A Critique of Stephen Krashen’s Monitor Theory
(Implication for Language Teaching)
Stephen Krashen is one of experts in the field of linguistics, specializing in theories of language acquisition and development. Much of his recent research has involved the study of non-English and bilingual language acquisition. During the past 20 years, he has published well over 100 books and articles and has been invited to deliver over 300 lectures at universities throughout the United States and Canada.
In Second Language Acquisition (SLA), his theory is wellknown by Krashen’s Monitor Theory. This theory has had a large impact on all areas of second language research and teaching since the 1980s; thus, received extensive attention in the professional literature. Yet despite this impact, it received a great deal of criticism. For these reasons, I attempt to provide a critical analysis of the theory’s five main hypotheses through this paper.
B.1. The Monitor Theory:
Stephen Krashen has frequently changed some elements in his theory; which was actually not a theory at all but merely a model in the beginning, and which has undergone quite few stages of subsequent development culminating in the full-grown theory of the 1980s (Binnema, n.d.). Without diving too deep into all these developments and modifications, a description of the five main hypotheses of Krashen’s theory in its mature stage will be given as follows:
B. 1.1. The Acquisition-Learning Hypothesis
Krashen introduced the acquisition-learning hypothesis, which makes a distinction between conscious language learning and subconscious language acquisition. Krashen argues that only subconscious acquisition can lead to fluency.
A distinction closely related to that made by Krashen (1982) between acquisition and learning is one between implicit and explicit linguistic knowledge. Learners gain implicit knowledge by processing target-language input without consciously giving attention to acquiring the forms and structures of the language. On the other hand, learners get explicit knowledge of a language when they process language input with the conscious intention of discovering the structural rules of the language. A distinction between the implicit learning involved in acquiring a first language (L1) and the mix of implicit and explicit learning that takes place in L2 acquisition has been one analytic route for understanding the virtually universal success of L1 acquisition versus the more limited success of L2 acquisition among adult learners (Hulstijn, 2005). Ellis has found empirical confirmation for the distinct constructs of implicit and explicit language knowledge
In addition, the acquisition-learning hypothesis holds that “adults have two distinct and independent ways of developing competence in a second language: acquisition, which is subconscious, and learning, which is conscious” (Gregg, 1984:79). Language acquisition is a subconscious process similar to the way a child learns his first language—i.e. acquisition takes place through natural language interactions. Language acquirers are not consciously aware of the grammatical rules of the language, but may self-correct only on the basis of a feel for grammaticality. Language learning, on the other hand, refers to the conscious knowledge of a second language, knowing the rules, being aware of them, and being able to talk about them. Therefore, language learning takes place predominantly in formal instruction. Krashen claims that the two shall remain disparate (Krashen, 1981).
The Acquisition-Learning Hypothesis indicates that adults do not lose the ability to acquire languages the way that children do, since krashen claims that adults can access the same natural language acquisition device (LAD) that children use. He also assumes that learning does not turn into acquisition (Stewart, n.d.; Larsen-Freeman &Long, 1991).
B.1.2. The Natural Order Hypothesis
The Natural Order Hypothesis states that the acquisition of grammatical structures proceeds in a predictable order. For a given language, some grammatical structures tend to be acquired early, others late without regard to the first language of a given learner, his age, and conditions of exposure. A series of research studies investigating morpheme acquisition orders provided evidence for the Natural Order Hypothesis (Dulay & Burt, 1974; Fathman, 1975; Makino, 1980 as cited in Schutz, 2005). Although the agreement between individual acquirers was not always 100% in these studies, there were statistically significant similarities that reinforced the existence of a natural order.
This natural order does not necessarily depend on simplicity of form, yet it could be altered by forcing another sequence in the teaching process. This natural order dictates the way in which a language is acquired, but learning might follow another order (Gitsaki, 1998; Wilson, 2000).
B.1.3. The Monitor Hypothesis
The Monitor Hypothesis explains the relationship between acquisition and learning, and defines the influence of the latter on the former. This hypothesis holds that formal learning has only one function which is as a monitor for the learner’s output, whereas the acquired system is the utterance initiator. The monitor functions properly when three specific conditions are met: 1. there is sufficient time, 2. the focus of the interaction is on form rather than meaning, and 3. the learner knows the rule in question (Krashen, 1981; Schulz, 1991; Schutz, 2005). This monitoring involves self-correction on the base of learned language rules and is completely different from the monitoring during acquisition; where no explicit rules need to be involved.
Krashen (1981) suggests that there is individual variation among language learners regarding ‘monitor’ use. He distinguishes those learners who use the ‘monitor’ all the time (over-users); those learners who have not learned or who prefer not to use their conscious knowledge (under-users); and those learners who use the ‘monitor’ appropriately when it does not interfere with communication (optimal users). Optimal monitor users can use their learned competence as a supplement to their acquired competence. Most of the time, however, Krashen suggests leaving the monitor unemployed; and concentrating upon meaning rather form.
In this regard, krashen believes that formal learning is only of use to the learner in certain situations – when she has the time to check her output. Thus he wrote:
“Our fluency in production is thus hypothesized to come from what we have ‘picked up’, what we have acquired, in natural communicative situations. Our ‘formal knowledge’ of a second language, the rules we learned in class and from texts, is not responsible for fluency, but only has the function of checking and making repairs on the output of the acquired system.” (The Natural Approach, Krashen & Terrell, p. 30)
This checking function is carried out by what Krashen refers to as the ‘Monitor’. It can only occur if three conditions are fulfilled –
1. The performer has to have enough time. Monitor use in rapid conversation may only disrupt communication – that is why over-use of the Monitor is counter-productive.
2. The performer has to be thinking about correctness. On many occasions, the speaker may be more concerned with what he is saying, rather than how he says it.
3. The performer has to know the rule. This is a problem on many levels –
a) the learner may not know the rule because
- it has never been taught to her
- she has not reached the level at which the rule is taught
- the rule has not yet been formulated by linguists
b) the learner may not have properly learnt the rule
- there is always some learning loss due to psychological processes
- the teacher may have taught the rule badly
c) the learner may apply the wrong rule
- the teacher may have taught the wrong rule
- teachers often function with out-of-date or partial grammars, and hand these down to their students
By and large, says Krashen, the Monitor will function best with simple rules, – like the 3PS – but not with more complex ones, such as the grammatical shift demanded by Wh- questions, or the semantic rules underlying use of the articles in English.
Learners will be most likely to use the Monitor in formal exam situations, where their attention has been drawn to linguistic form, and where they have enough time. If all these conditions are fulfilled, the Monitor may be used, but may be used inaccurately.
B.1.4. The Input Hypothesis
The Input Hypothesis answers the question of how a language acquirer develops competency over time. It states that a language acquirer who is at “level I” must receive comprehensible input that is at “level i+1.” In other words, we acquire only when we understand language which contains structure that is ‘a little beyond’ our current level. This is achieved with the help of context or exralinguistic information (Gitsaki, 1998; Wilson, 2000).
Table of Evidence for the Input Hypothesis
1 people speak to children acquiring their first language in special ways
2) people speak to L2 learners in special ways
3) L2 learners often go through an initial Silent Period
4) the comparative success of younger and older learners reflects provision of comprehensible input
5) the more comprehensible input the greater the L2 proficiency
6) lack of comprehensible input delays language acquisition
7) teaching methods work according to the extent that they use comprehensible input immersion teaching is successful because it provides comprehensible input
9) bilingual programs succeed to the extent they provide comprehensible input
From the table above, it is known that evidence for the input hypothesis can be found in the effectiveness of caretaker speech from an adult to a child, teacher-talk from a teacher to a language student, and foreigner-talk from a sympathetic conversation partner to a language learner/acquirer (Krashen, 1981). This hypothesis is also supported by the fact that the first second language utterances of adult learners are often very similar to those of infants in their first language. Krashen also provides the so-called ‘silent period’ as evidence for this hypothesis—i.e., children learning a second language commonly speak very little in the target language for the first several months (Romeo, 2000).
A result of this hypothesis is that language students should be given an initial ‘silent period’ during which they can build up acquired competence in the language before beginning to produce it. Krashen stated, “In accordance with the Input Hypothesis, speaking ability emerges on its own after enough competence has been developed by listening and understanding” (as cited in Gregg, 1984, p. 90). Moreover, Krashen suggests that natural communicative input is the key to design a syllabus, ensuring in this way that each learner will receive some i+1 input which is appropriate for his/her current stage of linguistic competence.
B.1.5. The Affective Filter Hypothesis
Krashen points to the importance of motivation, self-confidence and anxiety. He holds that these factors are more involved in constructing the acquired system than in learning – they are more strongly related to achievement as measured by communicative tests than by formal language tests. Krashen claims that learners with high motivation, self-confidence, a good self-image, and a low level of anxiety are better equipped for success in second language acquisition. Low motivation, low self-esteem, and debilitating anxiety can combine to ‘raise’ the affective filter and form a ‘mental block’ that prevents comprehensible input from being used for acquisition. In other words, a high affective filter inhibits acquisition, whereas a low affective filter promotes it. According to Krashen, this filter is present in adults but not in children, and accounts for the failure of a learner in acquiring a second language. (Larsen-Freeman & Long, 1991; The Monitor Model, n.d.)
These five hypotheses of second language acquisition can be summarized as: 1. Acquisition is inevitable and more important than learning. 2. In order to acquire, two conditions are necessary. The first is comprehensible input containing i+1—i.e., structures a bit beyond the acquirer’s current level, and second, a low or weak affective filter to allow the input in (Wilson, 2000).
B.2. A Critique of Stephen Krasen’s Monitor Theory
Now that we have become acquainted with the basic features of Krashen’s theory, it is important to take a closer look at the criticisms that have arisen considering his theory. I believe that these criticisms stem from several issues. First, Krashen’s theory was one of the first theories developed specifically to explain SLA. Second, his theory made a large number of claims about a wide array of SLA phenomena, many of which seemed empirically falsifiable, which thus attracted researchers critical of the idea. Finally, Krashen’s theory was closely tied to recommendations for classroom practice; as a result, it seemed important to test.
Serious concerns were first expressed by McLaughlin (1978), who acknowledges Krashen’s attempt to develop an extensive and detailed SLA theory, but finds it inadequate in that some of its central assumptions and hypotheses are not clearly defined. As a result, they are not readily testable (Gitsaki, 1998). McLaughlin (1987, p. 56) states that, “Krashen’s theory fails at every juncture…Krashen has not defined his terms with enough precision, the empirical basis of the theory is weak, and the theory is not clear in its predictions” (as cited in Binnema, n.d.). McLaughlin (1987) points out that Krashen never adequately defines acquisition, learning, conscious or subconscious; without such clarification, it is extremely difficult to independently determine whether subjects are “learning” or “acquiring” language (Romeo, 2000).
Seliger (1979) also criticizes Krashen’s theory pointing out that it is too complex in that it asks us to believe that human language users have two completely separate systems: one for acquisition and one for learning— presumably each with its own neuro-physiological basis. Although the idea of two separate linguistic systems is possible, it is improbable because such a set up would be an inefficient way to store information (Low & Morrison, n.d). Moreover, I believe that Krashen fails to explain the process of acquisition, or why learned information is not accessible in the same way as acquired information is.
Gregg (1984) notes that Krashen’s use of the LAD gives it a much wider scope of operation than Chomsky’s application. Krashen’s insistence that “learning” cannot become “acquisition” is quickly refuted by the experience of anyone who has internalized grammar that was previously consciously memorized. Drawing on my own experience in learning English, I believe that at least some rules can be acquired through learning. For example, I learned the rules of subject-verb agreement by memorizing charts provided by my teacher; like most of my classmates, I produced predominantly error-free sentences within a few days with no input other than some drills.
According to Gregg (1984), “If ‘learning’ cannot become ‘acquisition’, and if…most of our knowledge of a second language is necessarily unconscious, then it makes little sense to call ‘learning’ one of two distinct and independent ways of developing competence in a second language” (p. 81). Indeed, Krashen did not provide any real evidence that people require two completely separate systems in order to learn a language (The Monitor Model, n.d.). Furthermore, if two different systems for learning a language did exist, people would not be able to master a language in a formal setting only, yet many do just that. The Saudi context services as a prime example; many students succeed in learning English although they are exposed only to the foreign language in the formal classroom setting.
Krashen further claims that language acquirers may self-correct only on the basis of a feel for grammaticality, whereas language learners do so on the basis of grammar rules. Drawing on my own experience as an English teacher, I once asked my students to judge two sentences—Pick the book up/Pick it up*( )— in order to provide them with the particle movement rule. Surprisingly, some students said that the second sentence was incorrect. When asked why it was incorrect, they responded that they felt that it was incorrect, although they did not know the rule. It is important to note that my students are learners— not acquirers— according to Krashen’s definition of language learning. Thus, Krashen’s view on self-correction must be questioned.
The second hypothesis is simply that grammatical structures are learned in a predictable order. Gregg (1984) argues that Krashen has no basis for separating grammatical morphemes from, for example, phonology or syntax. In addition, if individual differences exist, as discussed in 1.2, then the hypothesis is not provable or falsifiable and is, in the end, not useful.
The insufficiencies of this hypothesis become more apparent when examining it in terms of comprehension and production. Many studies into the order of acquisition, especially those in first language acquisition, are based on production. The fact that a learner uses a specific grammatical feature does not necessarily mean that he uses it appropriately, or that he understands how it works (McLaughlin, 1978, as cited in Romeo, 2000). Further, it is not clear that the order is the same for comprehension and production. If these two processes differ in order, it is not clear how they would interact.
The Monitor Hypothesis holds that learning has only one function, which is to monitor the learner’s output. McLaughlin (1978, as cited in Romeo, 2000) points out that restricting learning to the role of editing production completely ignores comprehension. In fact, Krashen fails to take into account the role that monitoring plays in the reception of language. Throughout my experience in learning English, learning has played a role in both comprehension and production. My claim is supported by the fact that teachers monitor students’ output and learners monitor the output of their colleagues.
Furthermore, Krashen not only does not explain how this monitor operates, but he also fails to prove that acquisition has no role in monitoring. McLaughlin raised these points in his criticism, but Krashen (1979) did not answer them in his reply (Romeo, 2000). In addition, Gregg points out that, by restricting monitor use to “learned” grammar and only in production, Krashen in effect makes the Acquisition-Learning Hypothesis and the Monitor Hypothesis contradictory. It is difficult to reconcile the contradiction since Krashen offers no evidence for either of these hypotheses.
Krashen’s Input Hypothesis has also been criticized. McLaughlin claims that the concept of a learner’s “level” is extremely difficult to define, just as the idea of i+1 is (The Monitor Model, n.d.). I believe that educators also face difficulty in applying this rule in the classroom since individual differences comes into play when determining the learners’ current levels. Krashen did not provide solutions regarding this issue. Furthermore, many structures such as passives and yes/no questions cannot be learned through context alone.
The Input Hypothesis maintains that increased input will result in more language acquisition, and that increased output will not. However, no clear evidence exists for this assumption. Romeo (2000) indicates that output of some kind is seen as a necessary phase in language acquisition. On the one hand, teachers need students’ output in order to be able to judge their progress and adapt materials to their needs. On the other hand, learners need the opportunity to use the L2 because when faced with communication failure, they are forced to make their output more precise. These arguments suggest that, if comprehensible input is necessary, then so is comprehensible output. Yet this goes against Krashen’s hypothesis.
Researchers note several problems with the Affective Filter Hypothesis as well. Krashen seems to indicate that the affective filter manifests itself at around the age of puberty. However, he does not make any serious attempts to explain how and why this filter develops only with the onset of puberty. Further, he does not explain how this filter would selectively choose certain “parts of a language” to reject (Low & Morrison, n.d). Laser-Freeman and Long (1991) state that “to provide…empirical content, Krashen would need to specify which affect variables, singly or in what combinations, and at what levels, serve to ‘raise the filter’” (p. 247). Clearly no explanation exists as to how this filter works. For example, is it sufficient for one aspect of a learner’s affective state, such as motivation, to be positive, or do all aspects have to be positive in order to lower the filter—and if so, to what degree? People who are unmotivated, stressed, or worried will not learn as well. In fact, this idea is not just applicable to language learning, but for any kind of learning. However, unlike Krashen, I believe that this idea applies to prepubescent children as well.
In conclusion, some of Krashen’s Monitor Theory’s central assumptions and hypotheses are not clearly defined and, thus, are not readily testable or falsifiable. In this vein, Gregg (1984) states that “each of Krashen’s five hypotheses is marked by serious flaws: undefined or ill-defined terms, unmotivated constructs, lack of empirical content and thus of falsifiability, lack of explanatory power” (p.94). However, I believe that, despite the various criticisms, Krashen’s Monitor Theory of second language acquisition has had a great impact on the way second language learning is viewed, and has initiated research seeking to discover the order of acquisition.
Moreover, A major criticism of Krashen’s Monitor theory is that he relegates language monitoring to a peripheral position in language acquisition. It is seen as simply being a post-learning process, a tool for use of language in certain restrained conditions. However, researchers such as Rubin, and Naiman have pointed to monitoring as a basic learning strategy. These observers have been particularly interested in studying whether people who have been identified as ‘good learners’ have any specific characteristics. Let us have a look at their results :
According to Ellis, the results of these studies demonstrate that there are five major aspects of successful language learning. These are : 1). attention to language form, this includes monitoring and formal practice, 2). attention to communication, this involves searching for the meaning of what one reads and hears, and attempting to make oneself understood and an active task approach. 3). setting specific short and long-term behavioural goals. 4). awareness of the learning process. 5). organising one’s work, and thinking about how to learn, including the ability to use strategies flexibly
Thus, Rubin, in a first study carried out in 1975, using video recordings of classroom behaviour, identified the following strategies:
- good students paid attention to form
- they monitored their own and others speech
- they were prepared to guess
- they attempted to communicate, to get their message across
- they were willing to appear foolish
- they looked for practice – initiating conversations
- they attended to meaning – by attending to context
The first two were particularly effective. In a second study, carried out in 1981, based on observation and on self-reporting by the learners, Rubin found the following strategies important -
- deductive reasoning
- practice – learner practices on her own
Naiman et al, (1978) in a study of advanced learners – mainly through interview – found the following strategies were used
- active task approach
- realisation of language as a system
- realisation of language as a means of communication and interaction
- management of affective demands
They concluded that ‘self-monitoring and critical sensitivity to language’ was particularly important.
- Good learners compare L1 and L2 as systems,
- analyse the system and
-use reference books.
- They monitor their own production and ask for corrections when they think them necessary.
Reiss, comparing 18 A grade students of French/German with 18 C & D grade students, through a questionnaire, found that monitoring and attention to form were the two most common strategies. Attending to meaning was less important. He also found that many successful learners were ‘silent speakers’ – they practised silently while listening to others. The main finding from such studies is that good learners tend to pay attention to both meaning (as Krashen suggests they should) and to form (which Krashen does not recommend). Indeed, Abraham and Vann, (1987) found that:
-the least successful learner in their study paid only attention to meaning,
- whereas their most successful learner paid attention to both.
Good learners also tend to be more aware of the learning process itself, and to be able to give specific accounts of how they learn, whereas bad learners are much less clear about what it is that they do (Reiss 1983).
These learner studies are interesting and suggestive. However, we need to take great care with the results. Do we really know what we are measuring?
1. ‘Good learners’ are those who have been identified as successful in an academic context. As we shall see, teachers tend to reward learners of a certain kind – and in particular those who go about their learning in a clear and controlled way. Language teachers are also likely to regard students who are ‘good at grammar’ as good students, so it is not surprising that those who concentrate on form score well. It may be that the strategies found in these studies are those that contribute to school success in language classes, rather than to success in learning a language.
Indeed, Huang & Van Naersson (1985) asked learners to report on the strategies that they used outside the classroom, and – found no difference between good learners and poor learners in their use of strategies based on attention to form (formal practice and monitoring).Their good learners were those who went out of their way to speak English with other people, who thought in English, and who participated in oral group activities.
2. Most of the studies have relied on student self-report, questionnaires and interviews. Indeed, two of the studies which did try to use classroom observation found that the observations were not useable.
a) Students may report using strategies that they feel they ought to use, or that the teachers feel they ought to use, rather than the strategies that they actually do use.
b) The fact that a good student reports’ using a particular strategy does not mean that this is what helped her in her language learning. Most of us believe that asking people to correct us is a good strategy, and good learners probably use it, but studies of correction do not support this belief.
c) It could be that many of the behaviors reported as strategies are the result of learning rather than an aid to learning – this would be Krashen’s position. Good learners monitor because they are able to do so, they are not good learners because they monitor.
d) The fact that one student reports using a particular strategy and another does not may simply mean that the first is conscious of using the strategy, while the second is not – but the second may in fact use it without fully conceptualizing it – or may simply not report it because she does not feel that it is important.
B.3. Implications for Foreign Language Teaching
Krashen’s Monitor Theory’s influence on language education research and practice is undeniable. I will attempt to directly address what I consider to be some of the theory’s implications for contemporary ES/FL teaching by drawing on some experience in the classroom as a teacher and as a student of English language.
According to Krashen, classroom teaching benefits students when it provides the necessary comprehensible input to those students who are not yet at a level that enables them to receive comprehensible input from “the real world” or do not have access to “real world” language speakers. Classroom teaching can also help by providing students with communication tools that enable them to make better use of the outside world, and when it provides beneficial conscious learning for optimal monitor users (Schulz, 1991).
In fact, I believe that the implications of this input factor are considerable for foreign language teaching environments. The input factor points to the need for language proficiency on the part of the teacher, who is frequently the only live source of input (other than that provided by other learners) available to students. As a result, cooperative learning can be an excellent way for foreign language students to acquire comprehensible input from their peers. Second, the input factor points to the importance of instructional time in a conventional FL program, suggesting that language institutions should increase program hours.
Moreover, the Input Hypothesis suggests language students should be given an initial “silent period” during which they can build up acquired competence in the language before beginning to produce it. However, I do not agree with Krashen on this point. Language learners and acquirers should be encouraged to produce the target language gradually from the beginning—i.e., students should be asked to produce words at the beginning, and subsequently to form full sentences. To succeed in this process, language teachers must provide production opportunities for their students from the first day.
Our pedagogical goals should not only include supplying comprehensible input, but also creating a situation that encourages a low filter. The Input Hypothesis and the concept of the Affective Filter have redefined the effective language teacher as someone who can provide input and help make it comprehensible in a low anxiety situation (Wilson, 2000). I believe that the atmosphere of the language classroom must be friendly. Language teachers can make a difference in students’ motivation, anxiety levels, and self-images, by respecting their students, listening to them, and taking note of what they say.
Furthermore, a correlate of this theory is that, when teachers correct output, they do not help the student. The lack of in-class correction is a direct reflection of both the Affective Filter Hypothesis, which suggests creating a low anxiety learning environment, and the Natural Order Hypothesis, which claims that the teacher allows the natural order to take its place by allowing students’ errors to occur. I agree with Krashen on this point; language learners lose their motivation if they are continuously corrected.
B.3.1: Implications For Teachers
We may gather from the above that L2 learning is similar to L1 learning in a number of ways, but is not exactly alike. In particular, whereas all normal L1 learners achieve fluency, the majority of L2 learners do not, even if they have lived in an L2 environment for a long time. The reasons for this are not always clear, but may, in part, be due to personality and attitudinal factors as much as to any intrinsic difficulty in language learning.
A. Unlike children learning their first language, adult and adolescent learners do not have an overwhelming need to learn an L2.
B. Adults and adolescents do not have the time to consecrate to language learning – they also need to learn other subjects – in school – to work and earn a living, and so on. Their concentration is more limited.
C. Adults and adolescents may have invested heavily in their first language, and regard it as being a part of their basic personality. To speak another language fluently would be to change their personality:
Teachers will need to take all of these possibilities into account. A student who is no longer progressing may very well have perfectly rational reasons for her failures. The teacher needs to make it worth the learner’s while to continue learning.
Another consequence of the above is that learners are themselves implicated in constructing their language. They make their way to mastery through a number of intermediate stages. These stages, following Selinker, are referred to as ‘interlanguage’. Interlanguage differs from one learner to another, and will show the following features:
A. - Interference from the L1. The amount of interference will depend upon the similarity of the two languages, and upon the context within which the L2 is learned.
B. - Developmental features intrinsic to the L2 – natural order and developmental sequences.
C. - Avoidance and communicative strategies – the learner may avoid certain linguistic features with which he or she does not feel comfortable, and use circumlocutions in order to express the desired meanings.
The errors that the student makes are a natural part of the learning process. Krashen implied that there is very little that we can do other than encourage the learner to form his own hypotheses and to continue along the ‘natural pathway’ to mastery – or at least to the level of master which satisfies him. However, other observers have noted that classroom teaching may help the learner go through each stage in the process rather more quickly, even if it cannot enable him to beat the system.
This implies that it can only be done through a rigorous identification of the present needs of the student – it is no good trying to get the learner to correct errors which are as yet beyond his competence. The teacher needs to work in concert with the learner to determine what features should be worked on, and to make the learner conscious of the hypotheses and strategies that he uses in communicative situations.
C. CONCLUSIONS AND SUGGESTIONS
Overall, Krashen’s Monitor Theory is an example of a macro theory attempting to cover most of the factors involved in second language acquisition: age, personality traits, classroom instruction, innate mechanisms of language acquisition, environmental influences, input, etc. Despite its popularity, the Monitor Theory has been criticized by theorists and researchers mainly on the grounds of its definitional adequacy. Yet despite these criticisms, Krashen’s Monitor Theory has had significant impact on Second Language / Foreign Language teaching.
Related to Krashen’s input hypothesis, it is an interesting starting point, but does not prove fully satisfactory. As McClellan puts it, he has done language teaching a favour in drawing teachers’ attention to the fact that previously courses were overly based on grammar, and did not provide the amount or the variety of input that was needed. But it oversimplifies considerably the processes of acquisition, begs the question of how input aids acquisition, and plays down the role of production.
Krashen’s claim that monitor use is directly linked to learned language, and that the monitor can only be used in very reduced circumstances is questionable. We have already seen in an earlier lecture that the learning/acquisition distinction is problematic. However, even if we do accept that material that is formally learned is different from material that is informally acquired, and if we do accept that the former is only used for monitoring, it does appear possible that the role of formal learning is greater than Krashen says it is, and that monitoring may be an important learning strategy, which is used consciously by good language learners. However, it should be noted that the observations reported here all refer to classroom learning, and good learners are defined by their teachers or by formal scholastic tests. It may be that these are partial criteria. It should also be noted that the fact that good learners find certain strategies, such as monitoring, useful, does not mean that poor learners necessarily will do.
One of the problems of the teaching profession is that most teachers were themselves good learners. They therefore expect their pupils to use and benefit from the same strategies that they used themselves. However, poor learners in the school may be poor learners exactly because the strategies used by good learners, and reinforced by teachers, are not the strategies that are most appropriate for them. The weight of school practice and of learning traditions favors certain kinds of learners at the expense of others. In the French school system, the rational, methodical learner is favored as compared to the experimental, playful learner. Any teacher should be aware of this.
In line to the teacher, the most important to remember that the students errors are a precious resource for the teacher, which inform her about the state of her pupils’ interlanguage. This is why it so important to avoid negative marking, where the student simply learns that if he makes an error he will lose points.
1. Teachers should respect student errors – they are a part of the learning process. Respecting does not mean taking no notice of them, but it does mean that they are not to be treated as necessarily being evidence of stupidity, idleness or evil intent on the part of the learner.
2. Only treat those errors that students are capable of correcting, according to the state of their interlanguage at the time of the error. Written scripts should not be returned with simply everything underlined in red ink.
3. Self-repair is preferable to other-repair, as the student feels better about it. Being corrected by the teacher, or by other students, may be embarrassing.
4. Teachers need to develop strategies for overcoming avoidance. The student needs to be put in a situation where he or she is forced to use the unassimilated structure and to think about the problems that this poses. However, this needs to be treated as a process of discovery rather than as a minefield.
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