In Support of NTCI

Some of the Reasons Why I Prefer Non-targeted Comprehensible Input NTCI)

…it is very hard to create compelling messages when the hidden agenda is the relative clause….

                                                                                    – Dr. Stephen Krashen

Nobody at ACTFL has ever said anything about you having to communicate with your students while using certain words. Try doing that in English at the dinner table. It’s not so easy! In fact, I find it impossible and after trying it for 15 years when I was still doing TPRS, I finally gave up five years ago and focused on what the research says that conversation can’t be planned out.


  1. NTCI is easy to learn. It doesn’t require a lot of expensive training in the form of workshops and conferences. The majority of teachers who start doing it (via the Ultimate CI Book series) report great results right away.
  2. Targeting specific words from high frequency verb/word lists, thematic units, semantic sets, etc. requires planning. This planning, according to the research, diminishes student engagement and interest, as per Dr. Krashen.
  3. With the loss of spontaneity that targeting words brings, the joy of simple human communication is greatly reduced. Communication – the Standard – needs to be interesting and not robotic. NTCI brings real communication in the CI classroom.
  4. The big focus of NTCI on building community goes a long way in solving the biggest problem in American foreign language classrooms that the vast majority of students don’t know how to interact with their teachers or peers in class.
  5. The vastly simplified data-gathering and grading procedures in NTCI are in harmony with the soul of comprehension-based instruction.
  6. By not aligning with thematic units or semantic sets, interest in NTCI classes is not constrained. It is one thing to talk about language flow – flow being a huge word in Krashen’s research – but another to teach in a way that supports it.
  7. The purpose in NTCI is not to teach words from lists but to teach language from images. This keeps the focus of the learner on the language as a whole, and not on pieces of the language so that the students can pass a test on the words for the rooms in a house.
  8. In NTCI there is a far greater alignment with the pure research. Instead of pushing the language into a corner of the bedroom, or a kitchen or living room, or down the staircase, or into a list of any kind for the purpose of testing in order to grade the child on her ability to learn words out of context, we expand rich contextual language into the whole house.
  9. The results of teaching within context are: (1) a more interesting story, (2) less conscious focus on words to learn, (3) more and easier focus on meaning, (4) no planning for the instructor, (5) a more expansive and less reductive language experience, (6) more fuel for the Din during sleep, (7) more contextualized learning, (8) a much-lowered affective filter, (9) language instruction that aligns more with the research, and (10) more authentic Communication.
  10. Backwards planning of chapters in novels doesn’t work because it is impossible to teach all the vocabulary in an entire chapter – there are too many words. The idea that one could prepare a novel by isolating vocabulary from a chapter and doing stories to prepare for the reading of that chapter is a flawed idea and should never have been allowed into the pedagogy.
  11. Dogs learn words individually, words like “Sit” or “Fetch” or “Stay”.  As humans, we require richer, more contextual input. So, it is probably best that we learn languages in context, and not from individual lists of words where CI is used with the goal of making sure that certain individual vocabulary words have been learned (for what reason?).
  12. When we target vocabulary using CI, we sell out the research so we can bow down to curriculum designs that are based on textbook models and therefore out of touch with the research.
  13. The ACTFL proficiency guidelines are “holistic” and not specific to learning certain words or grammar concepts. NTCI reflects this point exactly.
  14. Targeting asks the instructor to make up specific random sentences using specific (targeted) words within the context of a larger curricular/textbook need. Try that in English right now. It just doesn’t work. I think that’s one of the biggest stumbling blocks that many capable teachers have run up against with targeting – it’s just awkward.
  15. There is no consensus in SLA research of when something is “acquired” because we don’t really know what is going on in our students’ brains – we can’t measure it. To try to measure acquisition is therefore impossible. This fact is fully respected in how we assess in NTCI instruction.
  16. If a teacher really wants to use CI to teach a list of high frequency words, etc. they should not do it in the creation of the story. They should teach those words in embedded fashion during the reading of the story, if they have to do it at all. 
  17. When I was using the TPRS skill of Circling, I would very often get an automatic, almost predictable eye roll from my students. But I would keep up my fake smile going like I was enjoying it, but inside I wanted to scream. This does not happen in NTCI because circling is not used.
  18. One thing about Circling is that it demands a certain natural ability to communicate on the part of the teacher. If the teacher has that quality, the communication will take place even though circling as a CI instructional skill tends to water down the level of interest. But if the teacher lacks this natural communicative ability – and there is no blame nor any reason to expect them to have it if they were trained in the old way – Circling can be a real problem.
  19. Many traditional CI teachers have expressed their concern that NTCI is not “organized” enough. But the research shows us that “organized” language (being taught from a list of words in order to teach those particular words vs. natural language (no lists), is just more boring to the kids. Such instruction lacks spontaneity, which is the very definition of language. Would you rather have students who aren’t interested or students who are engaged?
  20. Allowing students to ask grammar questions during class when the non-targeted language is flowing is not done in NTCI. In my view, the short interruption back to L1 (a) throws off the flow of language for the rest of the class, (b) is often nothing but a way for some kids to draw attention to themselves and (c) derails the unconscious process and flow of language identified by Krashen as at the heart of language acquisition.



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