A Sham

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15 thoughts on “A Sham”

  1. You’ll get no arguments or qualifications from me on this one, Ben. I just want to point out that in the long run – and I do mean the “l – o – n – g” run – our students do just as well on those grammar tests as the grammar-taught students. Just some trivia about some of my students:
    – While extremely few of my students choose to take the AP test, they have a 100% pass rate so far.
    – Those who don’t take the AP test often take university placement tests and test into year 3 and higher.
    – One student went to a community college and took a second-year course. He showed up only for tests and finals and received and A in the course. (I still think he wasted his time, though.)
    – A couple of professors who receive my students in the CSU system have commented on how well prepared they are for university-level work.
    – Another former student is now a German teacher and rearing her child bilingual.
    – Another former student now consults with both the US and German military on computer programming, taking regular trips to Germany.
    – One student became the youngest employee at Knott’s Berry Farm to receive a bilingual designation on his badge when he overheard a woman muttering to herself in German and went over to help her. A supervisor just happened to be close enough to see and hear the interaction.
    – We recently had a number of students from Germany visit our campus. After getting over the initial shock of native-speaker speed and dialect-influenced speech, my students realized they could communicate pretty well.
    – Some students switch the language on their electronic devices and computer games to German.
    – Students regularly tell me about their experiences “chatting” online with someone in German or talking to someone, often a relative, in German.
    – Colleagues at my school comment regularly about the fact that my students talk to each other in German in other classes or write in German on the white board.
    – Parents tell me that their children talk to one another in German at home so the parents won’t understand what they’re saying.
    – One student went on the US Congress/German Parliament exchange program and maintained a B+ average in his classes (all in German). His brother is leaving in August on the same program.
    – Other students have planned or are planning independent trips (not with a tour group) to Germany.
    I will take all of the above as indicators of successful “learning” over a standardized test any day. I have no illusions that this happens with all of my students, but it happens with well over 4% of them, and the attitude toward the language remains positive for (nearly) all students. Also, we have to consider the “use-it-or-lose-it” factor. If students go for years without exposure to the target language, their skills will decline. Fortunately the right kind of exposure will quickly revive them.
    When I first started teaching I worried about what the next teacher would think. I no longer do so. My students are getting what they need: CI, and it shows. (Of course, I have the advantage of having my students for up to four years, so they get far more of the language than students who later go to a grammar-based classroom.)
    I am reminded of one version of the “Ben Franklin Quote”:
    If we restrict liberty to attain security we will lose them both.
    In language teaching, if we restrict CI to attain grammar we will lose them both. (I think I heard Susan Gross say something to the same effect.)

  2. Nice stuff Robert. We need to all keep a kind of file like this one so that we can share our real world CI successes with others and also to help us remember that, even if the school culture/henhouse effect doesn’t point to the exponential gains we get, real life does. That lady muttering to herself in German is a perfect – I would even say glorious – example. Multiply it times a million such examples, or a billion, and let’s see if our world looks any different as a result of this Krashen pushin’ we be doing.

  3. I should add that I have heard teachers teach using so-called TPRS or CI methods and they don’t speak the target language either, so failing to reach 90% – 95% CI in the way Krashen suggests is clearly not just limited to one set of teachers. It’s not a complex issue tho – either we speak to the kids in the target language without English* or we don’t.
    *we use occasional written English using Point and Pause and this speeds up, does not slow down, the acquisition.

  4. One of the guidance folks called me about a Spanish student who had failed Spanish 1 and was on her way to summer school. The counselor is sure that the same student will fail Spanish 2 and be in the same boat next summer – we are not even talking about the damage being done to this kid who lost her dad a few years ago…Anyway, she heard that I was doing things “differently” in French and another counselor told her to ask me if I would take her in French 1. Bien sur. I had a great opportunity to explain the benefits of TPRS for all learners. These are small but important inroads.

  5. Hi Ben,
    I am convinced that the primary reason teachers don’t use C1 methods is because it is HARD work. It requires the teacher to be fully engaged ALL the time. Also, (just as importantly) is because of the real fear of “falling off the cliff” – or that it might not go well – simply put – the lack of CONTROL.
    Other methods allow a LOT of time for students to “work independently.” Worksheets, even listening activities with tapes give the teacher a break.
    I recently worked with a special ed student in summer school. We spent 36 hours together. It was exhausting for me. I will tell you though, that it was overwhelmingly successful. He learned tons…. Most of all, he was encouraged as a student and really believes that he can learn Spanish.
    I just wish teachers would be honest about why they don’t use C1 methods.
    My wife is currently teaching basket weaving to 8 students – 7 boys. She is constantly running from 1 students to the next helping, explaining, etc. – for 3 hours! She commented recently how in many of the other classes the students are sitting doing “independent work” while the teacher is on the computer or doing something else. My wife is worn out at the end of the night. The reward, though, is well worth it. The students are thriving – because they are DOING baskets – not merely reading about them and doing worksheet on them…
    I am never as eloquent as some on this list – but I truly believe that it is no secret why teachers shun c1 methods…
    My dos centavos

  6. Yes, it is hard work, Skip, until it is grasped. The riding the bike image. Then, in my view, once we are up on the bike, it is not. I hope to convince you of that when I’m up there in October.
    I think it is simply a matter of retooling. People with master’s degrees in one thing don’t like to find out that what they do is largely ineffective (the Myriam Met world) and that they really can’t teach a language purely from the mind following a set of guidelines given in a book. Going into the realm of the heart, into the lake of language, swimming, valuing people more than the lesson (think about that) are not easily embraced.
    The momentum carrying over from the 1800’s, where the teacher gets to be a bad ass no matter what, is certainly dwindling, and kids and parents and admins are demanding more Krashen, more Krashen (even if they are not aware of it, that is what all the new district standards are all about – what we do).
    It’s just unknown and therefore scary territory for most folks. They’ll change once they see how easy it is, and I mean that seriously. I keep saying that CI is a simple thing made complex by too many people. Everybody needs to get up on their CI bikes, that’s all.

  7. Martha Nojima

    I took up the challenge a few months ago when you started talking about 90% . It was hard at first, I had to train my students and myself, but you are so right, now it is natural. I have a class of 8 year olds that insist that I speak absolutely no Japanese. They keep score and take points away from me or themselves. They won’t let me say even the smallest polite thing. I usually lose. There is rapt attention where there wasn’t before and they are getting really good with the hands hitting the fist. I have a first grade class that just started in May and so they have been trained from their very first class. It is so much fun. I went from dreading that age group to loving it.
    I have had some conversations lately about using only the target language with other teachers and there are huge defenses that need to be broken down. They don’t know how to do it, so they make a lot of reasons why it’s not possible for them, the textbook, the administration, team teachers. I understand their fear, they don’t have the tools, so it seems impossible. Last night I had a class with 5th and 6th graders. We were making a story that was just cracking them up, one kid was rolling on the tatami he was laughing so hard. Why? They just learned the word “infinite” and were using it to describe strange kid humor stuff in the story. They left last night shaking their heads saying “that was fun,” ( in Japanese). Makes me want to get right back on that bike again today.

  8. During our last week of work, we had a district inservice. I overhead a cluster of other teachers talking quietly amongst themselves about how much target language they actually use in the classroom. (One of our district benchmarks is 80% target language.) Anyway, the consensus was they use the language TOO much!

  9. Yes but Susan Gross’ response to that is that only practice of L2 by the teacher in the classroom can improve those skills. She is right. I taught some seventh graders Spanish (I don’t speak Spanish) but with a big word list on the wall, one word images, word chunking especially, and those kinds of simple activities, I was able to get through the trimester class and have fun. Michele what are you doing down in Argentina – you Alaskans get around. My belief is that teachers who don’t want to embrace CI aren’t comfortable with embracing what is largely an unconscious flow. They don’t trust that, and want conscious control of everything. It doesn’t work with languages – turning an unconscious flow into a conscious analytical thing is not easy for people to do but it must be done if real gains are to be there. The very definition of most teachers is in that word – control – and yet it is in the very giving up of control and the bringing in of beautiful flow of language in a happy way that brings the gains that we all seek.

  10. I am visiting my daughter and enjoying how fast I learn Spanish when I get instant translation of anything I miss and anything I read but don’t understand. It’s mostly CI because of hanging out with Spanish speakers. I have been able to use one word answers in numerous conversations and keep people thinking I speak the language, until I want to say an actual sentence. Still, the ongoing success I have every day makes me want to keep trying. No one corrects me and while I am quite sure I am murdering the language when I do try to say something, I keep hoping to make my students feel this good about their Russian attempts next year.

  11. Notice you are not in a school building. My question is, is that kind of learning possible in schools? We have so far to go! Instant translation – what a concept. No error correction, no judging of you – what a concept. Speech emergence as it occurs naturally in its own time – what a concept. Success – what a concept. Input first (your one word answers) – what a concept.

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