"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Does language acquisition require hard struggle?

Posted as a comment following Larry Ferlazzo’s second column on “How will I implement Common Core for Language Arts’


Re Dina Strasser’s contribution:" In second language acquisition terminology, we refer to Stephen Krashen's theory of "i plus one." It is where we present the student with enough unfamiliarity-- enough challenge-- to have them frown at the page, have to try an oral answer two or three times before getting it right, or have to think silently for a minute or two before writing an answer."

What I have hypothesized is that language acquisition happens when we understand input that contains aspects of language that we have not yet acquired. It does NOT mean a hard struggle to understand and does NOT require grim determination. It does not mean that we deliberately give students texts that make them “frown at the page” because it contains so much unacquired language. Nearly all of our language acquisition happens when we understand easily, without effort, the mountains of listening and reading we have done and continue to do, with our focus on the message, not the form. When readers react by saying “this is hard,” it means that the text is not right for language acquisition.

It couldn’t be any other way. We have all acquired thousands of words, many many highly complex rules of grammar that linguists have yet to describe, complex spelling rules, and subtle principles of text organization. If a struggle were necessary for each of the aspects of language we have acquired, nobody would get very far.

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