Stephen Krashen

stephen_krashenThree topics

Recording of talk here Language education these days is focused on the development of Academic Language Proficiency, the mastery of the vocabulary, grammar, and discourse style of academic, or professional language.

The usual approach is to teach these components directly, I argue here that this approach is not only incorrect, but presents students with an impossible task, and that there is a far better path: reading.

Nearly all of the conventions of academic language, its special vocabulary, grammar and discourse style are subconsciously absorbed, or acquired, from reading.

I propose three stages in the development of academic language: (1) hearing stories; (2) self-selected free voluntary reading that is of great interest to the reader; (3) self-selected academic reading, also in areas of great interest to the reader.  So-called “light reading” (stage 2) is a bridge from conversational to academic reading, bringing the reader to the point where academic reading is comprehensible.

If this hypothesis is true, it means a profound reorientation of the field of English for Academic Purposes.

Stephen Krashen is Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of Southern California. He is best known for developing the first comprehensive theory of second language acquisition, introducing the concept of sheltered subject matter teaching, and as the co-inventor of the Natural Approach to foreign language teaching.He has also contributed to theory and application in the area of bilingual education, and has done important work in the area of reading.He holds a PhD in Linguistics from UCLA, was the 1977 Incline Bench Press champion of Venice Beach and holds a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. He is the author of The Power of Reading (Heinemann, 2004, second edition).

His recent papers can be found at


4 Responses to Stephen Krashen

  1. Hi. Oh dear! I wrote a rather long comment here immediately after Stephen’s talk and when I
    pressed return to enter the text I received a message saying something like: “Sorry! There was an error uploading.” This is certainly not the first time this has happened to me, but it is about as demotivating as you can get! I’ve only returned to make a comment after a few days, and I am going to post this message separately before I repeat the depressing experience. Cennis



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  2. Well. That worked. 🙂

    Thinking back to Stephen’s brilliant, talk, both here for YLTSIG EVO, in many of the other talks of which there are videos on YouTube, [ I recommend a Google search].in his articles and books that I have managed to read ,, I find I want to make a note of some of his ideas which, over the years, have seeped into mine in a most influential manner: [What follows is my wording, not quotations].

    For example:

    The key concepts of: learning and acquisition and comprehensible input.

    I am cheered by his putting “grammar! in its place somewhere at the bottom in terms of importance to language learning.

    And in the context of ESP and writing in English,I love his categorization of correcting as “Editorial.”

    I was also fascinated at his description of his own learning experience. He read what he himself was interested in, not what others instructed him to read . And he remembers and learned from what he himself chose, not what his teachers ordered him to read. He also claims that he learned to carry out linguistic research and write academic books and articles by reading exemplary accounts of research and picking up the written style from what he read so attentively.

    Finally, he seemed to be saying, with reference to basic reading and understanding skills that the key factor was that the learning child and its family should not be victims of poverty. He repeated what has so often been pointed out. Children who grow up in homes where their parents talk to them read aloud to them, read themselves, where everyone reading is part of daily life and where there are books in abundance throughout the flat or house – those children .are privileged for life.
    Such children I can recount from my own experience often teach themselves to read, They do not have to be taught. They are determined and motivated to be able to do what all those around them can do.

    But only some children are born into comfortable, book-reading middle class families.

    The life-long task we as teachers and teacher educators have to work on is what we can do to enable and empower all our learners to be comprehending readers and writers in the environment and educational and social structures in which we and they live.

    We can take away from talks like Stephen’s sparkling insights, encouragement, new ideas, reaffirmation of our joy in the practice of our professions but how can be implement these things given the limitations, demands perhaps even hostility to some of our convictions from demands made by ministries, head teachers, even perhaps parents and learners themselves?
    Those are the tasks we are left with.

    I’ve posed some questions. Have you any answers or comments?


  3. mumarialuisa says:

    Dear Dr. Krashen
    Thanks very much for sharing this with us.
    Educators in our country, Peru, have been really worried about our students (from public schools) reaching the last position in an International Measurement of Comprehension skills in countries of the Pacific Rim.
    The question is if these students cannot understand what they read in Spanish, what happens when they read in English ( English is taught in public schools, two hours per week). To my surprise, I have noticed that students who are learning English have developed better comprehension skills and score better in Reading comprehension in English.

    A posible explanation of this may be what you are saying, in an English class we expose students to different kinds of texts and this exposure is gradual. In English we also have pre-Reading activities (the stories you mention in your article) and post activities (the discussions that you may organize after Reading the text or the reaction students have about it).

    Maria Luisa

  4. mumarialuisa says:

    HI Stephen
    I watched your presentation and could not help remembering all the fuss created by ranking last in 2013 PISA for Reading comprehension. Many people in the Government have suggested investing more money or reassigning the nation´s Budget to Education…. to repeat the same mistakes…

    Your statistics were really enlightening and your suggestions seem really easy to put into practice. I am looking forward to trying them out.

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