Follow-Up With Dr. Stephen D. Krashen on Some Current Issues in Second/Foreign Language

Transcribed by Marian Wang, Konan University

Participant Question: I agree that forced speech is harmful to learners when it causes embarrassment and anxiety. Rather than concluding that teachers should use a strictly input-based approach, I think there’s also a question of providing opportunities to speak—safe environments where speaking is not painful. Do you think this is a responsibility of language teachers? How would you approach facilitating this?

Stephen Krashen: First, there is very good reason for emphasizing input. The evidence is now overwhelming that input is the cause of language acquisition; approaches emphasizing comprehensible and interesting input have been consistent winners in the research. Second, to my knowledge, nobody has insisted on or even recommended a “strictly input-based approach”—that is, forbidding speaking. Rather, the concern is about requiring students to speak using language they have not acquired, in other words, “forced output.” It is "forced output" that causes anxiety, not output that is within the competence of speakers. Forced output does not improve language competence, and it raises anxiety. I review the evidence here (Krashen, 2018).

Why is speaking so unlike writing? If writing over and over again makes people better writers, why does the same not work with speaking?

Writing “over and over again” doesn’t make you a better writer. There is no relationship between how much you write and how well you write. What makes you a better writer in terms of writing style and accuracy is reading (input). I have tried to document this in my publications over the last few decades (Krashen, 2004). The same goes for speaking. Speaking is output, and we acquire language by input, not output (Krashen, 1994). But writing does something else, something different, but very important. Writing can help you solve problems and make you smarter! This happens through revision, the core of the “composing process” (Krashen, 2021).

The Ministry of Education is planning to introduce a speaking and writing test for university entrance exams. Are you totally against this government policy?

I am definitely against speaking and writing tests. (1) They will encourage more speaking and writing, with a focus on grammatical accuracy. Speaking and writing more does not result in better speaking and writing (in terms of accuracy and style) (Krashen, 1994). (2) Timed writing tests send the message that writing does not require planning and revision. In other words, timed tests discourage using writing to discover and solve problems. In the real world, there is little concern about how long it takes to solve an important problem: “I’m sorry Dr. Einstein, we cannot accept your paper on Special Relativity, it is one day late. . .” Timed tests deny the value of breaks. All writers on all topics experience writer’s block. Writer’s block is often a sign that the writer is about to discover something new, have a new insight. Writer’s block can be good news. A powerful way to deal with one is to take a short break and do something that requires little thinking. This allows your subconscious to deal with and actually solve the problem (Krashen, 2001). Speaking (interview) tests are even worse, requiring speaking on your feet about a topic given to you a minute ago. I am faced with situations like this in public, but I can only give satisfactory answers if the questions are about an issue I have already written about. Also, writing only works (helps us solve problems and makes us smarter) when we write about a problem that is important to us. We are all different, and have different interests. Finally, tests of writing and speaking are difficult to evaluate. Raters often do not agree with each other. In other words, it is hard to achieve interrater reliability.

What do you think prevents educational institutions from implementing more efficient and effective language programs?

One big reason: Many educational institutions have a limited idea of what is efficient and effective in education. Researchers have known for decades, for example, that simply having students write a lot will not improve their writing, and that encouraging reading produces better results. This finding was published over 50 years ago (DeVries, 1970) and has been replicated many times since. Why don’t administrators know about this kind of progress? The answer is that the research is buried in professional journals and books that most teachers and educational administrators are not aware of. Also, few people have access to this research, many articles are unnecessarily long and too often poorly written (in “tortured prose”), and professional books and journals are typically very expensive. The cure is short, clearly written articles published in open access journals and books, available to everyone free of charge. Here are a few of my very short and free papers on why we need short papers, why they should be free of charge, and why we need to write more clearly (Krashen, 2012a, 2012b, 2019).

Is there any advantage to sheltering grammar based on The Natural Order Hypothesis? In other words, using a grammatical syllabus in which rules are presented in the order they are naturally acquired.

No advantage at all. (1) It is not necessary: Our hypothesis now is that, given lots of very comprehensible and interesting input (Krashen & Mason, 2020), the grammar the acquirer is ready for is present in the input. This even includes rules that have not been described yet, and complex rules that are too hard to teach (but can be acquired). Any deliberate syllabus will leave out a lot of these rules. Untargeted input is much better; it contains all the grammar and vocabulary that linguists have described as well as those that have yet to be discovered and described. Given the right input, grammar will be acquired in the natural order, and there will be natural review. (2) What is at i + 1 for one student may not be at i + 1 for others. There is individual variation in rate of acquisition. (3) Any targeting, any focus on certain rules, constrains the aural input and the reading and often makes input very boring. These points are made in more detail in Krashen (2013).

Many universities in Japan require students to read a lot of books and track their word count using online quizzes. Some people suggest this is forced reading and not pleasurable. What do you think is the best way to encourage and assess extensive reading without forcing?

There are very good alternatives that do not involve forcing. The first step is to make sure there are plenty of good books and other reading material available, and that they are easy to access. This means, of course, a library with attractive displays that make it easy for readers to find books that are right for them. (A school library I visited in Switzerland displayed books of possible interest on the staircase leading to the library.) Second, provide some help so students can find books that they might like. This is especially important for readers in English as a foreign language. Methods such as Guided Self-Selected Reading (GSSR) include this, with teachers who are knowledgeable about books and sensitive to their students’ reading interests making suggestions. Readers are not, of course, obliged to select every book that teachers suggest, nor are they forced to finish each book they start to read (Mason, 2019). Another factor: The presence of professional school librarians to select and suggest books for students. This is supported by research. The presence of a good book collection and a certified professional school librarian makes a difference in students’ reading achievement (Lance & Kachel, 2018). Comic books! Researchers reported that placing comic books and graphic novels in a school library, but not allowing them to circulate, resulted in strong increases in library circulation of non-comic book material (Dorrell & Carroll, 1981). High school librarian LaDuska Adriance (2010) proposed a promising method of promoting reading: Her “Star Method” is simple—students draw a star or place a star-shaped sticker in the inside corner of library books they like. She recommended creating a special display of starred books, easily visible when students enter the library, and she reported great interest in the display among her students. The idea is that with time, books accumulate stars. This increases the visibility of popular books, not necessarily prize-winning books, or books recommended by adults, but books that fellow students have enjoyed. This needs to be tried out, and the results shared. What not to do—rewards. Kohn (2018) has pointed out that giving students rewards for reading sends the message that reading is so unpleasant that readers need to be bribed to do it (see also Krashen, 2007; McQuillan, 1997).



Kobe JALT would like to thank Dr. Stephen D. Krashen for responding to questions from the audience.



Adriance, L. (2010). Seeing stars: How I ignored my inner librarian and got kids excited about books again! School Library Journal, 56(7), 26–27.

DeVries, T. (1970). Reading, writing frequency and expository writing. Reading Improvement, 7(1), 14–15, 19.

Dorrell, L., & Carroll, E. (1981). Spider-Man at the library. School Library Journal, 27(10), 17–19.

Kohn, A. (2018). Punished by rewards: The trouble with gold stars, incentive plans, A’s, praise, and other bribes. Houghton Mifflin.

Krashen, S. (1994). The input hypothesis and its rivals. In N. C. Ellis (Ed.), Implicit and explicit learning of languages (pp. 45–77). Academic Press.

Krashen, S. (2001). Incubation: A neglected aspect of the composing process. ESL Journal 4(2), 10–11.

Krashen, S. (2003). Explorations in language acquisition and use. Heinemann.

Krashen, S. (2004). The power of reading: Insights from the research (2nd ed.). Heinemann.

Krashen, S. (2011). Free voluntary reading. Libraries Unlimited.

Krashen, S. (2012a). Academic jibberish. RELC Journal, 43(2), 283–285.

Krashen, S. (2012b). A short paper proposing that we need to write shorter papers. Language and Language Teaching, 1(2), 38–39.

Krashen, S. (2013). The case for non-targeted, comprehensible input. Journal of Bilingual Education Research & Instruction, 15(1), 102–110.

Krashen, S. (2018, November 9-11). Down with forced speech [Paper presentation]. The twenty-seventh International Symposium on English Teaching. Taipei, Taiwan.

Krashen, S. (2019). What I would like to see happen in 2019: Easy and free access to all scientific knowledge. Language Magazine, from

Krashen, S. (2021). Secrets of writing. Research in Language and Education: An International Journal, 1(1), 30–34.

Krashen, S., & Mason, B. (2020). The optimal input hypothesis: Not all comprehensible input is of equal value. CATESOL Newsletter, 5, 1–2.

Lance, K. C., & Kachel, D. E. (2018). Why school librarians matter: What years of research tell us. Phi Delta Kappan, 99(7), 15–20.

Mason, B. (2019). Guided SSR before self-selected reading. Shitennoji University Bulletin, 67, 445–456.

McQuillan, J. (1997). The effects of incentives on reading. Reading Research and Instruction, 36(2), 111–125.