James Hosler wrote an article to share with the group that is pretty important. I will time stamp this same article for August, as I see it as important as jGR in some ways. I am creating a category called jGA – James’ Great Argument – for it.
It’s on a topic most of us deal with all the time, and provides us with a way of understanding those who attack us. When we can understand our attackers, we can react to them with reasoned intelligence and compassion.
Here is the article:
It can be helpful at times to reflect on the best arguments offered by the opposition, especially if as a CI practitioner you teach in hostile territory. I’ve been talking with some eclectic, “communicative” language teachers on Twitter recently and thought your readers might appreciate this summary.
One teacher has been going at it with me long enough that today I finally got a bird’s eye view of what might be called the “modern argument against CI in schools.” It has three main parts:
1) It argues against the language acquisition device (LAD). If the mind doesn’t have a special capacity for learning language, then language needs to be taught like other skills. So lots of practice at “skill building” is fitting and even necessary.
2) It supports the critical period hypothesis (CPH) which states we learn languages best and most naturally before a certain biological age. This is related to point (1) above in that the CPH “turns off,” as opposed to the LAD which, if true, would always be present. So your typical eclectic, “communicative” language teacher thinks that their high school students are beyond the critical period and lack the LAD.
3) It suggests that teenagers are more capable of making gains by thinking about language because they have life experiences, additional cognitive means, and their first language which can act as a point of reference. So high schoolers are more capable of learning by thinking and doing. They can hold on to the grammar and vocabulary and manipulate things and from that fluency (do they mean “automated language”?) will eventually come.
I recently found something giving what seems to be Krashen’s take on point (3) above. The following is a quote from “Critical Period Hypothesis Revised” by Malgorzata Jedynak (with minor edits for clarification).
“…Krashen indicates that this general tendency of adolescents to construct theories might inhibit the natural and complete acquisition of a second language: ‘…the person who has reached the stage of formal operations may have not only the ability but also the need to construct a conscious theory (a grammar) of the language he is learning.’ (Krashen, 1975: 220) As Krashen points out this might cause an adult to adopt a rule-by-rule approach to language learning and, since he has difficulty expressing all of a natural language in terms of isolated rules, he might thus limit his own access to competence in the target language.”
Basically, teenagers and adults are too smart for their own good. They, or at least some of them, will try to think about it too much. They want to be a smarty-pants but a smarty-pants will never become fluent in a language by being a smarty-pants. A smarty-pants needs to get over himself (or herself) and engage the input.