10,000 Hours

Someone asked:
Hi Ben,
I remember you said in your workshop that it takes 10k hours to reach an advanced proficiency in a language. What is the source for this?
I ask because some is asking me on Twitter after I posted an anti-homework post.
My response:
I went to trainings in the summer for 15 years. TPRS and iFLT. All the big trainers in early 2003 were throwing that number around. There must have been a source. I don’t know if it was Krashen. That was the beginning of the Total focus on him which still goes on.
My take from hearing that number at all the trainings was that they were talking about developing I think authentic communicative competence as opposed to a kind of stumbling competence. We’re also talking about building a genuine accent. That was my take away anyway.
But I think that they really didn’t know what they were talking about because they never really agreed on what the 10,000 hours MEANT.
I am sure that different researchers have come up with different numbers. But to me that is completely unimportant. It doesn’t matter whether it’s 10,000 or 5,000. What matters is that we only have 500 hours available if we teach every single minute of a four year program in high school which is a fraction of what is needed. So there’s no reason, no good outcome, to try to challenge the number.
I’ve actually gotten that question a lot over the years. I think it stems at a deep level of wanting to justify forced output early on.
Who cares? The number of hours is not the point at all. The point is that we don’t have enough time whatever the number is. So we need to stop trying to force early speech output instead of wasting time in the first two years and do what we should be doing over those years, input. That’s the point of it all, as I see it.
The best person to ask on this is Eric Herman.



4 thoughts on “10,000 Hours”

  1. Three thoughts, the first two are relevant to language acquisition.
    1) Ray & Seely (2015) calculate the number 20k hours for a child to learn L1: 10 hours per day * 365 days * 6 years = 21,900 hours.
    2) BVP (WWOTT, 2017) calculates 14,500 hours: 8 hours per day * 365 day * 5 years = 14,600 hours (BVP does not include the 1st year of life).
    3) Malcolm Gladwell wrote in Outliers that 10,000 hours of practice are required to reach greatness in a field.

  2. I can always count on you Nathaniel for facts like these. Thank you! I think you are right on the Gladwell idea. He wrote that book in 2008 which is exactly the time of what I sometimes call the Krashen Frenzy Years. In 2009 Krashen came to Denver Public Schools and gave us his blessing so that from then on (unfortunately) all the TPRS people have twisted his research to fit their sales, but one would have to read most of the articles here between 2008 and now to see how that is in my view an accurate statement.
    The fact that Ray and BVP both have the number even HIGHER than that is significant.

  3. We also must consider that children of poverty might have less input due to less interaction with their parents. I’m not sure if this results in delays in output or proficiency but it is something to consider student’s with trauma or negative feeling of school are also going to have an easily triggered affective filter which delays acquisition.

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