Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Krashen

Imagine, if you will, in your mind what a doctorate in linguistics looks like. Pocket protectors? Pasty complexion? Greasy hair? Notebooks full of sentence trees? Dry humor referencing prepostional phrases? Overly caffeinated sweats? Saggy belly? A little too excited about bilingual research?

Anyone who has ever studied linguistics or language acquisition knows his name. Mainly, if you know what letters like TEFL TESOL EFL ESL ELD ELL have in common, you probably, or at least you ought to know who Krashen is.

edit: okay, perhaps we should narrow the linguistics field a bit to applied linguistics, the area specifically of language learning, which is where this Krashen fellow is the most prolific...

This guy basically put out some pioneering research centering around fancy terms like "Comprehensible input" "Affective Filter" and "Acquisition v. Learning". Most of these things are terribly, terribly basic ideas. Affective Filter is that people learn less or not at all in anxiety or fearful circumstances. Acquisition is how a baby learns English and Learning is how most of us learn foreign languages: slogging through grammar sheets and verb conjugations. Flashcards and memorization and practice.

I am a terrible linguistic nerd myself. I delight in breaking the rules, observing the patterns in languages I have learned and just speculating on how it is that I picked up that one word in Russian, and how I forgot it. I like to sometimes speculate on "bad words" in foreign languages and how it is that that they can be bad when if I say them when I hardly know what they mean. I actively avoid ending sentences with prepositions. I love just listening to spoken Russian or Spanish, like I would enjoy the voice of someone I love. I am just wierd that way.

I am not terribly sweaty, I can be rather pasty here in Portland here (more on that later, I got a product that has elicited some interesting comments), but suffice it to say, I am in no position really to be critical, I am always interested to hear what Krashen says.

And today was even better because in between hearing the jokes I heard 2 or so years ago, I got a mountain of papers corrected. Thank God, they sat there mocking me for so long. Have you ever heard papers that need to be corrected mocking you? It goes like this:

Me: To heck with you, I am going on a date with J, you will just have to wait.
The papers: Haha! You go! Have fun! But no wine for you because I will be here waiting for you when you get home! MUAHAHHAHAHAHAHA!
Me: icanthearyouicanthearyou. (slam! of door)

Krashen has a rather hilarious personality beyond the "skinny sweaty man in a green suit" fashion of his life. His wit is a razor, and is as irreverent as they come when it's the politics of grammar (don't ask) and teaching literacy/bilingual education. He makes fun of just about everything, which is good. He gave a crazy number of breaks (we started at 830 and had 2 breaks before an hour long lunch and 3 breaks afterward)

There is no doubt in my mind this man is making a massive killing on these things. We paid 175 dollars each, at 250 people, about 3 to 5 thousand for the space...no wonder he retired. He could do about 4 of these a year and call it good at if he cleared 35K a crack after expenses and before taxes.

And teachers are the exact right audience. They studied him in college, so he has credibility. He doesn't have to produce a college level chunk of research to impress his findings on his audience. He is pretty relaxed in these things. But it is well tolerated because he isn't saying anything that is particularly hard to swallow.

So what did I get out of this?

He cites some statistics relating to the availability of books in libraries and homes and how they compare with literacy test scores. The results are not surprising, so why in the world would anyone think that a school library with a certified librarian is an option? Kids with less access to books have lower reading scores. Not rocket science.

He talks about how bilingual education takes longer because the kids are digesting more information but ultimately result in a better educated individual. I buy this, but I understand how taxpayers are more interested in buying the economy sized education at the bottom of the line rather than the high end education with a good option package that really should be standard.

That is what Bilingual Ed is, it is the education for those who know what education should be. Still, the idea of paying a whole lot more for educating immigrants is too much to ask of taxpayers in general.

I am not going to nerd out on y'all, it would take me forever to do a good job of that.

4 comments:

Nick said...

Ermm, excuse me ... I have a doc in Linguistics and I had never heard of this guy - though I guess I probably would have done if I had studied Applied Linguistics versus all that frightfully fascinating stuff on morphophonology. Heigh ho! Life-long learning and all that jazz!

Megan said...

I CAN FINALLY COMMENT! I tried and tried before, but blogger wouldn't let me.

You know I love this post! But is it embarrassing myself to say I didn't realize he was still alive? haha All teachers in the state of CA should know who he is since we all have to be CLAD certified (that's to help all teachers deal with students who are non-native speakers). Even though his ideas are generally quite basic, I'm still fascinated by the dude.

Geek out all you want; you know I'll join you on the geeky ride my sista!

Adeline said...

i was wondering if my commenting thing was busted.
thass funny, you thought he was dead. Haha. He does a good job of being a very dry academic. I think in that line of work, ones pay must be commensurate with how dry one can make a subject that is actually really interesting.

actually i think he is only old enough to be like our dads...not that old, not like noam chomsky.

Mrs. T said...

Am soo jealous you got to see The Man, The Legend, Mr. TPR Himself, Stephen Krashen. WOW! One of my linguistics profs in college used to talk about having lunch with Noam Chomsky and I was in awe. I am in awe once more!
You and I are so simpatico in the linguistic realm- I am a total language nerd- . My students think I'm such a freak when I get all excited about language connections between English and Spanish and Latin and sometimes throw in some French. We learned the verb "vencer" and I related it to the English "invincible" and then I got to wondering if there was such a word as "vincible" and lo and behold, there is. I was so excited and my students were like "Eh." But, they are not language nerds like we are!