Learning Spanish - Monitoring Hypothesis

By: Douglas Bower

Dr. Krashen explains that this idea, The Monitor Hypothesis, shows how language learning (grammar) affects language acquisition. This is, according to Krashen, the useful outcome of learning grammar. It acts as a "monitor" of spoken language. Krashen postulates that this monitor brings refinement and correctness to speech. It acts to correct errors in speaking the second language.

He also suggests there are three kinds of people who use The Monitor Hypothesis to one degree or another. There are those who consistently use the monitor to correct their speech. There are those who never learned grammar or choose not to use grammar to monitor their speech. Then, there are those who use their deliberately learned grammar in an appropriate manner in the monitoring of their speech.

An extrovert, for example, tends not to use his deliberate learning of the grammar of the second language in actual communication events. Introverts, on the other hand, tend to be perfectionists in how they use what they know about the language (grammar) in the monitoring of their communication in the second language.

Academics tend to debate the issue of whether grammar should be taught concurrently with second language acquisition. What makes a lot of sense is that when we learned our native tongue, there was just "language acquisition" taking place until we were able to advance to the first day of our beginning level of formal education. I often hear five- and six-year-old Mexican children using the subjunctive and doing so before they've had any formal, deliberate training in Spanish.

The point in my mind, my burning question, is that if it is true we are hardwired for learning language, and we did not learn what we knew when we started our formal education through the conscious learning of grammar rules, then why do we do the opposite when trying to learn how to speak a foreign language? Why do we pay for classes that have us memorize grammar rules and vocabulary words in absolutely no context?

The grammar first, or even grammar concurrently, seems to violate the brain's programming-our hardwired instinct to learn language.

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