Comprehensible input?

I just read an article in Language magazine that argued for Stephen Krashen’s theory of comprehensible input. (For you language teachers out there, it is often referred to as ‘n+1’) While nobody would disagree with Krashen’s basic premise, (given that Krashen has rock-star status in ESL and Applied Linguistics) the article was immensely frustrating. It suggested that pleasure reading, more than any other skill, provides comprehensible input to a larger degree than anything else.

Anyone who has been teaching ESL for more than 5 minutes knows that to get your students to ‘pleasure read’ in a second language is about as easy as pulling a tooth from a crocodile’s mouth. Anyone knows that the slightest bit of text that is ‘read in class’ (not pleasure reading) has to be scaffolded with an immense amount of vocabulary building. The one thing that ESL learners are unable to do is pleasure reading.

This is why I wrote in an earlier entry that teachers must make methods ‘work.’ Most of the research does not actually boil down to useable stuff in the classroom. For this reason, teachers constantly have to be adapting their material to the realities in the classroom. The only research based trope that I’ve been able to use in the classroom is Diane Larsen-Freeman’s ‘Form-Meaning-Use’ chart in the “Apple book” edited by Marianne Celce-Murcia.

It makes me furious that this sort of stuff gets published in major magazines! ‘Pleasure reading’ is what native speakers can do with their L1, nobody can read for pleasure in an L2 that’s being acquired. The statement “all horses are purple  with blue polka dots” makes more sense than the article by this anonymous author.

Ah well! ESL is like a blue and purple polka dotted beast! You can claim to understand it, but then we might ask how many articles you have published in TESOL Quarterly. None? Oh, that’s what I thought. So you’re not a researcher. I hope you’re a good and purple horse

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