Monday, February 19, 2007

Krashen on Improving English

Improving English

Sent to the New Sunday Times (Kuala Lumpur), Feb 11

Substituting 10 extra hours of English in Year One for
math and science will not do much to improve English
("Will 18 lessons do the trick?" Learning Curve, Feb.
11). In fact, it may have the opposite effect.
First, solid subject matter knowledge (best learned in
the child's first language) is a terrific investment
in future English development, because it stimulates
cognitive development, and makes the world more
comprehensible, which means that what children hear
and read in English will be more comprehensible.
Second, contrary to popular opinion, an early emphasis
on English is not efficient: Older children acquire
much faster than younger children. An hour of English
presented to a 10 year old produces much more
knowledge of English than an hour presented to a six
year old.
Third, as mentioned in the article, by far the most
powerful way of insuring continuing and advanced
English development is through wide self-selected
recreational reading. Thus, a major goal of English
classes is to help establish an interest in reading,
an activity that can be continued after students
finish their English program. It is much easier to
establish a reading habit in English after children
develop a solid reading habit in the first language.
Both research results and common sense tell us that
the easiest and most efficient path is to provide an
excellent foundation in the primary language, and
gradually introduce English as children progress in
school, while continuing to provide high quality
education in the first language. Once students become
pleasure readers in English, and books are easily
available, high levels of English are guaranteed.

Stephen Krashen, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

Krashen on Vocabulary

Vocabulary comes from reading

Published in Language Magazine, vol 6, no. 5, 2007
"Bonding words" (Dec. 2006) mentions that vocabulary
can be acquired "indirectly" through reading, but much
of the article is devoted to the direct teaching of
vocabulary. There is a great deal of research, in
first and second language acquisition, not cited in
the article, that supports the view that nearly all of
our vocabulary is "indirectly" acquired. Briefly:
(1) correlational studies show that those who read
more develop larger vocabularies,
(2) those who participate in self-selected reading
programs typically gain more in vocabulary than those
in traditional programs,
(3) "read and test" studies show that readers can pick
up a small amount of knowledge of unknown words each
time they see them in context, enough to account for
adult vocabulary size if enough reading is done, and
(4) the number of words adults know is too large to
deliberately or consciously learn one word at a time.
Also, those with large vocabularies do not give
"study" the credit. In 1984, in a paper published by
the Johnson O?Conner Research Foundation, Smith and
Supanich tested 456 company presidents and reported
that they had significantly larger vocabulary scores
than a comparison group of adults. When asked if they
had made an effect to increase their vocabulary since
leaving school, more than half said they had, but only
14% of this group mentioned the use of vocabulary
books, about 3% of the total sample: Fifty-four
percent mentioned reading.
I have nothing against explaining the meaning of
unknown words when this will help comprehension, but
rather than focusing so much on "the serious teaching
of vocabulary", let's at least try to encourage
massive, self-selected recreational reading and
provide the reading material that makes it possible.
Even if reading were less effective (which it is not),
it is an activity people will gladly do the rest of
their lives, in contrast to vocabulary exercises.
Stephen Krashen

Friday, February 09, 2007

ACTFL- The Benefits of Language Learning

What the Research Shows about the Benefits of Language Learning

In this age of accountability in education, policymakers and administrators, as well as parents, are increasingly demanding to know what research studies show regarding the benefits of language learning. As a service to our members ACTFL has compiled the research and presented it in an easy to use format on our Web site.
Specifically the information addresses:
How does language learning support academic achievement?
How does language learning provide cognitive benefits to students?
How does language learning affect attitudes and beliefs about language learning and about other cultures?
So, the next time you are asked for this information – don't panic – remember that ACTFL has done the work for you!