Tag Archive: theories of language acquisition

The Silent Period in 2nd Language Acquisition

Silent Period of 2nd Language Learning

I remember that when I started to learn Spanish, I was so anxious to speak Spanish that it was unreal. I could not understand why it took me so long to say even basic stuff spontaneously, even when I could do all the exercises and phrases right in my workbook. It just made no sense.

But then doing some research on the Internet, I came across Stephen Krashen’s theory known as The Silent Period. You can read more about this in Wikipedia.

According to Stephen Krashen’s (and quoting Wikipedia)
(…) learners are building up language competence during their silent periods through actively listening and processing the language they hear, and that they do not need to speak to improve in the language. (…) Silent periods of up to six months are not unusual.

And that’s when it hit me: this is what happens to babies learning to speak their first language too. You can talk to any one or two-year old baby and they can pretty much understand everything you say_ as long as you don’t talk politics. However, when they have to speak their vocabulary is rather limited.

With this idea in mind, I did some more digging and came across this interesting article that you can see here. It was awesome to see that my idea wasn’t so crazy after all!

Quoting the article:

The main characteristic of this stage is that after some initial exposure to the language, the learner is able to understand much more than s/he can produce. You can easily see this in two-year-old babies too! You can speak to them normally and they can definitely understand whatever you say. However, even if they wanted to say exactly what you said, they would not be able to. They may use some of your words but they would find it impossible to express their ideas in a similarly organized way, in spite of the fact that they may understand every single word we said.

It seems that just been unable to speak all we know is actually “normal” when learning a language and it’s just a matter of time until that “passive vocabulary” becomes active.

The Silent Period of Second Language Learning

What can we do in the meantime? I guess we just need to keep working on our lessons, watching videos for fun, reading as much as we can about topics we find useful and just be patient.  What do you think?

Find out more about my journey to learn Spanish. Click here..  Make sure you know the conditions of use of this website. Click here.

Learning Spanish: The Affective Factor

The biggest problem for most Americans who want to learn Spanish, but do not succeed is the emotional factor. In simple terms this means that emotional problems; ie adults panicked at the thought of making mistakes seems like too much to bear for them.

The Affective Factor in action!

I have been with many American expatriates and monolingual Canadians in Mexico who do not speak Spanish. Therefore, they are forced to live in different Gringolandias because they are too afraid to communicate in Spanish. They themselves see the problem as his “old age” or as a cantankerous old coot he said, “I have too bad a willingness to learn Spanish.”

Indeed, the fear of making a mistake is the issue here. If you attend a class or you are in place when it comes to producing something in oral language paralyzing fear may overwhelm you. You feel you have to act against others who can be really good in the language. This is too much for some people. They think to themselves that they will die of humiliation because they will have to speak Spanish in front of a cruel audience.

So, what should one do? First of all prepare before signing up for a class in the country or abroad.

One of the biggest myths in foreign language teaching is that going to the country where the language you want to learn to be spoken is the best way to learn Spanish.

Fact: appealing as it may sound, this “immersion” will be an extremely costly and time-consuming operation
For starters, it will not be true as Immersion Language Immersion defined along. If you go to the country where the language you want to learn is spoken, you will soon learn that classes are taught in the same way classes are taught in the United States only in the language of the host country.

You have the ability to ask even if you understand what is taught. Make your own preparation in the privacy of your own home until you have accumulated a level of confidence to produce language in front of a teacher and classmates.

Use  commercially available products on the market to learn some Spanish before launching into a situation in a class performance against others!

Is it possible to have Spanish immersion in a non Spanish speaking country? Find it out here!.  Struggling to say a word in Spanish! Find out why that may be happening here!