Friday, 30 December 2011

Krashen's Monitor Model Theory

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Krashens Monitor Model Theory

Stephen Krashen is an expert in the field of linguistics, specializing in theories of language acquisition and development. Much of his recent research has involved the study of non-English and bilingual language acquisition. During the past 0 years, he has published well over 100 books and articles and has been invited to deliver over 00 lectures at universities throughout the United States and Canada. He works today for the University of Southern California.

Krashen is well known for his famous monitor model theories which were evolved in the late 170 s in a series of articles, and was later elaborated and expanded in a number of books, where he argued that his account provides a general or overall theory of L acquisition with important implications for language teaching.

Krashens theory of second language acquisition consists of five main hypotheses

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· the Acquisition-Learning hypothesis,

· the Monitor hypothesis,

· the Natural Order hypothesis,

· the Input hypothesis,

· and the Affective Filter hypothesis.

Presented in this report are these five basic hypotheses consisting the overall monitor.

The Acquisition/Learning Hypothesis

Acquisition requires meaningful interaction in the target language - natural communication - in which speakers are concerned not with the form of their utterances but with the messages they are conveying and understanding.” Stephen Krashen.

Krashen distinguishes between acquiring a language and learning about a language. The former occurs without our paying any attention to the process, it comes naturally as a subconscious process, identical in all important ways to the process children utilize in acquiring their first language. Acquisition comes about through meaningful interaction in a natural communication setting. Krashen sees acquisition as the real road to mastery of a target language. To Krashen it is not the setting itself that contributes to the overall development of second language skills, but conscious attention to rules that distinguishes language acquisition from language learning. Therefore even in a classroom environment can a student learn to master the inner-workings of the target language. Thus, language can be acquired in the classroom when the focus is on communication and other forms of meaningful interaction, which are also often found outside of the regular classroom setting.

To Krashen, learning is a conscious process, often resulting in students to know “about” the language and not “of” the language itself. According to him, learning does not turn into acquisition. Krashen based this hypothesis on claims first, there sometimes is acquisition without learning, meaning some individuals have considerable Competence in a L but do not know very many rules consciously.

Secondly, there are cases where learning never becomes acquisition, many can learn the rules of the target language and fail to apply them where needed. And lastly, no one knows anywhere near all the rules comprising the language, leaving gaps in the thorough knowledge of the learner, which may hinder his communication skills in the L.

The Natural Order Hypothesis

Language acquisition does not require extensive use of conscious grammatical rules, and does not require tedious drill.

Linguists working on the acquisition of L1 by children have discovered that the children appear to go through a series of stages, acquiring the different grammatical morphemes in regular and predictable sequences. Krashen holds that the same is true of SLA. His theory states that we acquire the rules of language in a predictable order, some rules tending to come early and others late. The order does not appear to be determined solely by formal simplicity. and there is evidence that it is independent of the order in which rules are taught in language classes The natural order of acquisition is presumed to be the result of the acquired system, operating free of language “learning”. Krashen’s theory implies that what is learned can only supplement what has already been acquired by the learner. The “learned” system can only polish what the “acquired” system has produced within the learner. Krashen’s research indicates that different learning strategies can produce different acquisition patterns in individual acquiring the same target language.

The Input Hypothesis

“Humans acquire language in only one way - by understanding messages or by receiving comprehensible input

Krashen states that all that the only way for a learner to make progress in an L1 is for her to be exposed to a sufficient amount of comprehensible input. The learner needs to be provided with input that is just a little beyond his or her present capacity ; it is in the effort that the learner attempts to comprehend the material where lies the source of his or her linguistic progress. The Input hypothesis is Krashens attempt to explain how the learner acquires a second language. In other words, this hypothesis is Krashens explanation of how second language acquisition takes place. So, staying true to the theme of the monitor model, the Input hypothesis is only concerned with acquisition, not learning. According to this hypothesis, the learner improves and progresses along the natural order when he/she receives second language input that is one step beyond his/her current stage of linguistic competence. For example, if a learner is at a stage i, then acquisition takes place when he/she is exposed to Comprehensible Input that belongs to level i + 1. Since not all of the learners can be at the same level of linguistic competence at the same time, Krashen suggests that natural communicative input is the key to designing a syllabus, ensuring in this way that each learner will receive some i + 1 input that is appropriate for his/her current stage of linguistic competence (How languages are learned, p.).

The Monitor Hypothesis

“Conscious learning ... can only be used as a Monitor or an editor.”

The Monitor hypothesis consists of the relationship between acquisition and learning and defines the role of grammar. According to Krashen, the acquisition system is the utterance initiator, while the learning system performs the role of the monitor or the editor. The monitor acts in a planning, editing and correcting function when three specific conditions are met that is, the second language learner has sufficient time at his/her disposal, he or she focuses on form or thinks about correctness, and he or she knows the rule.

It appears that the role of conscious learning is somewhat limited in second language performance. According to Krashen, the role of the monitor is - or should be - minor, being used only to correct deviations from normal speech and to give speech a more polished appearance.

Krashen also suggests that there is individual variation among language learners with regard to monitor use. He distinguishes those learners that use the monitor all the time (over-users); those learners who have not learned or who prefer not to use their conscious knowledge (under-users); and those learners that use the monitor appropriately (optimal users). An evaluation of the persons psychological profile can help to determine to what group they belong. Usually extroverts are under-users, while introverts and perfectionists are over-users. Lack of self-confidence is frequently related to the over-use of the monitor. Curiously enough, lack of self-confidence is a perfect transition into the final theory composing the monitor model, the Affective Filter Hypothesis.

The Affective Filter Hypothesis

“A mental block, caused by affective factors ... that prevents input from reaching the language acquisition device.”

Finally, the fifth hypothesis, the Affective Filter hypothesis, suggests that input alone is not sufficient ; the input must be experienced under conditions which lower the anxiety, and raise the motivation and the self-image of the learner. It embodies Krashens view that a number of affective variables play a facilitative, but non-causal, role in second language acquisition. These variables include motivation, self-confidence and anxiety. Krashen claims that learners with high motivation, self-confidence, a good self-image, and a low level of anxiety are better equipped for success in second language acquisition. Low motivation, low self-esteem, and debilitating anxiety can combine to raise the affective filter and form a mental block that prevents comprehensible input from being used for acquisition. In other words, when the filter is up it impedes language acquisition. On the other hand, positive affect is necessary, but not sufficient on its own, for acquisition to take place. The huge undertaking that is learning an entire language may prove not to be the most motivational task, especially to young (and even perhaps a little jaded) learners. Therefore it is important to keep track of the affective aspect of language learning. Being positive helps students stay the course.

Krashens hypotheses are very interesting, and provided some insights into the way we might present a foreign language and how we are to teach it. I personally view his theories to be very coherent and well thought-out, as I saw many similarities between his view on how second languages may be learned and my own personal learning of English. The study of Krashen’s theory has helped me to further understand how a person acquires a second language.


LIGHTBOWN M., Patsy, SPADA, Nina), How Languages are Learned,

Oxford University Press, (1)

Krashen, Stephen D. Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Learning. Prentice-Hall International, (188).

Webencyclo (00), www.webencyclo.com (French)

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