Krashen on Transparency
In October of 2009 Krashen started writing about a term he called “Transparency”. Is the feeling of effortless communication in L2 – flying – that we sometimes experience with our classes anything like this term from Krashen? I am just going to cut and paste from a few of Krashen’s emails from that period in 2009. Maybe all of us are really are moving in the same direction, away from narrow corridors of targeted words to a much more free form concept of what comprehensible input is. In italics are parts of emails from Krashen, as he seemed to be working towards this concept of transparency. Is there a relationship between the term transparency and the term flying? I’m not suggesting there is, but, after reading some things that Brian has been thinking about, and knowing that for many years now there has always been a kind of weird two-part definition of CI, one very free from (transparency, flying) and the other very tied to the three steps and the story, thus more formulaic. Nobody has yet clearly articulated how the two relate to each other under the general umbrella term of comprehensible input. Maybe what Krashen wrote below can shed light on the discussion:
Krashen, Oct. 9, 2009:
I introduce here a new term, transparency. Transparent input is input in which the acquirer understands every word, or at least has the feeling of understanding every word. There is, in other words, no “noise” in the input. Also, in transparent input, the listener or reader is certain of what each word means, that is, ALL the semantic features of each new word are clear.
TPRS, or what we might call “classic TPRS,” as done by Blaine Ray, aims for 100% transparency. This is done by insisting that all new vocabulary be translated, that input be slow, and that new words are repeated a great deal. If movements are used, as in TPR, it is essential, according to TPRS practitioners, that there is a clear and obvious connection between the movement and the word or phrase used, and that they be simultaneous.
The transparency requirement assumes that full word meanings will not be gradually acquired from context, but that the meaning must be absolutely clear for every word from the beginning.
Krashen, Oct. 10, 2009:
Transparency: Advantages and Disadvantages
The major advantage, of course, of transparent input is that it insures comprehensibility. But there are disadvantages (I return to some more advantages later): Most important, it does not allow the acquisition of vocabulary or grammar through context, which is necessary for acquirers to get the full meaning of words (beyond a synonym or translation). This is true because we have not yet fully described the grammar of any language, nor have we described the vocabulary, or lexicon, with subtle meanings and collocations.
Excessive transparency, especially when translation is used, might encourage focus on form, that is, students deliberately attempting to remember synonyms and rules, which means less focus on meaning.
Krashen, Oct. 14, 2009:
Negotiation = strategies for converting incomprehensible input into comprehensible input
(1) interactional: e.g. please repeat, slow down (built into TPRS, hold up your hand indicating degree of comprehension)
(2) non-interactional: get background information, select readings and movies carefully, e.g. series, familiar
There is no need for negotiation in a 100% transparent classroom. There is a great need for negotiation in the outside world, when the acquirer is not fully competent in the language.