By Stephen Krashen
BeeOasis Step 2
Editor’s note: Krashen says that learning and acquisition are different. Learning means knowing about a language. Acquisition means knowing how to use a language.
If acquisition is it, the question then becomes “How do we acquire?” I’ll give you two quick lessons in a language you probably heard but probably don’t speak, and you can tell me which one of these lessons would help you acquire the language.
Lesson number one. Are you ready? Okay. (Speaking German)
What do you think? Good lesson? You think if I kept talking to you like that, you would pick up German? Very slowly, if at all.
Here’s lesson number two. You have to watch. (Speaking German)
We’ve tried everything else. We’ve tried teaching grammar. We’ve tried having students memorize vocabulary. We’ve had people memorize dialogues, sit in front of machines. Next we’ll try electric shock. We’ve tried everything.
But the only thing that works, the only thing that counts is giving people messages they understand, what we now call comprehensible input.
We acquire language when we understand what people tell us, what is said, not how it’s said but what is said. Notice that when we teach language today, we usually do the opposite. We give people a rule, and then we have them practice the rule in production, and we tell them if they got it right or wrong.