* Krashen 5: Summary of Responses

a href=”https://canlloparot.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/krashen.jpg”>krashen

Here’s “the story so far”. I’ve edited both my questions and Krashen’s responses to make the threads, I hope, easy to follow. All the references can be found in previous posts dealing with The Monitor Model. The last episode will be my evaluation of Krashen’s responses and of The Monitor Model in the light of this exchange.

Acquisition versus Learning

1. What makes you posit that two completely separate systems (presumably each with its own neuro-physiological basis) are used for language learning?

*** No response.

2. How does the “natural language acquisition device” operate, and how does it differ from Chomsky’s LAD.

*** No response.

3. If adults use the same device to acquire a second language as children use in L1 acquisition, then adults should acquire a second language as successfully as children acquire language. Do you claim that the Affective Filter Hypothesis provides a complete explanation for differences in child and adult language acquisition?

*** Krashen’s Response: “THE PERFECTION FALLACY” = If it isn’t perfect, adult L2 acquisition must rely on different mechanisms. The important fact about adult second language competence is that it is so good, not that it is imperfect. Adults, given enough comprehensible input and a reasonably supportive environment, typically acquire nearly the whole thing. Usually, adults only lack the cosmetic aspects of language, aspects of accent and morphology that mark you as a member of a social group. Scholars have ignored this and rush to conclude that L1 and adult L2 acquisition are totally different, despite the high achievement of adults, despite findings that both exhibit a predictable sequence, and both are fueled by comprehensible input. Also, there may be many “perfect” cases walking among us, unnoticed.

4. You claim that “learning” cannot become “acquisition”. This is informally challenged by just about everybody who has learnt a second language, and formally challenged by a number of reports and studies claiming that the conscious learning of rules, and the presentation of rules, explanation, corrective feedback, etc., can facilitate the acquisition of a second language. Can you disprove the intuitively obvious proposition that learning can become acquisition?

*** Krashen’s Response: The hypothesis that learning does not become aquisition is challenged largely by academicians and other academic types who have dedicated their careers to grammar learning and grammar teaching. Most normal people have doubts about grammar (e.g. “I took five years of French and I can’t say anything.”).
As for the efficacy of explanation and feedback, please see Explorations (2004), and the work of Truscott on error correction (and on grammar instruction in general). I have provided explanations for all published cases of where it is claimed that conscious learning of rules seems to work. And the explanations are consistent with the constraints on the conscious Monitor.

5. Please define “conscious” and “subconscious”.

*** No response.

6. You say that acquisition “always requires large amounts of time and input data”, but you don’t give any evidence for this claim. There are many examples of acquistion which is fast and requires little input data.

*** Krashen’s Response: Yes, agreed – there are instances of rapid acquisition, eg “fast mapping.” In fact, the superiority of comprehensible input-based methods as well as “efficiency” analyses done by Beniko Mason suggest that acquisition is faster than conscious learning (benikomason.net).

7. The Acquisition / Learning distinction is extremely lop-sided: “learning” in your model accounts for very little indeed of the SLA process.

*** Krashen’s Response: This does not throw doubt on the acquisition-learning distinction at all. The finding that conscious learning is hard to use, and does not become “acquired” means that language acquisition is something the brain does very well, and language learning is something the brain does not do well. Lop-sided, for sure. But consistent with the data.

The Natural Order Hypothesis


1. The Natural Order Hypothesis suggests that “Second language acquirers acquire (not learn) grammatical structures in a predictable order” (Krashen 1980:169). Your case is based mainly on results of morpheme studies, but the acquisition of morphemes in the same order doesn’t entail that the acquisition of, for example, relative pronouns, indirect object placement, or epistemic modals is ordered, either in respect to those grammatical morphemes, or in respect to each other.

*** Krashen’s Response: A number of studies have found predictable order of acquisition for a variety of aspects of grammar in English and in other languages. One would expect the same principles to underlie all these orders, but this remains to be seen. Nor do we know if morpheme orders are completely independent of orders for aspects of syntax. There is very good evidence for a natural order for some structures, and I took advantage of this in hypothesizing when the monitor is working or not.

2. You say that “a strictly linear view of the natural order hypothesis, that there is only one stream of progress that acquirers follow in strict sequence” is incorrect. Rather, “several streams of development are taking place at the same time” (1982:53-4). But you give no explanation of what a “stream of development” could be, or set any limit on the number of such “streams”.

*** Krashen’s Response: How on earth could I set a limit on the number of streams? I suggested that there may be streams. Are you insisting that all suggestions, all conjectures, all hypotheses come with precise details, overwhelming supporting evidence, and refutations to all possible counterexamples?

3. If the structures of English are divided into varying numbers of ordered sets, the number of sets varying according to the individual, then it makes little sense to talk about a ‘natural order’. And if the number of sets varies from individual to individual; then the membership of any given set will also vary, which makes it very difficult to compare individuals, especially since the content of these sets is virtually completely unknown

*** Krahen’s Response: “Varying according to the individual”? I never said that. It is an empirical question. I have never made claims about variation in number of streams according to the individual.

4. If the set of sets of structures is claimed to be invariant across individual – that is, if it is claimed that there is one (unknown) fixed number of ‘streams of development’ – the problem of comparability would be removed, but the problem of empirical support for the hypothesis remains; in fact it becomes even greater.

*** Krashen’s Response: The “problem of empirical support” is not a problem. It is an invitation to do research.

5. If on the other hand one rejects the criterion of comparability across individuals, the Natural Order Hypothesis has no empirical content: for any individual it would claim that the acquisition of structure n+ 1 was the next structure to be acquired, and this would be true ex hypothesis, but it would be impossible to prove it or falsify it.

*** Krashen’s Response: If we find that i+1 is reasonably similar for everybody at stage i. this would be strong support for the natural order hypothesis.

The Input Hypothesis

1. One claim which comes from this hypothesis is that output does not help acquisition, except indirectly. Where is the evidence for this surprising claim, which contradicts the common opinion that practice is necessary for second language acquisition? Why do you assume that learners can’t learn from their own utterances?

*** Krashen’s Response: The evidence appears throughout my publications over the decades. The latest: Rahim Sari in IJFLT, (ijflt.com), vol 8,(1). 2013.

2. Can we acquire from our own output?

*** Krashen’s Response: This is a theoretical possibility, but so far, we don’t know if it has actually happened or can happen. If a second language acquirer monitors and produces a spoken or written sentence that contains a rule that is at that acquirer’s i+1, and the acquirer understands what he or she has written, this sentence might be able serve as comprehensible input and help lead to the acquisition of that rule. If acquiring from your own output is possible, it would open the door to a bizarre kind of pedagogy: find out what is at each student’s i+1 and set up production activities that require the use of the target rule. Of course, this “new” pedagogy would look a lot like traditional instruction. One could argue that traditional instruction, however, failed to produce real acquired competence because we didn’t know what each student’s i+1 was, and because we just didn’t demand enough output. Even if “acquire from your own output” could be shown to work, I suspect that most people would far prefer to get fresh input from others, with interesting messages, rather than constantly recycle their own production.

3. You claim that we acquire a previously unacquired structure if and only if that structure is present in input that we understand; that structure is ‘due’ to be acquired next; and that structure is presented (in understood input) sufficiently often. Since we don’t know when a structure is ready to be acquired, and since you give no definition of “ready”, this claim can’t be either supported or challenged by empirical evidence.

*** Krashen’s Response: It is consistent with a lot of research, as presented in Input Hypothesis (1985), especially chapter one and in a recent paper (below). It is a reasonable hypothesis. You are demanding a level of precision that is unprecented in our field and reject all indirect evidence.
Krashen, S. 2013 The Case for Non-Targeted, Comprehensible Input. Journal of Bilingual Education Research & Instruction 15(1): 102-110. (available at http://www.sdkrashen.com, “Language Acquisition” section).

4. In general, what evidence supports the assertion that acquisition is caused by understanding comprehensible input? What theory explains how we go from understanding to acquisition? Without addressing these issues, the Input Hypothesis has no explanatory power.

*** Krashen’s Response: Perhaps this paper may be of interest (ignorance hypothesis) in explaining how we move from comprehension to acquisition. As for: “In general, what evidence supports the assertion that acquisition is caused by understanding comprehensible input?” see hundreds of my publications over the last few decades.
Krashen, S. 1983. Newmark’s “ignorance hypothesis” and current second language acquisition theory. In S. Gass and L. Selinker (Eds.) Language Transfer in Language Learning. New York: Newbury House. pp. 135-153. (available at http://www.sdkrashen.com, “Language Acquisition” section)

The Affective Filter Hypothesis

1. You say that “significant Monitor use is only possible after the acquirer has undergone formal operations a stage in cognitive development that generally occurs at about puberty”, and that “Having reached this stage, the adolescent now has a meta-awareness of his ideas and can use abstract rules to solve a whole class of problems at one time. It is thus plausible that the ability to use a conscious grammar … comes as a result of formal operations”. What are “formal operations”?

*** Krashen’s Response: Formal operations comes from Piaget. I described formal operations in several books and papers and provide citations. And I discussed how formal operations contributes to the establishment of the affective filter. See e.g: Krashen, S. 1982. Accounting for child-adult differences in second language acquisition. In S. Krashen, R. Scarcella, and M. Long (Eds.) Child-Adult Differences in Second Language Acquisition. New York: Newbury House.

2. You say the Filter determines which parts of the language will be attended to first. What does “part of a language” mean? How does the Filter recognize different “parts of a language”?

*** Krashen’s Response: I no longer think this is true.

3. In general, you don’t explain either the growth or function of the Affective Filter, or provide any evidence for its existence.

*** Krashen’s Response: Of course I do. See above citation, and chapter 2 in Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Learning.


The Monitor Model as a Theory of SLA


1. Gregg (1984) says that you have no linguistic theory and this is what makes you unable to interpret the morpheme studies, or to present a coherent account of what ‘i+ 1′ could mean.

*** Krashen’s Response: Gregg has complained that I have not integrated grammatical theory into my work. No I haven’t, but others have, eg Schwartz, and discussions contributed by L. White and others.

2. Most of the propositions in your theory are not capable of being subjected to an empirical test. There is no way of testing the Acquisition-Learning hypothesis since you give no evidence to support the claim that two distinct systems exist, or any means of determining whether they are, or are not, separate. With no way to determine whether the Monitor is in operation or not, it is impossible to determine the validity of its claims. As for the Input Hypothesis, since the levels of knowledge are nowhere defined, it is impossible to know whether i + 1 is present in input, and, if it is, whether or not the learner moves on to the next level as a result.

*** Krashen’s Response: What this means is that you are not satisfied with the evidence I have presented. More fundamentally it means that we disagree on how research should be done.

3. You provide no causal explanation. At the heart of the hypotheses is the Acquisition-Leaning Hypothesis which simply states that L2 competence is picked up through comprehensible input in a staged, systematic way, without giving any explanation of the process by which comprehensible input leads to acquisition. Similarly, you give no account of how the Affective Filter works, of how input is filtered out by an unmotivated learner.

*** No Response.

4. Your use of key terms, such as “acquisition and learning”, and “subconscious and conscious”, is vague, confusing, and not always consistent.

*** No Response

5. I think the theory is contained in the Input Hypothesis and the Monitor Hypothesis, and that the other hypotheses serve to rescue these two hypotheses from criticism. This implies that the theory offends the principle of Occam’s Razor, which expects theories to use the simplest possible formula and to postulate the fewest number of basic types of entity.

*** Krashen’s Response: Occam’s Razor does not say we want the simplest theory, it says we want the simplest theory consistent with the data. Is it preferable to not make a distinction between short and long-term memory because it would be”simpler”? How about just saying e = mc, and simplifying pi to 22/7?

6. We need more information in order to judge for ourselves whether the examples you give of confirmations of your hypotheses are robust. So, for example, when you say “More comprehensible input consistently results in better competence in adult second language, child second language, native language, literacy”, we need to know how you ensured that the input was comprehensible, how you measured “competence” before and after the trial, how strong the correlation was and how you are sure that the comprehensible input caused the increased competence.

*** Krashen’s Response:
1. How I insured that input is comprehensible. At this stage of our knowledge, we can’t do this precisely. Maybe some measure of brain activity would work. Tough to do this without making the situation very artificial.
2. How competence is measured. This is described in all studies.
3. Strength of correlation. This is reported in all empirical studies, and whenever possible measures of effect size are reported. When other scholars do not report effect sizes, I always try to calculate them and report them in my papers, eg Krashen, S. 2007. Extensive reading in English as a foreign language by adolescents and young adults: A meta-analysis. International Journal of Foreign Language Teaching 3 (2): 23-29. (available at: IJFLT.com)
4. How I am sure that the comprehensible input caused the increased competence. I am not “sure,” but I think it is highly likely, because results are so similar in so many studies: see appendix to this response below.
Concerning Popper:
In second language acquisition, my impression is that most of the scholars publishing in the “prestige” journals do indeed follow Popper’s philosophy and pay little or no attention to supporting data. Study after study has been published attemting to show that
1. instruction works
2. error correction works
3. comprehensible output works.
These are all attempts to falsify one or more of the hypotheses I have proposed.
I have responded to many of these attempts, pointing out that (1) the results are fully consistent with the hypotheses I have proposed; (2) researchers have focused on and have overinterpreted the scraps of apparently falsifying evidence, (3) have stated conclusions inconsistent with their own data.
Very little attention has been paid to the many studies confirming the predictions made by the hypotheses, including the many method comparison studies (see appendix), multivariate studies and case histories. And critics of the theory seem to be unaware of research outside of their own narrow area, especially literacy development.
APPENDIX: Results are so similar in many studies. Below is a list of studies comparing comprehension-based methods with traditional methods that demand the conscious learning of grammar. The list includes studies contrasting comprehension-based methods with traditional methods for beginning foreign language teaching and intermediate foreign and second language teaching, as well as studies showing the superiority of self-selected reading over traditional instruction for intermediate second and foreign language students. All studies included comparison groups and subjects were high school age or older. In addition, there are a multitude of studies that confirm these results using multivariate techniques and case histories (Krashen, 2004, Explorations). See also: Krashen, S. 2014. Case Histories and the Comprehension Hypothesis. TESOL Journal (www.tesol-journal.com), June, 2014
Available at: http://www.sdkrashen.com/articles.php?cat=6

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