Krashen and "Krashenite"

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ma_drane
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Krashen and "Krashenite"

Postby ma_drane » Sun Jun 27, 2021 9:58 pm

Hi,
I've been an anonymous lurker for a long time and I've finally decided to create an account and actively participate.
I've come across a lot of comments against Stephen Krashen (and CI in general) here recently, and I have to admit that it got me quite surprised. My general impression was that his theories were overall well accepted by the language learning community, especially on Reddit and Youtube since the "massive-input" sub-communauty is expanding rapidly, thanks to Matt VS Japan and Steve Kaufmann among others. More and more people seem to welcome the use of input-based techniques, however it seems like this trend isn't happening here (quite the opposite actually). I'd tend to agree with Krashen based on my experience (my English basically turned into output magically after a couple years, without having ever worked on output directly (just consuming a lot of content) and I obtain the DELE B2 Spanish certification just by repping Anki Cloze Deletion cards and reading a shitton of books without ever producing the language before the exam), but I'd like to have my opinions challenged.

My question is: Why don't people on this forum tend to agree with Krashen's points? What do you reproach him?

From my understanding, y'all blame him for justifying his theories' weaknesses by unsound arguments, and for being uncoherent with himself, is that right? Do you also disagree with the idea that input creates output abilities by itself?
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Re: Krashen and "Krashenite"

Postby rdearman » Sun Jun 27, 2021 10:10 pm

@ma_drane Welcome (as an active participant)

I did a quick search for all the threads related to Krashen, I don't remember many people were against Krashen, so I decided to put them all in one place. I haven't yet read them, so I don't have an opinion either way. (There might be some duplication here)

https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... php?t=5760
https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... hp?t=14893
https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... 17&t=16113
https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... php?t=6640
https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... hp?t=16823
https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... 3&start=20
https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... hp?t=14716
https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... hp?t=10831
https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... 2&start=30

EDIT: Having read all the posts on the forum I could find, I get the feeling the main objection to Krashen is he presents his theory as fact, but there are numerous studies which seem to show these facts are in error. Also, it seems to me a lot of people on redit and facebook seem to be taking the "input only" thing to an extreme.
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Re: Krashen and "Krashenite"

Postby lysi » Mon Jun 28, 2021 12:42 am

ma_drane wrote:My general impression was that his theories were overall well accepted by the language learning community, especially on Reddit and Youtube since the "massive-input" sub-communauty is expanding rapidly, thanks to Matt VS Japan and Steve Kaufmann among others. More and more people seem to welcome the use of input-based techniques, however it seems like this trend isn't happening here (quite the opposite actually).


I was just discussing this with Cainntear about 2 weeks ago (though not about why this forum is different). He concluded that a large part of Krashen's popularity was due to the ESL industry, where the communicative approach (which does have some differences to what Krashen thinks) was taught because of the incredibly high demand for English teachers. I agree that this had an effect, after all, the autodidactic language learning community does have ties with the language teaching industry.

I'd argue however that there are many reasons for his popularity, which I'll probably put more thought to later, but the main reasons seem to me to be the attractiveness of his discourse, as well as the popularity feeding into itself. After all, what can be more attractive than the notion that failure in public education language classes was not due to any personal error, but rather the system itself, and more exactly, the "old grammar methods"? What could be more attractive than simply saying that to learn a language, you can, rather, you must avoid all aspects which you disliked in a school environment? There's also the notion that language learning is exactly the same, whether child or adult, which is reassuring since plenty of people do believe that language learning is impossible after puberty.

There's also the fact that his theories are not just the most popular in terms of online presence, they are the only theories. Nobody talks about anything else. The world of SLA research can be a bit difficult to get into, so I'd say most people just don't, and accept the only theory that is ever talked about as true. He's also used as an authority figure a lot to give a more sciencey-feel to a lot of methods.

But above all, I would actually argue that a lot of people don't buy into what he says entirely. He's popular, yes, but most people just do what works for them. You'll have people name-drop Krashen and then recommend you do a grammar book, like Matt vs Japan. The moment you start suggesting people study grammar at all is the moment that you fundamentally disagree with Krashen. It's not a slight disagreement; the no-interface position is what sets Krashen apart. None of what I've said here so far is an argument against Krashen though, it's just a series of observations and theories about his popularity.

ma_drane wrote: I'd tend to agree with Krashen based on my experience (my English basically turned into output magically after a couple years, without having ever worked on output directly (just consuming a lot of content) and I obtain the DELE B2 Spanish certification just by repping Anki Cloze Deletion cards and reading a shitton of books without ever producing the language before the exam), but I'd like to have my opinions challenged.


Your opinions? Because as I said, a lot of people tend to agree with Krashen, but then suggest or do things that Krashen thinks are worthless.

ma_drane wrote:My question is: Why don't people on this forum tend to agree with Krashen's points? What do you reproach him?


This forum isn't particularly homogenous on the subject. There are a few people who do agree with Krashen, a few who don't (like me), and the rest who just do what they've already been doing because it's successful for them. Maybe that's the reason why Krashen isn't as popular here. When you're just starting out you're looking for a way to succeed while a lot of people here are already broadly successful in multiple languages. Language learning is difficult, no other way to put it, and it has a high turnover rate. This forum isn't victim to that as much, I mean, look at the post counts on a bunch of people. That's probably why it seems like Krashen's theories are becoming more and more popular, because a bunch of beginners who are interested in the idea of learning a language will check out reddit or youtube or whatever, see Krashen's theories, completely agree with them, subscribe to a couple channels or subreddits, and then give up after a week.

But about where I disagree with Krashen, in the order of his theories:

1) The acquisition/learning hypothesis

The distinction between explicit and implicit knowledge is uncontroversial. Krashen wasn't the first to propose it, of course, but what sets Krashen apart is his no-interface position, as I said above. The interface position is probably the most important question in all of SLA research and has been for 40 years now. There are three positions on it: Strong interface, where explicit knowledge can become implicit knowledge, no interface, where explicit knowledge can never become implicit knowledge, and the weak position, where explicit knowledge can, under various circumstances, influence implicit knowledge, the weak interface position seeming to have the most support. After all, Norris and Ortega (2000) found that "Comparisons of average effect sizes from 49 unique sample studies reporting sufficient data indicated that focused L2 instruction results in large target-oriented gains, that explicit types of instruction are more effective than implicit types, and that Focus on Form and Focus on Forms interventions result in equivalent and large effects." Of course, the studies are flawed, since the ability to operationalize implicit and explicit knowledge is actually not very clear cut. Time based tests were pretty popular, but automatized explicit knowledge can actually be quite quick (as opposed to what Krashen says about explicit knowledge requiring a lot of time in his monitor theory) meaning that time based tests aren't perfect either, so it's hard to generalize the findings of the study. There was a very interesting high quality dissertation by Minhye Kim on the interface question in a longitudinal naturalistic study. She took 122 second language learners of English who lived in English speaking countries and weren't actively studying the language and had them do explicit and implicit language tests twice, and compared the differences between them. She found that the best model for interpreting the data was the model where explicit knowledge and implicit knowledge can both influence each other.

There's also evidence that the initial learning of a new construction involves focused attention on the meaning-form association. Anterograde amnesiac patients who have lost the ability to consolidate any of their short term memories fail to learn new words and concepts. They however show normal implicit memory tuning. No explicit memory means no ability to consolidate new linguistic constructions. There's plenty of other reasons too, like Swain's comprehensible output hypothesis. Basically, in producing the language, you notice the gaps in your current linguistic knowledge and search for it in input.

2) The monitor hypothesis

Same objections as above since he states that explicit knowledge can only be used to monitor your output, and nothing else. He also plays up the difficulty of learning grammar and using it. I disagree, since explicit knowledge can actually become quite fast, since it does obey the power law of practice. Grammar is not particularly hard to learn in plenty of cases. It really depends on the topic. Explaining that "will" represents the future in English isn't difficult, for example, but there's also areas where grammar teaching seems to have no effect. I will also say that explicit knowledge plays a useful role in breaking old habits, because monolinguals become highly specialized in processing their native language, which is one of the differences between l1 and l2 learning. Explicit learning is a good way to attract your consciousness to something and change it.

3) Natural order:

I'm not actually sure if he still supports this one. His theories don't really rely on it, but he says that because there's a common order for morphemes followed by all l2 learners of English, this must therefore be the natural order of learning, and all learning must follow this order. Therefore, you cannot acquire a construction until you've acquired the one before it. He claims we cannot know this order, which is absurd, since if it exists, we can know it. He's never really been clear on this, he said once that "several streams of development are taking place at the same time" which also means that there is no natural order, but multiple. Anyway all of this isn't really important since Goldschneider and DeKeyser did a meta-analysis on the morpheme studies and determined that they could be attributed in large part because of their specific features, that is, salience, frequency, regularity, semantic complexity and syntactic category.

4) Input hypothesis:

I don't disagree with an input hypothesis, after all, input is absolutely the most important part in language learning. I do think that his definition of "comprehensible input" isn't very clear and not particularly useful. It's true that new features can be acquired through input, but it requires more specification. For example, with passives, there are some passives where the semantic meaning is the same as if it wasn't a passive. In the sentence "John was kissed by Mary", there's really no way that someone could acquire the passive through that alone, and yet it meets his idea of "n + 1". There's also plenty of features that, if not attended to, will just not be acquired. -s (third person conjugation for verbs) in English is a good example, since it's semantically useless, so it's acquired very late. Grammatical gender is an even better example since it's also semantically useless, and yet unlike -s, if you haven't been paying attention to it from the start you have to learn the gender of every noun after having already learned them.

5) Affective filter:

Motivation and emotional state is important but this hypothesis is just an explanation for the failure of naturalistic l2 learning in adults. It's certainly an explanation, I guess. The evidence for it isn't particularly compelling.


Krashen has always been a controversial figure. You either love him or you hate him, but all in all I actually would say that I agree with Krashen on the important points, that is, the importance of input and the fact that language learning is implicit. But it's not the important points that really sets him apart. I think he's done a lot of good for language learning, he's spurred on research on the interface question, and promoted a theory where input was of the greatest importance, which it is, in contrast to grammar-translation and audiovisual methods that were popular in his time. But language learning has changed. It's been more than 40 years since his theories were created, and they came and went. Everybody agrees that input is important, and you don't need Krashen's flawed input theory to say that. "Old grammar methods" have been replaced by more communicative methods since, as well as Focus on Form.
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Re: Krashen and "Krashenite"

Postby devilyoudont » Mon Jun 28, 2021 1:59 am

I'm going to take a different tack and just point out some issues I've noticed with what I'm going to call "Internet Krashenism."

1) It's easy to find advocates for incomprehensible input, meaning huge amounts of media consumption where you do not understand anything.

2) There are many circumstances where huge amounts of media consumption are not realistically possible for a language learner (learning a minority language, learning a dead language, learning a language which is not prestigious, learning a language from a poor region)

3) Advocacy of unhealthy/unmanageable lifestyles also goes part and parcel with Internet Krashenism. People need to go to work, people need to maintain social ties with their family and friends from their native language, people need to have time when they can relax.

4) It's clear that many input-only success stories are not input-only stories. It is very typical to find out that your average Krashen advocate did not start intensive input until they were at an intermediate plateau of some sort. When it comes to people who truly follow an input-only method from day 1, it's clear the burnout rate is extremely high (tho this may be due to a combo of constant incomprehensible input and not taking time for family/friends/self care/etc outside of language learning)

5) People are often fixated on children's abilities to learn languages thru immersion, and imagine there are no benefits to being an adult at all. In most ways, I would argue that I am cognitively superior to a child, and one of these areas of superiority is that you can tell me something and I will remember it and maybe choose to change my behavior based on it. Internet Krashenites will argue that knowledge acquired this way is more or less useless... but in my personal experience, when I am struggling with the difference between 眠る and 寝る in Japanese, looking up an explanation of the difference in English resolved the issue immediately and I never mixed them up again. I've done this countless times, sometimes looking at explanations in Japanese, other times looking at explanations in English.
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Re: Krashen and "Krashenite"

Postby sirgregory » Mon Jun 28, 2021 8:33 am

devilyoudont wrote:4) It's clear that many input-only success stories are not input-only stories. It is very typical to find out that your average Krashen advocate did not start intensive input until they were at an intermediate plateau of some sort. When it comes to people who truly follow an input-only method from day 1, it's clear the burnout rate is extremely high (tho this may be due to a combo of constant incomprehensible input and not taking time for family/friends/self care/etc outside of language learning)


Matt vs Japan took three years of Japanese in high school, studied abroad in Japan for six months, and attended a college with lots of students from Japan. Now he credits AJATT with his success and that does seem to have been a big part of how he reached an advanced level of fluency, but it seems he had already established some foundation in the language through pretty traditional means.

Also, from his videos it's clear that he was not just getting input. He was doing a lot of intensive reading and listening. He would look up lots of words, research things, and do a lot of Anki. Bottom line is he was doing an impressive amount of active study.
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Re: Krashen and "Krashenite"

Postby Le Baron » Mon Jun 28, 2021 3:21 pm

There's not much I could add to Lysi's brillant post, just to say that Krashen is seen in some quarters as a bit of a weathercock. He has changed his opinions on some things and not necessarily because academic research necessitated it, but seemingly for reasons of being on the payroll of an industry. Especially geared to education of Spanish pupils in certain U.S. states (i.e. withholding English from them according to the hare-brained and debunked theory that it 'harms' their initial language development).

The chief elements of his position (and something he admits himself in passing) are actually old news. I've said before on here that the BBC language courses were promoting large-scale naturalistic input/minimal grammar study in the mid-1970s. Plus reading on a graded scale. Krashen's latest gospel regarding reading seems to me not only unrealistic, but flat-out wrong. He claimed in a recent video that reading 'more than anything else' helps you pronounce words better and is the best way to acquire correct phonemes. I don't see how that can be when printed words in a novel or other book give no indications of pronunciation. Loads of people mispronounce words they've read, even in their native language.

ma_drane wrote:(my English basically turned into output magically after a couple years, without having ever [ever having] worked on output directly (just consuming a lot of content) and I obtain[ed] the DELE B2 Spanish certification just by repping Anki Cloze Deletion cards and reading a shitton of books without ever producing the language before the exam)

'Shitton'? Is that a container or collective noun I've never heard about?
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Re: Krashen and "Krashenite"

Postby John Fafsa » Mon Jun 28, 2021 4:42 pm

Le Baron wrote:
ma_drane wrote:(my English basically turned into output magically after a couple years, without having ever [ever having] worked on output directly (just consuming a lot of content) and I obtain[ed] the DELE B2 Spanish certification just by repping Anki Cloze Deletion cards and reading a shitton of books without ever producing the language before the exam)

'Shitton'? Is that a container or collective noun I've never heard about?


Shit-ton just means a lot. Also, I'm a native English speaker and "without having ever done something" sounds very natural to me. I'm not sure if you're trying to make a point by critiquing (?) this person's english, but it seems inappropriate in this context.

In any case, I barely see anyone talk about SLA research here (or really most other places on the internet) with reference to anyone other than Krashen, whether they're praising him or criticizing him. I don't know what the significance of this is.
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Re: Krashen and "Krashenite"

Postby rdearman » Mon Jun 28, 2021 5:24 pm

Shitton and y'all are Americanisms. "without having ever done something" also sounds like an Americanism but I can't be sure because I have been away so long. :D

I don't know if it was a criticizing comment. If it was, please don't. If it was a correction then please be kind enough tell the OP.
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Re: Krashen and "Krashenite"

Postby denouement » Mon Jun 28, 2021 5:49 pm

I think in this community, Krashen is almost the baseline, as opposed to in many communities with lots of new learners who don't yet have a good understanding of what works for them. Krashen is the entry-point of second language acquisition theory, right? I would say this forum tends toward having established this baseline already, and therefore tends toward criticizing Krashen from a post-Krashen perspective, so-to-speak.
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Re: Krashen and "Krashenite"

Postby Le Baron » Mon Jun 28, 2021 5:55 pm

John Fafsa wrote:Shit-ton just means a lot. Also, I'm a native English speaker and "without having ever done something" sounds very natural to me.

It seems odd to me that someone would write 'shit ton' as a non-native speaker. What's the aim? If I hear an American saying it I don't blink, if I hear an Englishman say it I think 'give it a rest'. I don't think 'having ever' is natural or the most common and correct way of rendering it.

John Fafsa wrote:I'm not sure if you're trying to make a point by critiquing (?) this person's English, but it seems inappropriate in this context.

I'll confirm to put your mind to rest: I was critiquing it. I think it was appropriate so I did it, because I can decide that. I also capitalised 'English' in your sentence.
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