Wednesday, April 14, 2010

English Fever

this is a very interesting paper written by the Father of SLA, i.e., Stephen Krashen. it opens the discussion on what its meant by English Fever- the overwhelming desire to
(1) acquire English;
(2) ensure that one's children acquire English, as a second or foreign language.

in the world nowadays, English has becoming more and more important. this is very obvious given the fact that almost everything in the Internet is in English. a research by Garfield (1998) found that 95% of the articles cited in the Science Citation Index were written in English, whereas, in the year before it's about 83%. This increase is not due to more work being done by scholars in English-speaking countries; the contributions of scholars from non-English speaking countries are substantial and increasing. It is due to more scholars from non-English speaking countries publishing in English.
a more hardcore evidence- The Pasteur Institute in Paris changed the language of its journal from French to English. The editors explained that in 1973 only about 15% of articles submitted to the journal were in English, but in 1987 100% were.

Krashen then discuss the two types of language acquisition, as what Cummins (2000)* refers as BICS and CALP. Basic Interpersonal Communicative Skills or BICS refers to the basic conversational skills that we use in our everyday lives to communicate, while Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency or CALP, refers to the academic language discourse such as in scientific terms and so forth.

Krashen also discuss in brief how learning English has becoming an obsession in Taiwan where the children will be sent to cramp school at a very young age just to learn English.

He then discuss a few issues related to this-
1) comprehensible input
he asserts that "We acquire language when we receive comprehensible input in a low anxiety
situation, that is, when we understand what people say to us and when we understand what we read." thus, acquiring a language is NOT by learning about language, nor by study of the rules nor by memorizing vocabulary.

2) The importance of recreational reading
"Free voluntary reading is an extremely powerful form of comprehensible input, and it is delivered in a low-anxiety environment. Those who participate in free reading programs in school make superior gains in reading, vocabulary, grammar, and writing (Krashen, 1993, 2002)."

3) Younger is not faster
adults, with substantial comprehensible input, can acquire a second language faster than young children, but in a long run, those who start learning the second language earlier will have have the potential of achieving native-like proficiency.

4) The development of a good accent
i think this is closely related to the fact that we just need to fake the accent to gain acceptance into a group. like, u wanna be posh and elegance? talk like Posh Beckham. Krashen noted that accent may be a result of a reluctance, or wanting, to talk in a certain way, not a lack of competence.

5) The role of the first language
the first language can accelerate second language acquisition. education in the first language supplies background knowledge, which can help make input in the second language more comprehensible. Second, providing literacy in the first language is a short cut to second language literacy: applying the rules to learning the second language.

Krashen then made some suggestions based on this hypotheses- which i will add later tonight.

i will also try to relate this paper to our very own language policies in Malaysia.

*this paper will be discussed in depth later when i come to it in my next entries.

1 comment:

  1. note that Krashen is a strong believer of Whole Language Approach, where recreational reading is an important element of it.