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Learning Spanish - The Input Hypothesis

 


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Maybe the most important aspect of Stephen Krashen's theories of second language acquisition is The Input Hypothesis. This explains how someone learns a second language. The hypothesis deals with acquisition of speech and not the learning of formal grammatical rules and cold memorization of vocabulary words.

When you seek to learn a language different from your native tongue, if you are receiving “input" that is slightly above your ability in the second language, then you will proceed along a natural order in becoming proficient in spoken fluency. If you are at level “A" then what you need is input that is slightly above level “A" in order to progress. But, the input must be comprehensible.

An example is in my present use of the Destino's free video course I mentioned last time. I can understand 95% of everything. There is just that small bit of dialogue that keeps me on my toes, just enough of what I don't know to make me grow linguistically. Krashen believes the input must come through reading or hearing the structures that are at a slightly higher level than the seeker's current ability. I think this works.

Problems arise in a classroom setting because not all of the second language seekers are at the same level of acquisition. Therefore, this input becomes problematic if specific structures are “taught. " Rather, “acquisition" activities should be present in the classroom (reading or hearing).

"…a certain amount of comprehensible input must be built up before the acquirer is required to speak in a classroom (Brown, 2000:278). "

Acquiring grammatical structures through comprehensible input in the form of reading or listening comes before the second language seeker attempts to speak the language.

I wonder if this works at all in a classroom without every member of the class being at the same competency level? I can see in the different levels my wife and I are at linguistically that we've grown more in our proficiency in Spanish by using materials and courses at home that afford us “comprehensible input" that has been slightly above our individual competencies in Spanish.

NEXT: The Affective Filter Hypothesis

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