Question from Eric

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44 thoughts on “Question from Eric”

  1. Here is my answer:

    My opinion Eric and jen is that it has to do with the nature of the mind and the ego. Teachers who fail to grasp the way language acquisition really occurs are not to be blamed; they just want to be useful and so when Krashen says that the entire process doesn’t occur anywhere near their point of power (conscious analysis), they kind of glaze over that part and continue as they were taught, because it makes them feel that they are in control. Humans want so much to be in control of everything! They read Krashen, and his work requires that they loosen control and just speak in a loving way to their students and it will all be done naturally out of sight, but that is too much for them and so they “forget” that part of Krashen’s work, if they ever read it in the first place. Those who choose to embrace CI have a kind of strength of spirit to accept that which they cannot control and they just decide to go ahead and learn to just speak the language to their students and give it all up to what is really a great and majestic process that can only work, however, if it is left alone. That’s what I think it is, their inability (no blame) to grasp that man should not mess around with completely natural processes.

    The main thing for us is to watch how we react to those teachers. For me, the lesson is to let them go their way, or I exhibit hypocrisy in the sense that I want them to trust something outside of their control (the role of the unconscious in learning a language), while I myself don’t trust that whether they change or not is something outside of my control. I learned this from Laurie. It has been and continues to be very hard for me to do this, to let go of criticizing other teachers on this one point you raise. I want to bash them up side the head for their ignorance and disrespect of the way children really do learn languages, but instead I have to accept and trust that I cannot change them. I always have to keep in mind that I can only keep working on changing myself to become a better and more disciplined (to stay in the language and not go out of bounds) and loving teacher, so that they leave my class hopeful about life and not tired and hopeless, which is what the old way of learning a language did/is still doing to kids.

  2. I think, for some teachers, jumping into CI can be very scary, especially if they are fossilized into certain drill-and-kill methods from the past. I know I have felt frustrated this year with some of my colleagues. A couple summers ago, I wrote a grant for several of us to go to IFLT in San Diego. We won $10,000 to travel and learn (Ben, I was so excited to finally meet you!), and my traditional coworkers raved about TPRS. They could SEE its utility. They could SEE how it made sense for true language acquisition.

    BUT. But I see the same grammar worksheets being churned out in the copy room. I hear from students in my advisory class about giant lists of vocabulary to be memorized and getting 20 points off for conjugating “estar” incorrectly. I have former students come to me after a week in my colleague’s classroom telling me that they miss my class and they don’t feel like they’re learning anything. It breaks my heart, but I don’t know what to do except keep doing what I’m doing and hope that someone sees what glorious things are going on in my room. I hear my colleagues complain about how no one knows how to conjugate the preterit, or how they don’t know how to combine direct and indirect object pronouns. Meanwhile, I’m celebrating that my students are telling me in beautiful Spanish about how the stinky cat is really an alien and escaped in his rocketship except that, oh no! it exploded.

    So no, I don’t know why either, Eric. But I wish I did.

      1. I am planning on going, definitely! Glad to hear from you again Greg! We’ve missed your voice on the blog!!! (For a while I was playing around with the idea of presenting TCI for elementary teachers at FLENJ but decided not to.)
        Chill told me that Laurie Clarcq will present, and if that is the case, we are so lucky to have one of the finest, most talented TPRS teachers of the east coast come present in New Jersey!
        We need a lot more teachers like yourself, Greg, in our schools.
        You want to be depressed.Come see how they teach languages in my school district! A massive waste of time and money. A farce. The kids would be better off learning how to iron a shirt.

        1. Thanks Catharina! I’ve certainly missed participating here, although I’ve still been reading often and much. It’s just that I’ve had to force myself to rest and recharge more after work during these first few weeks at my new school, which has meant less time typing, for one thing. It’s been killing me to not join in the discussion!

          Great news about Laurie Clarcq presenting at FLENJ! Can’t wait to meet the person behind her genius posts.

          Isn’t the amount of wasted time and money hard to fathom? Happily, my district has stopped purchasing textbooks for languages and the WL supervisor has explicitly stated that no teachers should be following a textbook. The supervisor is very open to curriculum changes, so hopefully the next thing to be tossed will be the expectation of a grammar-sequenced curriculum.

    1. Wow Chris, I read a bit of this, quite the comprehensive analysis on the topic.

      Eric re your particular question, I think it is all of the above. that is, all of the reasons you touched on in a comment to the post. As Jody said, you’ve answered your own question. Thanks for bringing it up and helping me to learn more about this (I’m not too informed of NO research… it’d be a nice primer to have access to!)

  3. I’m not asking why more teachers don’t do TPRS/TCI.
    I want to know how teachers rationalize a grammatical syllabus.

    Is it that most don’t know about natural order (NO) research? (ignorance?)
    Do they know, but don’t know how to teach without grammar? (lack of training)
    Do they know, have the training, but teach in a traditional dept and feel pressured?
    Is it that some find reasons not to accept the NO?
    Is it that teachers don’t see the NO and a grammatical syllabus to be in disagreement?

    How do you accept the NO studies and rationalize teaching grammar?!!!
    (Ellis’ position of the weak interface or DeKeyser’s strong interface position? – I kind of doubt many teachers are familiar with either of these arguments – I don’t really understand how researchers, for that matter, can support grammar instruction and accept the NO).

  4. I believe you’ve answered your own questions. No, they don’t know about natural order theory, nor language acquisition theory for that matter. Grammar teaching and output (learning by speaking) make sense intuitively to most people. Give people the tools (grammar and conjugation) and help them learn how to put it together in sentences for certain purposes, and bingo–the perfect recipe, no? When I ask bilingual people how they became bilingual, almost 100% of them tell me it was because they learned the grammar. I’m not kidding. I’ve gotten into some pretty heated arguments over this. (Of course, 100% of these people tell me about the extended periods of time they spent in countries where that language is spoken–but that doesn’t count somehow.)

    People/teachers and students confuse the concepts of learning and acquisition just about 100% of the time. I believe this paradigm shift from conscious to unconscious learning is profound and profoundly difficult for most people to grasp.

    1. Actually, I wasn’t sure if it was “all of the above” in response to my inquiries.

      Seems you all feel that #1 (ignorance) is by far the most prevalent. They haven’t read the research and are just doing what they “believe” worked for them and intuitively feel is right. And accuracy is expected, especially from teachers who’s first language is the FL. No science about it.

      In fact, what Chris said in a comment also seems true: many FL teachers read the SLA research when we share it with them – they don’t have time, right? They got no time left for the learning with all the time they have to spend on the grading and the designing of games.

      It just seems so incredible to me, because like I said, the NO studies seem like the biggest discovery in SLA.

      One of the reasons I ask is that I want to be better prepared to have a discussion about NO and be prepared for anyone’s possible arguments against it. And I wanted to know of any scientific argument in favor of a grammatical syllabus.

      Honestly, I can probably get more of my argument from an ESL teacher. In my experience, ESL teachers know more than FL teachers about SLA and seems many (most?) ESL teachers still focus on grammar (though it may be more reactive and contextualized – not on a pre-planned syllabus).

  5. I agree that it is a profound thing, maybe bigger than we can even know. I thought of an additional question after you asked yours, Eric – Where is the dialogue and robust high spirited argument from them? Where do the grammar teachers hang out and bitch about us? They seem to be invisible. That’s what I can’t figure out. They get bad mouthed all the time by students, TPRS teachers, all kinds of people, but they never come to their own defense. That is another one I can’t figure out.

  6. Wow Jody!

    “When I ask bilingual people how they became bilingual, almost 100% of them tell me it was because they learned the grammar. ”

    This blows me away. I assume these are not heritage speakers? I am deeply curious about this subset of WL teachers: heritage / native speakers. How do they justify teaching from a book? I never could, and this is why CI clicked so instantly for me (not saying I am great at it or anything, just that it is really the only way that makes any sense to me). Have you found that heritage / native speakers are more likely to use CI? Less likely? Neutral? I am very curious about this.

    1. I’m not sure I understand your question. The people I’m talking about are NOT native speakers of the TL. They studied the language in high school, studied it in college, went to another country/or not, studied it there, blah, blah. Depending on when a heritage speaker acquired English stimulates different responses. If they acquired it as a teen or later, they believe it was the grammar. If they acquired it early on, they know it wasn’t. I’m not talking about teachers here–just regular people. This is not just a teacher perception problem. People believe language is learned like all other subject matter.

      My experience with native-language fl teachers is that they are the MOST grammar-centric teachers on the planet. They want correctness, and they want it NOW.

      1. I realize I just painted native-speaking language teachers with a pretty wide brush–huge generalization. Please forgive me. (So, here’s another one.) I have, also, noticed a tendency among NS to speak in the TL (except for grammar explanations) and leave most of the class behind in about two seconds. They stay in the TL over 90% of the time, provide the most excellent of language models, and have terrible attrition. American students are just dumb.

        1. Yes. I have noticed the same thing I guess re: grammar-centric, wanting correctness.
          “Native speaker” is likely a selling point for a program, and also it seems likely to be a submersion program, which you describe perfectly.

  7. Knowing Research matters only for those open to it. I have shared an ocean of stuff with my conservative dept colleagues and it’s in one ear, out the other. Tere are no defenses for grammar syllabus, forced output, etc. Tradition, laziness, too much work, I dunno. You can lead a horse to water…

    For a lot of people, good enough = good.

    1. Actually, there are arguments for form-focused instruction. . .

      1) DeKeyser loves him some skill-building.
      2) There are arguments for including meaning-based output – namely, Swain’s comprehensible output hypothesis.

      Krashen has some killer articles that crush these arguments. One main point is that there are no studies showing “learning” to have positive gains on a delayed test of communicative ability. I believe you can find these all online for free.

      (2011). Seeking a Justification for Skill-building.
      (1998). Comprehensible Output.
      (2002). The Comprehension Hypothesis and it’s Rivals.
      (2009). The Comprehension Hypothesis Extended.

      And there’s this article that found meaning-based input and meaning-based output beneficial (the output condition outperforming all in production).
      (2006). Processing Instruction and Meaningful Output-Based Instruction.

      And Irina Elgort (2011) found that deliberate flashcard learning led to recognition acquisition as if they were first language words. Again, Krashen’s point applies: we don’t know if the subjects can use any of these words in actual communication. Plus, these were highly advanced proficiency students and those that failed to learn the words were eliminated from the study – we don’t know if this acquisition from learning is possible in students of lesser proficiency. I had Krashen send me this paper. It’s a long one. And it’s a super dense read. haha.

      We should all read #3 above (Krashen’s response to Norris and Ortega’s review of grammar research – Krashen has a different interpretation than N&O).

      And Truscott has an crushing response in IJFLT 2007 to Nassaji and Fotos who supposedly reviewed the literature and concluded in favor of grammar instruction.

      One of the main arguments against CI as the only path to acquisition is the immersion studies done in Canada. For the amount of input, the researchers reasoned they should have achieved more accuracy. It is then concluded that they needed grammar. That thinking is flawed. Was the input really that comprehensible? Compelling? Was it a low-anxiety environment? And even if CI wasn’t enough (that can’t be concluded), it doesn’t mean that grammar instruction would have made things any better. Adding focus on form could have taken CI time away, placed students’ focus during the CI on the form and not the message, and made acquisition less efficient.

  8. Judging from the stories that many of us have shared about how we discovered TCI, I would think that most, if not all, of us who embrace TCI were not content with the results (language, emotional, interest, etc.) we were getting from our students with grammar-centric methods. That discontentment is the impetus that drove us to search for a better way -and is still an impetus in that it drives us to hone our skills in doing TCI.

    For those language teachers (and I would guess there must be very few) who HAVE heard about the Natural Order hypothesis and the complete illogicality of dividing grammar into different levels of difficulty, my guess is that many of them are having too much “success” with grammar-sequenced teaching and vocabulary-based units -a dangerous kind of success which leaves one feeling content with the way things are, with no reason to change oneself or ask “Why?”.

    Lasting change in one’s thinking, which is needed to embrace the fact that language acquisition happens unconsciously, might need to come from a place of personal unrest. Some teachers may never experience this feeling of unrest because they are very “successful” at what they do -too successful.

    It seems that failure (for lack of a better word) for most of us has been a gift. “Success” measured by the status-quo rubric, on the other hand, is deceptive, fool’s gold, a primrose path. Not all that glitters is gold.

    I imagine most language teachers haven’t yet heard about the Natural Order hypothesis,

    1. (continued)

      but for the ones who HAVE heard about it, maybe they are just too “successful” with their current teaching approach that their interest is not piqued.

      1. Greg, what you say feels right. It probably isn’t a “head” decision to continue or change approaches – it was heart. And that damn status quo rubric that may have a tiny column for “fluency” maintains the mirage of “success.”

  9. Kind of off topic, but kind of not. Blaine Ray is coming to Chicago and I offered my colleagues my place at his conference. They wanted no part of it. The excuse is that ICTFL is coming around the same time. I just want some of them to have one day experiencing what I did so that I’m not alone in those meetings (reading this blog) when we are deciding how best to teach double object pronouns.

    The good news is that I guess I’ll be seeing Blaine.

    1. Dude, I’ve been saying it here and others are too: We need good ways to measure all that our kids can do. There are some ACTFL-aligned proficiency exams out there, but even these don’t entirely capture all our students can do – since these are often thematic and employ authentic materials on the assessment. Now, of course, there’s a lot below the ice cap, but we can definitely find better ways to show off the evidence of TCI. I really encourage everyone to do this. Even if it means giving the traditional common assessment and additionally giving a TCI assessment – one that depends on comprehension and focuses entirely on meaning.

      By the way, I read recently in a Warwick Elley paper that the subjects in a study only had good writing skills if they also had good reading skills. Reading was a prerequisite for good writing. There were no good writers who were bad readers. There were actually some good readers who still produced bad writing. But the differences between a kid who reads more are overwhelmingly better than a kid who reads less.

      1. I’m an English teacher too and I can say without any hesitation whatsoever that ALL good writers, without exception, are good and voluminous readers. Aliterate people can almost never write well. While aliterate people can pick up a lot aurally, the variety and depth of vocab in writing far exceeeds the repetitive and often mundane oral language ppl hear.

        1. I think it’s Elley & Foster, 1996.
          Krashen offered to mail a brochure on moreTPRS (and I responded and received) titled “Raising Literacy Levels in Third World Countries: A Method that Works” by Warwick Elley. In it he discusses each of his incredibly successful book flood projects.
          When talking about the Sri Lanka book flood, he writes:

          “A closer study showed that no pupil scored well in writing who did not also do well in reading . . . many pupils, however, did very well in reading, but poorly in writing. Reading competence seemed to be a prerequisite for writing competences.” (p.9)

          He goes on to give examples of writing from the tops students in the book flood students vs. controls. The sentences of the top students of the control group “were mostly incoherent.”

          1. Thanks, I thought that sounded familiar. I just looked in the index of The Power of Reading and found this work referenced on 12 different pages in the book. So, he has obviously influenced Krashen’s conclusions. He’s the one who did the Fiji study that Krashen has talked about in presentations to FL teachers the last few years.

  10. If people see research cited that supports grammar teaching’s effectiveness, there are 2 things to remember

    A) opportunity cost. Yes, ppl who practice rule ___ get better at using it. However, none of the research I have read shows that acqsition as a whole improves, and practicing X at the expense of getting input about Y and Z means that Y and Z won’t be as “thoroughly” acquired. Most of the studies I have seen fail to look at the bigger picture.

    B) Eric I could be wrong, but Swain’s argument is not that output = acquisition; rather she says that output MAY provoke comprehensible input (fair enough under good conditns) and MAY provoke self-awareness of one’s communicative deficits (maybe…but how useful is this awareness, esp in younger learners? If I say “blabla” when I want a baguette, and the boulangeur gives me a croissant, how do I k ow what I did wrong? Did I use the wrong word? Not speak loudly enough? Etc

    1. I remember opportunity cost from Econ 101. I appreciate the point about it’s pertinence to our work Chris!

      I went to a lecture a few years back (after graduating from college) by my college Econ professor. He was using opportunity cost from the viewpoint of the student. His point was, Why would a student pay attention to X, or do X or Y, if it is not advantageous (i.e. not worth the time/effort) compared to other work they might do. This was all within the context of a single course though, not their lives (although that factor was brought up). Anyways, this has always made me think hard about what I ask students to do, and what I reward (grade) them for, in my classes. With jGR, I feel like I’m giving them the [economic] reason to show up and do what I feel is most important for them to do in order to get better at Spanish. Unfortunately, my job requirements (grading) enforce the overlying issue of the extrinsically motivated mindset… but at least they’re focused on doing the important stuff outside of that (big) factor!

  11. ppl who practice rule ___ get better at using it. – Depends on what you mean by “using it.” In communication then that’s not been supported. You also make a good point that focusing just on form is working on parts, while we teach language as a whole.

    I think the strong version of CO is that it is the main way we acquire. Swain wouldn’t say that. The weaker vision of the CO Hypothesis is that CO can help, make more efficient, but is not necessary. But it does say that what is comprehensibly outputted is acquired. I’ve seen CO suggested as working due to the noticing, hypothesis testing, or metalinguistic knowledge. All of these depend on conscious processes.

  12. ^ no it’s true. E.g. In spanish, practice gusta vs gustan. People who practice get better at knowing when to use each form. This has been proven. Whether or not they do outside a testing environment is unclear, and the opportunity cost is certainly high.

    I havn’t seen any research supporting CO.

    1. Better at knowing when to use each form – metalinguistic knowledge, not communication

      Throw them into a spontaneous conversation and then it’s not likely. When focus is on meaning, not correct production of gustar – when you spend a week teaching the differences, then at least 1 of the conditions for monitor use is present, i.e. thinking about the rule. That is how the natural order and developmental sequences work. e.g. EFL/ESL students know the “s” is added to 3rd person singular present, but haven’t mastered it.

      Gusta vs. Gustan may be a little different, because this is like comparing 2 vocabulary items, not necessarily “grammar.”

      I’m sure you could search for Swain’s work online and find what she interprets to be proof of CO. Everything is interpretation. Then, go read Krashen’s rebuttals. He kills it. 🙂

      1. I’ve never seen proof of CO working. Swain herself has said that her hypothesis is a “necssary counterweight” to Krashen. I don’t think she’s wrong, I just think that the amount of CI that CO povokes– outside of an immersion environment, and for adults– is minimal, and in many cases, awareness of mistakes is absolutely not the same thing as acquisition. Just because I know I screwed up doesn’t mean I’ll learn the rule/item properly.

        1. I believe that was one of Chomsky’s lines of argument: A child can recognize the difference between grammatical and the ungrammatical utterances. The child can be corrected and asked to repeat the correct answer. The child will then go on saying what she has been saying, totally unassimilating the correction. As Howard Lasnik repeatedly said in one of my college linguistics courses, “Children are incorrigible.”

          1. Oh, the studies on error correction are very conflicted. Most researchers who think SLA can be a conscious process (and there are a ton of this type) will say it depends on how the kid interprets the correction: as affirmation of what was said or as a correction. And depending on the correction, the kid may or likely not identify the error being corrected. In Krashen terms, it’s 1 more CI rep and will only be acquired if that 1 more rep was on an i+1 aspect and the subject was 1 rep away from acquisition.

          2. My 3 and a half year old son has been using the pronoun “him” as subject pronoun generally for all 3rd person singular, for almost an entire year now. I haven’t been worried about it, and of course his mother and I usually repeat back to him casually the correct “he” or “she”, but apparently he’s not ready for it.

            On another note, he has learned the word “investigate”. He asked once, during the book Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and I said it means “check it out”. Now, he asks us every time we see the word in the book (even though he knows it), just so that he can tell us what it means. This is reaffirming for me Elley’s conclusions in his awesome paper Eric referred to us, “In Praise of Incidental Learning”.

  13. btw, I’ve asked Krashen on moreTPRS for a good paper on Natural Order Studies (he responded his 1982 paper) and I’ve asked for a paper that deals with the criticisms and am waiting to see what he says. Check out what he replies on moreTPRS.

  14. I’m hoping someone on this blog can help me. Linguists have a term used to describe people who have been exposed to a great deal of Comprehensible Input but are unable to speak the Target language. They are called ??????? mutes. Second generation immigrants often dislike speaking or feel ashamed of speaking their parents’ language and may never use it while they can understand what is said. This is sometimes used as an argument against Krashen. I’m preparing a short article about a person I met who fits the description. But my tired old brain can’t remember the term used to designate someone who understands everything that is said but can’t express himself. (I mentioned the case on moretprs and S K himself asked me to write it up.)

    1. I have met many of these people–mostly first generation/some second gen. latino children and teens. There is quite a wide spectrum here–people who won’t/can’t speak the language at all, one word responses, code switching all the time, etc.

      There are many pressures that can and do affect one’s “ability” to produce language: pressures to assimilate from family and peer group, need to conform to the behaviors of the “in” group, the shame factor you mention, etc.

      Interestingly enough, over time and after co-creating a very trusting relationship with these kids, that “other” language often begins to appear spontaneously. These are kids who swore to me they didn’t speak any Spanish.

      I, also, see similar emotional peer pressures at work in my foreign language classroom. James Hosler can give us an earful on this one as can Ben.

      I look forward to reading your paper, Judith.

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