* Krashen 6: Summary

krashen
In the light of Krashen’s reply to my criticisms, I’m sorry to say that my opinion of what is known as “The Monitor Model” has not changed in any significant way.

The basic problem with the model is that it relies on a distinction between acquisition and learning, where the SLA process is largely attributed to a very particular view of “acquisition”. Adults acquire a second language by picking it up in much the same way that children acquire their first language. That, briefly, is Krashen’s claim, and his comments on this blog do nothing to persuade me that the criticisms of it discussed here are wrong. All the other stuff, the monitor, the affective filter, and so on, do nothing to improve on the poverty of the main hypothesis, and so the whole shaky edifice falls. We should state, loudly and clearly, that the Monitor Model is a bundle of circular hypotheses which provide no satisfactory explanation of SLA.

Krashen, taking advantage of Chomsky’s Language Acquisition Devise (LAD), claims that adults can access the same natural language acquisition device that children use. But Krashen’s language acquisition device equates with unconscious acquisition of any sort: it’s a hopeless, unspecified, mysterious quality of mind which lacks any of the rigour associated with Chomsky’s LAD construct. Krashen gives no answers to the questions aimed at clarifying what his natural language acquisition device is, and fails totally to make it a construct which can be properly scrutinised.

Nor does Krashen give any satisfactory answer to the question “If adults acquire a second language in the same way as children acquire language, why don’t adults achieve the same end state?” The Affective Filter Hypothesis is all Krashen offers as an answer, and it gets my award for The Most Audacious Bolt-On Hypothesis (aimed at rescuing a main theory) of all time. Note that Krashen responds to the disparity between differences in end states of child L1 acquisition and adult L2 acquisition by appealing to the “THE PERFECTION FALLACY” = If it isn’t perfect, adult L2 acquisition must rely on different mechanisms. …. Adults, given enough comprehensible input and a reasonably supportive environment, typically acquire nearly the whole thing”. This is, I suggest, obvious nonsense, unless “nearly the whole thing” means “nothing like the whole thing”.

I invite anybody reading this final instalment to read Krashen’s replies and consider their weight. I suggest that he does very little to counter the criticisms made of his theory. He says, for example: “ I have provided explanations for all published cases of where it is claimed that conscious learning of rules seems to work. And the explanations are consistent with the constraints on the conscious Monitor”.
The “explanations” consist of interpreting the results according to his own theory, and amount to no explanation at all if you haven’t previously signed up to a belief in the nowhere defined construct of a “conscious Monitor”. The whole thing is an almost hermetically-sealed circular argument; an affront to rational argument.

If you look at Krashen’s replies to my questions about a natural order of acquisition, you’ll see Krashen at his worst. Rather than follow, and respond to, the main argument (there is no well-plotted order of acquisition, only evidence of the development of an interlanguage which The Monitor Model has nothing useful to contribute to), Krashen engages in a series of “clever” replies which get us precisely nowhere. And if you look at Krashen’s reply to the final criticism that his theory offends basic requirements of theory construction, you’ll see that he says: “What this means is that you are not satisfied with the evidence I have presented. More fundamentally it means that we disagree on how research should be done”. While I make it clear how I think research should be done, Krashen says nothing.

I find Krashen’s replies to my questions extremely disappointing. There is a refusal to really engage with the issues and a reliance on debating points and evasion which I find deplorable.

It’s been an instructive process for me, this exchange with Krashen. I rather hoped that Krashen would persuade me that his theory, for all its faults, was a valuable contribution to the construction of a theory of SLA. I thought that its huge basic appeal, its important kernel of truth, its implications for extensive reading, and more, could be used in an attempt to refine and re-work the model, but I now think there’s no such hope for it. We’ve moved on in our understanding of the SLA process and Krashen hinders rather than helps progress.

Two more quick points.

1. Hoey’s claim at the 2014 IATEFL plenary to have “proved” that Krashen’s model is supported by “reliable psycholinguistic evidence” is vaunted, arrogant, shoddy academic hogwash of the very worst kind. That such a respected figure in corpus linguistics could sail around so confidently in unknown waters (or, better said, stumble about so stupidly in unknown bogs) and fool himself into believing the drivel that he so eloquently spouted to his drooling audience is a depressing reflection on both him and the audience. He should have been booed off the stage.

2. Krashen’s political activity is as dubious as his Monitor Model. See this blog http://www.angelfire.com/az/english4thechildren/krashen.html

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