if you’ve ever felt frustrated because you KNOW you have learned something, yet when you speak you still make mistakes, this will make everything clear: you need to ACQUIRE the language, not just LEARN about it, if you want to be able to use it. Krashen explains that language learning means learning ABOUT the language – the grammar rules, mostly, whereas language acquisition means becoming able to USE the language to actually communicate. Learning the grammar rules doesn’t mean you can speak. The only way to become better at listening and speaking is to PRACTICE – and enjoy it!
According to Krashen, “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.”
Krashen also says, “The best methods are therefore those that supply ‘comprehensible input’ in low anxiety situations, containing messages that students really want to hear.” And, “In the real world, conversations with sympathetic native speakers who are willing to help the acquirer understand are very helpful.”
So for all those reasons, practicing with a native speaker, either a teacher or a language exchange partner, is an excellent way to improve your second language skills! And remember to do a lot of reading and listening!
Finally, here is the blog post I wrote after attending Krashen’s talk in Busan last year:
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