Comparative Essay Assignment
Stephen Krashen’s and Noam Chomsky’s Theory
Names: Tania Contreras Novoa.
Katherine Jofre Novoa.
Teacher: Iris Roa.
Course: Learning and Acquisition of English as a Foreign Language.
There is undeniable influence of the American linguists Stephen Krashen
and Noam Chomsky on studies and research related to the acquisition and
learning of second languages. Since their major works were published about
twenty years ago they are still widely debated in the academic setting. However,
what almost everyone has missed is the importance of the notion of these
authors in the process of language acquisition. Consequently, this essay will
present two assumptions that comprise Stephen Krashen’s and Noam
Chomsky’s theories of second language acquisition. It will compare and
contrast the point of view of these authors and it will briefly present some
examples of each postulate.
To start with, all humans are born with the ability for acquiring language,
due to the constant interaction with other members of the society. Regarding to
this, children are receptive to the common characteristics of all languages,
because they are born with a universal grammar. For that reason, at twelve
months most infants produce one or two words that everyone recognizes
(Spada & Lightbown, 2006). Besides, in Chomsky's view, the innate knowledge
is represented by a ''little black box'' in the brain, which is called language
acquisition device (Brown, 2007). For instance, a child does not spend its early
years repeating words or phrases, but in identifying grammar variations to
construct new sentences. In consequence, the child is always forming
hypotheses of the input received, and as the child's language develops, those
assumptions are constantly corrected, reestablished or sometimes removed
(Brown, 2007). Hence the process of language acquisition depends on the
contact that the speaker has with the environment, due to the fact that infants
develop the capacity to understand language and they expand this innate ability
At the same time, Krashen illustrates that language acquisition is a
subconscious process that does not require use of grammatical rules
(Lingtechguistics, 2009). Related to this, children are not concentrated in the
structure of their sentences, but in the communicative perform. A particular
example of this process could be the acquisition of Spanish as a second
language, where the syntactic order of a sentence includes the noun followed
by the adjective, while English speakers pronounce the adjective before the
noun. However, even these differences in grammar or syntax could be ignored
by the learner, because they will understand them as a normal component of
the language to which they are becoming exposed (Krashen, 2009). As a result,
Krashen’s model is compare with the acquisition of a first language, which
includes factors such as motivation, self-confidence and low level of anxiety that
contribute to the learner success. Thus Stephen Krashen's theory is very similar
to Chomsky's assumption in terms of language acquisition, in view of the fact
that these authors propose that language is naturally obtained.
In contrast, for Krashen adults should acquire a second language in a
natural order. In the first place, learners of a second language usually acquire
some grammar rules before and the other grammatical structures later, because
they follow a common pattern. Besides, the order of acquisition is parallel to the
difficulty’s level (Krashen, 2009). For instance, the result of a longitudinal
research of the language growth made by Brown (2007) and his colleagues and
students, shows that the present progressive ing and the plural s are the first
morphemes acquired, meanwhile the third person singular simple present s and
the auxiliary be are the final morphemes acquired by children (Spada &
Lightbown, 2006). Notwithstanding, the sequence of acquisition of a second
language is different from the first language order (Krashen, 2009). However, in
order to acquire a second language successfully teachers should teach the L2
by following this innateness way of acquisition (Robinson, 2013). Therefore,
there is certain order in the acquisition of a language, even though each
language has different sequence of acquisition.
At the opposite pole, for Chomsky there is a Critical Period to acquire a
language. Animals and humans can acquire diverse sorts of knowledge and
skills at certain times in life, because they are biologically organized. It refers to
a period of language’s growth in which is possible to acquire completely a
language. In the case of adults, who are beyond these critical period it is difficult
or even impossible to acquire the competences in the language (Spada &
Lightbown, 2006). For instance, if an adult that has passed the critical period
travelled to another country and is immerse in the culture, he or she will surely
acquire the language, because she/he is completely involve with the
environment and has had the opportunity to practice and to develop her/his
speaking skill. According to this example, the hypothesis states that many
factors have influenced the language acquisition process. Then, according to
this assumption language should be acquire in infancy or adolescence, but no
beyond these stages. For that reason, Chomsky's and Krashen’s assumptions
differed in terms of the stages in which the language is acquired by the speaker.
Taking everything into account, the process of acquisition and learning
languages are relating with each other, because both authors mentioned that
language is only human and is the first way of communication that every child
learnt. Chomsky claims that language is innate and every human being born
with the ability to communicate, even though the success of the language
acquisition depends on the interaction that the child has with the environment
(Spada & Lightbown, 2006). At the same time, Krashen notes that language is a
subconscious process and is obtained in a natural way, due to the fact that
grammatical structures are genetically fixed through the exposure to the
language (Krashen, 2009). As a consequence, Krashen and Chomsky
hypothesis are focused in the communicative method, considering that the point
of discussion of these linguists is the way in which an infant acquired and
learned a language. Thus, Krashen’s and Chomsky’s hypothesis are very useful
in terms of teaching process, because both authors mentioned several factors,
such as the age of the speaker, motivation and self confidence that must be
considered at the moment of acquiring language.
Brown, H. (2007). Principles of language learning and teaching (Fifth edition
ed.). Pearson education.
Krashen, S. D. (2009, July). Principles and practice in language acquisition.
Retrieved April 12, 2014, from
Lingtechguistics. (2009, February 5). Motivation and Learning theories for SLA
through Chomsky, Bandura, Vygotsky, Krashen, and Gardner. Retrieved April
12, 2014, from http://lingtechguistics.com/2009/02/05/motivation-and-learning-
Robinson, P. (2013). The Routledge Encyclopedia of Second Language
Acquisition. (P. Robinson, Ed.) Retrieved April 12, 2014, from
Spada, N., & Lightbown, P. (2006). Language learning in early childhood. In N.
Spada, & P. Lightbown, How languages are learned. Oxford University Press.