Over the last few months, in my spare time, I’ve been having fun thinking about things like input, comprehensible input and extralinguistic input. Call me crazy (or a language acquisition nerd) but I’ve even gotten up in the middle of the night to write down thoughts I’ve had about it.
Disclaimer: I haven’t taken the time to do any research on what’s already been written about the topic. So none of the stuff that I’ll be sharing in this series is researched-based or formal/academic writing. I’m just having fun sharing my own reflections on the nature of input and how it’s affecting the way I teach my elementary-aged, novice, L2 students.
So here I go with Part 1:
Say, “Hello!” to Todd.
The words that Todd hears or reads…whatever symbols he sees…whatever gestures he interprets…can be called INPUT.
Todd can receive input from another person.
Todd can receive input from a T.V. screen.
Todd can receive input (in written form) from a book, magazine or from his iPhone.
Todd can receive input in the form of another person’s words.
Todd can receive input (from another person) even though they don’t use words.
Todd can receive input when he reads words on a sign.
Todd can receive input even when a sign displays no words.
Input, that Todd receives, can cause him to feel happy.
Input, that Todd receives, can cause Todd to feel sad.
Todd can have an experience of understanding the input he receives. (In other words, the input can be comprehensible.)
Todd can have an experience of not understanding the input he receives. (In other words, the input can be incomprehensible.)
When the input Todd receives is his native language (L1), it is almost always comprehensible. (Like when he hears his friend say, “I like your shirt.”)
On occasion, Todd may experience instances when his native language (L1) is incomprehensible. (Like when his calculus-nerd-friend states the Quotient Rule:
“y prime equals the denominator times the derivative of the numerator minus the numerator times the derivative of the denominator, all over the denominator squared.”)
A language that Todd has never heard before (L2) will generally be incomprehensible to him.
There can be instances when the teeniest part of the language that Todd has never heard before (L2) becomes meaningful. (Like when Todd sneezes and a native L2 speaker immediately says, “Bless you,” in L2. Both Todd and the native L2 speaker smile at each other because they each experienced a moment where the L2 was incomprehensible, however there was available extralinguistic input that made the interaction meaningful.)
A foreign language teacher’s goal is to enable Todd to meaningfully enter an L2-world.
The conversation is just beginning.
Over the next several weeks, the posts on Tuesday’s Tips For Staying In The Target Language will delineate the massive implications that these simple sketches have had on my foreign language teaching practice.
Todd will help me discuss my developing (and non-research-based) thoughts on…:
- …the nature of input and comprehensible input.
- …different forms of input and comprehensible input.
- …a qualitative analysis of the various forms of comprehensible input and their usefulness in facilitating foreign language acquisition.
- …making input comprehensible.
- …how making input comprehensible and meaningful (to foreign language students) can cause language acquisition “magic” to occur.
- …obstacles to making input comprehensible in a classroom full of students.
- …strategies for overcoming the making-input-comprehensible-obstacles that exist in a foreign language classroom.
- …a comprehensive rubric for assessing the effectiveness of a foreign language teacher.
Your voice is valuable! Share your target language teaching experiences!