- On 25 September 2023
- Tags TEFL Florence
“Who dares, wins” is the motto of the British SAS (the Special Air Service). “So”, I hear you ask, “What’s that got to do with second language development?” Well, quite a lot actually.
The SAS are renowned for the level of calculated risk they take when engaging in military operations. They call on both their knowledge of the rules and equipment, while also relying even more heavily on their authentic experiences and subconscious awareness of conflict situations.
And, this awareness leads me on to Stephen Krashen and his Acquisition-Learning and Monitoring hypotheses.
Krashen argues that there are two ways of developing language ability: acquisition, the subconscious experience of the language, where information is established through the use of communication and; learning, i.e.,, a conscious knowledge 'about' the rules, grammar and form of the language.
Furthermore, Krashen explains how acquisition and learning need to work in harmony in order to promote effective communication: the acquisition system is encouraged to initiate utterances and the learning system then 'monitors' the product, detects potential errors and suggests correct alternatives.
Krashen’s view is that the optimum learning environment is one where language is used to realise authentic purposes as part of natural communication. Students are encouraged to ‘take a risk’ and initiate their utterances from their subconscious awareness of the language, only then calling on their conscious knowledge to monitor and self-correct. Unfortunately, some teaching approaches encourage the very opposite, leading to poor outcomes and frustrated students.
Thus, it is incumbent upon all of us who teach students of English as a foreign or second language to create a learning environment where: language is used to realise authentic purposes; students develop both conscious and subconscious awareness of the language; utterances are initiated from the latter and; conscious awareness of the rules is used (sparingly) to monitor and self-correct. Simply put, we need to encourage our students to “take a risk.”