I apologize for not mentioning more often in these pages the fact that the nature of the change we are in right now is a quantum and not an incremental leap. It is such a big leap for us to grasp that we don’t use our conscious minds to learn a language. We keep running into the chef’s kitchen! Everything that we ever knew about teaching languages must go out the window! Quantum leap. No discussion. No “let’s talk about this”. There is nothing to discuss. Our conscious minds can’t do the heavy lifting of learning a language anymore than an ant can do yoga.
Words pop up onto the surface of the water like flotsam in the ocean bobs up from below the water in no predictable way. That bobbing up process is a natural one and the order of acquisition is a natural one and we could never figure out what word is going to be early acquired or late acquired next or what will happen when. We can’t. It’s not something that we can do. What can we do? We can, we must, it is our duty, to drive our delivery trucks of comprehensible input in the forms of spoken language to our students teach day, and to provide them with lots of reading that is hinged to what they heard.
I used to work in a Latino high school in Denver. Each day, this bobbing up of words in Spanish would happen to me, because I heard it in the hallways so much during the day. This, again, is the Din, that very overlooked notion in Krashen’s oeuvre that describes an unconscious process and thus is out of the realm of the pedantry of the language acquisition “experts”, those ivory tower thinkers who want it all to be able to be “figured out”. (They can’t figure it out. They are out of their league.)
One morning recently I was making breakfast and the word “escoba” kept popping into my mind. That and “ballena”. I must have heard them in ways that I can’t remember, perhaps in the school, or maybe when talking with my friend Jorge last week, or three years ago, or ten. Those two words just floated up to my conscious mind while I was cracking open some eggs to make some cheese eggs. I probably remembered ballena because it resembles the word for whale in French. I know that those words didn’t bubble up in my unconcious mind as a result of taking a Spanish class and memorizing them for a test.
Why did my deeper mind choose to send me those nice words to chew on and taste and explore consciously while I made those eggs? Ask God. He is the one who designed the whole thing. And we go and mess with it every day. I do know what an escoba is and I really like the sound of that word.
My deeper mind was doing all this work. All I had to do was focus on making the eggs. My deeper mind was serving me up some Spanish while I served up breakfast that day. Specially delivered language by the Din, no charge for shipping. How’s that for a good deal? No effort. Free. Effortless. Hold the GMO’s, the Grammar Module Oh Shits. A miracle, some would say. Language is a miracle. A miracle. God was giving me a language with both hands while I was making eggs with both hands. How cool is His world?
Dr. Krashen said, “Language is acquired through comprehensible input. It is an unconscious process that happens when the learner is focused on the message, rather than the language itself.”