Stephen Krashen’s Five Hypotheses of Second Language Acquisition

January 25, 2022
By Sarah Angela Almaden
A male teacher helping a young female student

Unsplash Monica Melton

Interested in learning more about linguistics and linguists? Read this way.

What is linguistics? Linguistics is the scientific study of language that involves the analysis of language rules, language meaning, and language context. In other words, linguistics is the study of how a language is formed and how it works.

A person who studies linguistics is called a linguist. A linguist doesn't necessarily have to learn different languages because they’re more interested in learning the structures of languages. Noam Chomsky and Dr. Stephen Krashen are two of the world’s most famous linguists.

Dr. Stephen D. Krashen facilitated research in second-language acquisition, bilingual education, and in reading. He believes that language acquisition requires “meaningful interaction with the target language.”

Dr. Krashen also theorized that there are 5 hypotheses to second language acquisition, which have been very influential in the field of second language research and teaching

Let’s take a look at these hypotheses. Who knows, maybe you’ve applied one or all of them in your language learning journey!

1. Acquisition-Learning Hypothesis

The Acquisition-Learning Hypothesis states that there is a distinction between language acquisition and language learning. In language acquisition, the student acquires language unconsciously. This is similar to when a child picks up their first language. On the other hand, language learning happens when the student is consciously discovering and learning the rules and grammatical structures of the language.

2. Monitor Hypothesis

Monitor Hypothesis states that the learner is consciously learning the grammar rules and functions of a language rather than its meaning. This theory focuses more on the correctness of the language. To use the Monitor Hypothesis properly, three standards must be met:

  • The acquirer must know the rules of the language.
  • The acquirer must concentrate on the exact form of the language.
  • The acquirer must set aside some time to review and apply the language rules in a conversation. Although this is a tricky one, because in regular conversations there’s hardly enough time to ensure correctness of the language.

3. Natural Order Hypothesis

Natural Order Hypothesis is based on the finding that language learners learn grammatical structures in a fixed and universal way. There is a sense of predictability to this kind of learning, which is similar to how a speaker learns their first language.

4. Input Hypothesis

Input Hypothesis places more emphasis on the acquisition of the second language. This theory is more concerned about how the language is acquired rather than learned.

Moreover, the Input Hypothesis states that the learner naturally develops language as soon as the student receives interesting and fun information.

5. Affective Filter Hypothesis

In Affective Filter, language acquisition can be affected by emotional factors. If the affective filter is higher, then the student is less likely to learn the language. Therefore, the learning environment for the student must be positive and stress-free so that the student is open for input.

A cartoon practicing language acquisition

Language acquisition is a subconscious process. Usually, language acquirers are aware that they’re using the language for communication but are unaware that they are acquiring the language.

Language acquirers also are unaware of the rules of the language they are acquiring. Instead, language acquirers feel a sense of correctness, when the sentence sounds and feels right. Strange right? But it is also quite fascinating.

Acquiring a language is a tedious process. It can seem more like a chore, a game of should I learn today or should I just do something else? Sigh

But Dr. Krashen’s language acquisition theories might be onto something, don’t you think?

Learning a language should be fun and in some way it should happen naturally. Try to engage in meaningful interactions like reading exciting stories and relevant news articles, even talking with friends and family in a different language. Indulge in interesting and easy to understand language activities, and by then you might already have slowly started acquiring your target language!

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