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


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