The realm of English language teaching (ELT) has been profoundly and constantly evolving, driven by the work of numerous linguists, educationists, and policy makers. Among the pioneers who have played a crucial role in shaping the ELT landscape is Dr. Stephen Krashen, an American linguist and educationist celebrated globally for his groundbreaking theories. As a presenter, I had the honour of interacting with Dr. Krashen during the International Language Institute Symposium in Brno, the Czech Republic, and gained invaluable insights into his work and its profound influence on ELT worldwide.
Early Works and the Influence of Stephen Krashen
Dr. Krashen’s impact on ELT is far-reaching. With a strong foundation in education, linguistics, and psycholinguistics, he has dedicated his career to refining our understanding of second language acquisition (SLA). His research over many years has laid the groundwork for academicians and practitioners in ELT to design and implement more effective teaching methodologies. Among his numerous significant contributions, the most prominent is the elaboration of the “Input Hypothesis” and the development of the “Monitor Model,” now known as Krashen’s Five Hypotheses.
Krashen’s Five Hypotheses
The Five Hypotheses are central to the study of SLA encompassing various aspects of language acquisition. They include the Acquisition-Learning Hypothesis, the Natural Order Hypothesis, the Monitor Hypothesis, the Input Hypothesis, and the Affective Filter Hypothesis.
1. Acquisition-Learning Hypothesis: This hypothesis emphasises the distinction between language acquisition (a subconscious process) and language learning (a conscious process), arguing that acquisition is essential for fluent communication, while learning functions more as a supportive system.
2. Natural Order Hypothesis: Krashen postulates that language acquisition follows a predictable, “natural” order, independent of the complexity or simplicity of rules.
3. Monitor Hypothesis: This hypothesis highlights that conscious learning acts as a monitor, or an editor, to the unconscious acquired system. It suggests that while the acquired system is responsible for initiating language production, the learned system can monitor and correct errors based on one’s explicit knowledge of the language rules.
4. Input Hypothesis: Perhaps the most well-known of Krashen’s hypotheses, the Input Hypothesis claims that language is acquired through comprehensible input, or meaningful exposure to the target language. Acquisition occurs when learners receive input that is slightly beyond their current competence level (designated as i+1, where ‘i’ represents the learner’s current interlanguage stage).
5. Affective Filter Hypothesis: This hypothesis recognises the influence of emotional factors, such as motivation, self-esteem, and anxiety, on language acquisition. A low affective filter allows for higher acquisition, whereas a high filter impedes the process.
Implications for English Language Teaching
Krashen’s theories have had an unparalleled impact on the pedagogy of English language teaching. His ideas have led to the adoption of more student-centred approaches and an increased emphasis on providing opportunities for authentic interactions in the target language. Consequently, methods like task-based learning, language immersion, content-based teaching, and extensive reading programs have become integral components of modern ELT practices.
Moreover, Krashen’s Input Hypothesis has enabled educators to appreciate the importance of exposing learners to authentic reading and listening materials and providing a meaningful context for language usage. By understanding the Affective Filter Hypothesis, teachers have been encouraged to create a supportive, low-stress learning environment that better facilitates language acquisition.
Dr. Stephen Krashen has undoubtedly left an indelible mark on the world of English language teaching. His Five Hypotheses have provided a solid theoretical framework for understanding SLA, directly influencing educational policies and classroom practices. Through his extensive research and dedication to the field, Krashen has contributed invaluable knowledge to the ongoing evolution of ELT, positively impacting the learning experience for countless students across the globe.