Monday, October 13, 2008

Krashen on Latin and the SATs (2)

Sent to the New York Times, October 7, 2008

Latin study has definite advantages ("A dead language that's very much alive," October 7), but it has not been established that building English vocabulary and high SAT scores are among them.
In 1923, Edward Thorndike reported that Latin has only a temporary impact on vocabulary: High school Latin students excelled in English vocabulary after one year, but the difference was smaller after two years of Latin. Also, it has not been demonstrated that well-read adults who studied Latin have larger vocabularies than well-read adults who have not.
In contrast, reading provides life-long vocabulary growth, as well as in writing, reading, and grammar, more knowledge of school subjects and more knowledge of the world.
Latin's impact on SAT scores is questionable: The small percentage who take Latin (about 7% of those who take the SAT), might differ from others in important ways that affect SAT scores. I'll bet they read more.
Stephen Krashen

Krashen on "mingling"

Comment posted on NY Times website, following "The Bilingual Debate Continued," By Sandra Tsing Loh

" longitudinal research has shown that English-learning children in the United States have a much higher success rate at mastering the higher language skills that will enable them to succeed on standardized tests if they mingle, daily, with native English-speaking children."
I am all for mingling, but I have been doing and reading research in bilingualism for several decades and I don't know of any studies that say that mingling with English-speaking children helps in the acquisition of academic language.
What the research does say is that a good bilingual program helps the development of academic English, and so does wide, recreational reading.
Stephen Krashen

Krashen on Latin (1)

Submitted to Education Week, October 4, 2008
Latin study and English vocabulary: Only a temporary boost?
Baynard Woods maintains that Latin study can help students increase their vocabulary and improve standardized test performance. ("Give Latin (and Potential Dropouts) a Chance," Sept. 22). Studies done over the last century appear to support this suggestion, but there is reason to be cautious.
Latin provides readers with internal cues to word identification, cues within words, allowing those with some Latin to infer word meanings of many unfamiliar words of Latin origin. Knowledge of internal cues is particularly useful on tests that present words out of context, in isolation.
In contrast, in acquiring vocabulary by reading, readers use cues external to the word, from the text and their prior knowledge. Readers gradually build up word meanings as they read, acquiring a small part of the meaning of new words each time they are encountered in print.
It may be that Latin gives a temporary boost, allowing less advanced readers to look better on vocabulary tests. Reading, however, offers both a short and a long-term solution: Gains in vocabulary from reading are generally better than gains resulting from vocabulary study, and if students establish a reading habit, the gains continue life-long.
In 1923, Thorndike provided evidence that Latin has only a temporary impact: High school Latin students excelled in English vocabulary after one year, but the difference was smaller after two years of Latin. Also, Latin students did clearly better than comparisons on a test of English reading comprehension after one semester, but the difference was smaller after one year.
A better test of this hypothesis is to see whether there is a difference in vocabulary size and reading ability between widely read adults who have studied Latin and those who have not. If Latin only gives a temporary boost, there will be no difference between the groups.
Stephen Krashen

from Krashen- on Sarah Palin

Dear Editor,
The focus has shifted from Sarah Palin's disastrous performance in the Katie Couric interviews to her better than expected debate performance. Still, I'd like to redirect us to the fact that Sarah Palin could not name a single periodical or newspaper that she read to stay informed. Let's be honest. That is NOT a trick question from the media elite. As a lifelong educator, I suspect this woman does not read. Ever. The way she mangles the English language, both in interviews and even in spouting her memorized talking points, only corroborates that view. People who read know how to use language clearly and effectively.
Sara Stevenson
Middle School Librarian who reads The Austin American-Statesman, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The New Yorker. Austin, Texas