MLE 501 - Language Acquisition, Education, and the Discovery of the Human Person ( An Essay)
Philippine Normal University
Taft Avenue, Manila
College of Languages, Linguistics, and Literature
DEPARTMENT OF LINGUISTICS, BILINGUAL EDUCATION, and LITERATURE
Language Acquisition, Language Education,
and the Discovery of the Human Person
In Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements in
MLE501 (Foundations of MLE and Language Acquisition)
S.Y. 2012-2013 / 2nd Semester
Saturday / 2:00 – 5:00 PM
Bernard M. Paderes
Master of Arts in Linguistics
Dr. Melchor A. Tatlonghari
Among the many theories that were discussed for the duration of the semester, the
one that seems to have provided me a strong bearing is that of Stephen Krashen. His Five
Hypotheses spell out the guidelines that language educators should take into consideration
in order for language learning and teaching to be effective if not totally successful.
Krashen’s first hypothesis, the acquisition-learning hypothesis, provides a clear
distinction between language acquisition and language learning. According to him,
language acquisition is an unconscious process that children employ in order to acquire a
first language. On the other hand, language learning is a conscious one. It happens through
formal instruction of forms, rules, and vocabulary words. Likewise, Doughty and Williams
(1998 as cited in Murcia, 2006) said that the best way to learn a language is not by studying
the structures but by experiencing the language meaningfully through communication.
This acquisition-learning dichotomy seems to suggest that if teachers want their student to
have a native-like competency in the target language, they should simulate an environment
that is similar to the environment of the target language.
The second hypothesis states that for language acquisition to take place there
should be comprehensible input. In a study done by Ellis (as cited in Nunan, 2010) among
11-13 year old children, he investigated the effects of three-hours of teaching on the ability
of children to use wh- questions. He found out that although there is noticeable change,
there was still no significant improvement in the use of the structure. He even stated that it
was in the quality rather than the quantity of interactions that mattered. If this is so, then
language teachers should ensure that the activities and tasks they are going to provide are
comprehensible and meaningful. It is through these that language inputs get into the
Language Acquisition Device (LAD) successfully.
The third hypothesis is the about the natural order hypothesis which suggests that
acquisition of grammatical structures is determined by a predictable “natural order.”
Depending on the language being studied, there are structures that are easily acquired at
an early age. Such order is independent of the learner’s age, mother language, and
conditions of exposure. In addition to this, he points out this natural order does not have
any implication on the language syllabus. In fact, he rejects the idea of sequencing
grammatical structures if the goal is acquisition. Considering this, language teachers should
employ a more natural and communicative approach in planning curriculums or syllabi
instead of the traditional grammatical ones.
The fourth hypothesis is concerned about the affective side of language learning.
Krashen states that the affective side of language acquisition deals with motivation, self-
esteem, and anxiety. According to Krashen (as cited in Rounds, 2010), for a successful
language acquisition to take when the learner should have a high motivation, high self-
esteem, and low anxiety. He illustrates the effect of these variables by stating the concept of
what he calls as “affective filter.” According to him having a low motivation, low self-
esteem, and high anxiety raises this filter and obstructs language inputs from being
absorbed by the LAD. Considering this, language teachers should make sure that the tasks
and activities are not only comprehensible and meaningful but also motivating and self-
Lastly, the fifth hypothesis is concerned with language monitoring. Krashen’s first
four hypotheses seem to devaluate the role of formal instruction in language learning.
However, he points out that while acquisition targets the learner’s fluency in the target
language, learning through formal instruction lets the learner to pay attention to accuracy.
This issue of accuracy deals mainly with eliminating errors. Errors used to be taken as
something undesirable, but Klassen (______) has began to view errors as “indicators that
learning is taking place, evidence that the mysterious LAD is working.” She suggested a
number of ways on how to use errors in the teaching of writing such as marking and
charting them in order for student to monitor their own weaknesses and even progress.
Therefore, language teachers should not view errors as something undesirable and must be
immediately eliminated. Instead, teachers should teach their students to view their errors
as indicators of how far they have gone through their language journey.
In conclusion, Krahsen’s hypotheses have provided language educators an idea on
how language could be effectively taught. Through these hypotheses, he has provided
comprehensive and empirical evidences for the puzzling LAD. And it is through these
continuing studies about the LAD that people will finally
Celce-Murcia, Marriane. (2006). Teaching English as a second/foreign language. MA:
Heinle & Heinle.
Nunan, David. (2009). Second language teaching and learning. Pasig: Cengage
Rounds, Mark. (2010, October 15). Stephen Krashen on language acquisition.
Retrieved March 12, 2013 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NiTsduRreug
Scovel, Tom. (2001). Leaning new languages. MA: Heinle and Heinle