Finny wrote:This PDF from Krashen has always been one of my favorite reads on input-focused adult language acquisition. I figured it was worth sharing for anyone who hasn't come across it yet. Here's an excerpt...A front-page article in the Los Angeles Times (Silverstein, 1999) described the case of Armando, a 29-year-old immigrant from Mexico who has lived in the United States for 12 years. Armando, who attended school in Mexico up to grade nine, has worked in an Israeli restaurant in Los Angeles nearly the entire time he has lived in the United States. While Armando speaks English quite well, he says he speaks Hebrew better.
Silverstein provides some description of how Armando did it: "He learned by observing and listening to co-workers and friends," through interaction and conversation, occasionally asking for the meanings of unknown words. Silverstein also provides some information on how good Armando is in Hebrew, quoting the "patriarch" of the family-owned restaurant, who claims that Armando "speaks Hebrew like an Israeli" (p. 1).
Armando told me that he had never learned to read Hebrew, never studied Hebrew grammar, had no idea of what the rules of Hebrew grammar were, and certainly did not think about grammar when speaking. He said that he received about five corrections a day, but none of these were aimed at grammar; it was all vocabulary.
The measure used to evaluate Armando's Hebrew was quite crude, but ecologically fairly valid. Native speakers of Hebrew regard him as a fluent, comfortable speaker of Hebrew, and two of the four judges thought he spoke Hebrew like someone born in Israel.
I'll bypass all the quoting and requoting of Krashen and get straight to the point. I will however say in passing that in my opinion much of Krashen's work can be summarized as follows: some people learn a foreign language spontaneously through sheer exposure IN THE RIGHT CIRCUMSTANCES. Other people study a language in a deliberate manner and can succeed IN THE RIGHT CIRCUMSTANCES.
I've added the words IN THE RIGHT CIRCUMSTANCES because this where the complications arise.
What I found intriguing about the case of Armando was the section that I put in bold. It seems that Armando has no conscious knowledge of Hebrew grammar. But he does know how to use Hebrew grammar, i.e. knows how to put words in the right form and in the right order. For example, Armando does not know a noun from a preposition but he knows when speaking Hebrew that certain words that we call indirect object nouns must be preceded by a word that we call a preposition, unlike English but like Spanish.
How did Armando acquire the grammar during the five corrections a day aimed at vocabulary? First of all, I believe that Armando learned entire phrases and sentences that he could associate with specific actions in the restaurant. So he quickly learned something like "Where are the clean dishes?" and "They are over there." Secondly, while the article above says that only vocabulary was corrected. I don't believe this because I don't think Armando could make a distinction between vocabulary and grammar. I'm sure that if he had said "Where is the clean dishes?' or "Are for there" (because of Spanish), at some point he would have been corrected.
Armando did not take a course in Hebrew but he could put two and two together. After a while he began to see the patterns in the highly repetitious language the of his work. He constructed a grammar of Hebrew. After twelve years of this stuff, his conversational Hebrew is quite good. I would just add that this is undoubtedly conversational Hebrew for working in a restaurant. His excellent accent probably masks what deficiencies he has in grammar and vocabulary.
I will point out in passing that the article mentions the importance of interaction and correction. When we say that this is an input-focused method, this is wrong. Armando was not sitting all day watching Israeli soap operas with subtitles. He was continuously interacting with co-workers in spoken Hebrew. This is an interactive-corrective method with lots of output and this is why it worked.
We are not told exactly what Armando did in the restaurant, but I think he probably started doing something manual in the back of the kitchen. Think of how much Hebrew Armando learned in his first week at work working the dishwashing machine. A bunch of words and phrases related to washing dishes. He could probably speak a decent bit of Hebrew after a week.
All of this is a far cry from what we usually mean when we have our endless discussions about input only. Instead of looking at thousands of hours of TV in the target language, suppose you were thrown into working in the language from day 1, your interactive proficiency would improve spectacularly.