Comprehensible Input in Second Language Acquisition

When I want to learn a language, I spend time listening to the language on audio, playing computer games in the target language and opening my mouth to repeat the words in the target language before I visit the country where the language is spoken. I failed to take these necessary measures before I went to Kenya. The consequences of this decision were my inability to learn new words while in Kenya because there was very little comprehensible input. I regretted this decision and wanted to kick myself often while I was there.

When I returned home, I knew that I needed to prepare for the immersion process in a more systematic manner. I committed myself to creating comprehensible input. I knew that I needed more of a foundation in the language in order to move forward and add to my repertoire of words and expressions and to be able to understand and communicate with native speakers.

Speakers of other languages, assume that Americans don’t speak their language and speak candidly in their presence. Most Americans don’t learn other language. I   read facial expressions, voice tone and body language. When I add words I can find my way without a translator or interpreter. I didn’t have this edge in Kenya.

Krashen spoke first about comprehensible input in 1985. Prior to this people assumed that if you were exposed to language then you would automatically start to learn the language by osmosis. Krashen states that optimal input has to be comprehensible to the learner in order for acquisition to take place. There are two ways of making input comprehensible: the first one is to premodify input before it is offered to the learner, (premodified input), and the second one is to negotiate the input through interaction (interactionally modified input).  I use both when I study a language.

Ellis found positive evidence for premodified input. This evidence shows that range, the number of different contexts in which a new item occurs, enhances learning. The researcher found significant correlations with vocabulary acquisition by the premodified input group -although the same finding occurred in the interactionally modified input group. It follows that hearing the same word repeated in a variety of different contexts aids acquisition.

I uploaded all of my audio software to my computer along with Swahili music. My audio in Swahili gives the English equivalent to facilitate the acquisition of words. Once this information was on my computer, I would listen to the audio for 8 hours while I slept at night to familiarize myself with the sounds of the language. I premodified my input by listening to it repeatedly with the translation and without the translation with music. So I enjoyed both aspects of listening. So certain aspects of the language became automatic like recognizing numbers when I hear them as well as recognizing plurals. In Swahili, one changes the prefix instead of the suffix to indicate plurals.

I also used different types of computer programs to practice the language where you use the same word in a variety of different contexts. When L2 learners face communicative problems and they have the opportunity to negotiate solutions to the problems, they acquire new language. This claim has been referred to as the Interaction Hypothesis (Ellis, 1990). Long, also supported the idea that negotiated interaction is essential for input to become comprehensible.

The research supports the idea of someone (teacher) modifying language to make it comprehensible. I modifythe target language to make it comprehensible, to me by using technology and then in my interaction with native speakers. I choose the focus of the conversation and I ask lots of questions on the topic using vocabulary that I have acquired. I don’t like unscripted conversations when I have not had a chance to review the vocabulary. It takes a lot of repetition for me to learn new words. When I use vocabulary in a known context, my mind assimilates these terms in other contexts.

I listen to the Swahili tapes in my car where someone describes how the sounds are made in English and I internalize this information by repeating it over and over again while driving. The repetition makes the words more accessible when I need to use them to create utterances.

My problem with pre-packaged language classes stems from my inability to manipulate the information in a way that makes the most sense to me. Many teachers assume that if you are speaking the language that you are gaining some benefit and I agree. It is more important that the learner be able to connect and engage with the information, which suggests that information should be relevant and meaningful to the learner.  The learner also needs to manipulate the information in a variety of settings.

Many Spanish books teach the reflexive by using housecleaning chores. I don’t like cleaning house employ a housekeeper whenever possible. They also revolved around cooking which is not a favorite activity of mine. I retained less of this information until I decided how I could use it to tell someone how I wanted my house cleaned in L2. I really wanted to talk to my peers in Spanish and exchange ideas on education and the brain. So I started to read books on areas of interest to me in the target language. Then I initiated conversations, and the lesson became more relevant and meaningful and I was able to retain information.

Language learning in African countries is problematic to me due to the lack of books published in native African languages. It also slows down my language acquisition process to discuss personal issues or blame others for their current situation. 

I need to make input comprehensible. Then I understand spoken or written language quickly. I don’t like classes, whichrequire that I memorize and practice information that will not be of immediate use. I increase my vocabulary by reading, I use a lot of school textbooks. Interactions with native speaker involvediscussions, which are relevant and meaningful to both parties.

2 Comments

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2 responses to “Comprehensible Input in Second Language Acquisition

  1. Pat

    I believe that is among the so much significant information for me. And i’m happy studying your article. However should commentary on few common things, The site style is wonderful, the articles is really nice : D. Good job, cheers

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