Thursday, May 30, 2013


8. Natural approach

Definition of The Natural approach is one of the communicative approaches to language teaching of the present time. It is based on the work of Tracy Terrell and Stephen Krashen who published their book The Natural Approach in 1983. The book contains theoretical parts with regard to second language acquisition theory prepared by Krashen, as well as sections on classroom implementations prepared by Terrell.


The natural approach is one of the, "language teaching methods based on observation and interpretation of how learners acquire both first and second languages in non formal settings." (Richards & Rodgers 2001: 190) Krashen and Terrell saw the approach as a, "traditional approach to language teaching [because it is] based on the use of language in communicative situations without recourse to the native language." (Richards & Rodgers 2001: 178) 

The approach focuses on input, comprehension, and meaningful communication and puts less emphasis on grammar, teacher monologues, direct repetition and accuracy. 
The theory as well as the design and procedures in The Natural Approach are based on Krashen's language acquisition theory. The basic principles of Krashen's theory are outlined in his Monitor Model (1982), a model of second language acquisition consisting of five hypotheses: 

1. The acquisition-learning hypothesis makes a distinction between acquisition and learning. Krashen defines acquisition as, "unconscious process that involves the naturalistic development of language proficiency through understanding language and through using language for meaningful communication." (Richards & Rodgers 2001: 181) Learning, on the other hand, is a conscious process in which rules of a language are developed; this process only occurs through formal teaching, and cannot lead to acquisition. 

2. According to the monitor hypothesis, "the acquired system initiates a speaker's utterances and is responsible for spontaneous language use." (Lightbown & Spada 2006: 37) The learned system, by contrast, has the function of a, "monitor or editor that checks and repairs the output of the acquired system." (Richards & Rodgers 2001: 181) This monitor can, "either operate post-hoc in the form of self-correction or as a last minute change of plan just before production." (Gramley & Gramley 2008: 97) Moreover there are three conditions which have a limited effect on the success of the monitor: time, focus on form and correctness, and knowledge of rules. 
3. The natural order hypothesis says that, "the acquisition of grammatical structures proceeds in a predictable order." (Richards & Rodgers 2001: 182) This natural order can be found in first language acquisition as well as in second language acquisition. 

4. According to the input hypothesis, "acquisition occurs when one is exposed to language that is comprehensible and that contains i+1." (Lightbown & Spada 2006: 37) The "i" stands for the acquirer's current level of proficiency. He is able to move to a higher stage by understanding language containing "i+1" (where "+1" stands for language which is slightly beyond the acquirer's current level of competence). 

5. The affective filter hypothesis states that there is an "affective filter" which can act as a, "barrier that prevents learners from acquiring language even when appropriate input is available." (Lightbown & Spada 2006: 37) With regard to second language acquisition affective variables can be attitudes or emotions like motivation, self-confidence and anxiety. A low affective filter is always desirable because a high affective filter, which can be found for example with anxious learners, "prevents acquisition from taking place." (Richards & Rodgers 2001: 183) Krashen also tried to explain variations in success in language acquisition with this hypothesis; in particular he used it to explain the advantages of children over adults regarding language acquisition. 

With regard to language teaching Krashen's hypotheses imply: 
"as much comprehensible input as possible" (Richards & Rodgers 2001: 182) 
materials and aids that foster comprehension 
focus on reading and listening 
meaningful communication and interesting input to keep the affective filter low 

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