I was going to title this page “Justifications for Teaching Without Textbooks in Academic Research.” But at the last minute I decided to be honest.
Most of what I’ve said on the various pages of this site was written before I was truly exposed to the writings of Stephen Krashen, PhD, a professor emeritus at the University of Southern California. I had no doubt learned many of the concepts indirectly, through my studies, work and collaborative experiences at the University of Wisconsin, Bennington College and the Middlebury Summer Language Institute. I had probably even read an article here and there by Krashen that was required reading for a course. But my memory isn’t the best, especially for things I’m required to do, and so I wasn’t consciously aware until quite recently, when I sat down of my own volition with one of his most-cited and seminal works, of how closely my own work echoes Krashen’s conclusions.
Below are a number of places where Krashen’s work reflects or underscores the ideas I express in various places on this website. Just above each citation from Krashen will be a copy of what I wrote on another page in the site:
Stephen Krashen actually doesn’t believe that consciously learning grammar works – unless the grammar is taught in the target language: “Teaching grammar as subject-matter can result in language acquisition in one instance, however: when the target language is used as a medium of instruction.” […] “In effect, both teachers and students are deceiving themselves. They believe that it is the subject matter itself, the study of grammar, that is responsible for the students’ progress in second language acquisition, but in reality their progress is coming from the medium and not the message. Any subject matter that held their interest would do just as well, so far as second language acquisition is concerned, as long as it required extensive use of the target language.” – Stephen Krashen, “Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition“, 1982.
Let’s assume […] [y]ou have a good handle on Spanish grammar, and can explain it and correct it. The actual correction of student errors, at least in the moment, probably does more harm than good, according to Krashen (and others). “Error correction is, unfortunately, the profession’s typical reaction to error, and in my view it has been a serious mistake. […] Error correction has the immediate effect of putting the student on the defensive. It encourages a strategy in which the student will try to avoid mistakes, avoid difficult constructions, focus less on meaning and more on form.” – Stephen Krashen, “Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition“, 1982.
It turns out that students don’t need to be protected from complicated language elements in order to acquire the language. The difference between “learning” and “acquiring” is important in Krashen’s work. “Learning” is the conscious comprehension of a concept, whereas “acquisition” occurs when we unconsciously become proficient. Because acquisition happens without effort, Krashen maintains that “[…]the best methods might also be the most pleasant, and that, strange as it seems, language acquisition occurs when language is used for what it was designed for, communication.” – Stephen Krashen, “Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition“, 1982.