Language Acquisition

“We all acquire language in the same way, when we understand it.”
Dr. Stephen Krashen

Stephen Krashen’s Theories of Language Acquisition
A concise summary of Dr. Krashen’s hypotheses: Comprehensible Input, Affective Filter, Monitor, Natural Order and Acquisition vs Learning. These ideas were so radical when first published  in the 80’s. Research and time are proving them accurate. Still today, they challenge the language teaching profession to make a paradigm shift.

Books and Articles by Stephen Krashen
Language acquisition, literacy, bilingual education, education reform

Brain-based Teaching and Learning

Research on learning and brain functions has exploded in recent years.  New knowledge forces us to rethink how languages are taught and to question commonly held beliefs about how language is acquired and how skills develop.

“The discovery that human language learning was instinctual shattered the prevailing paradigm.  Until that time, everyone, from mothers to second language teachers believed they were actually teaching the target language. In reality, they were merely orchestrating the conditions for a natural, rather automatic acquisition.  It is a mind-boggling realization that humans are designed to learn complex languages effortlessly.  The reality is, therefore, that language fluency ought to be a joyful process.”
Eric Jensen, The Learning Brain

Joyful Fluency, Lynn Dhority with Eric Jensen
Practical classroom strategies in alignment with several brain-based approaches to language acquisition.  Read any of Dr. Jensen’s well-known titles such as Super Teaching, Teaching with the Brain in Mind and Teaching with Poverty in Mind.

Brain Rules, John Medina
Medina explains brain functions and learning with everyday language and memorable story examples.  Every educator needs to know these basics.  Read the book and/or enjoy the YouTube videos on the website.

Language and Music

Language, like music, is composed of lyrics (the words) and the musical score (phonetics, stress and intonation patterns).  Students may pronounce all the consonants and vowels correctly but it still doesn’t sound like the target language.  They’re speaking the lyrics of one language with the musical score of another.  Learners acquire the language’s lyrics and score through exposure to whole language comprehensible input.  Susan Zaraysky gives practical strategies for tapping into the musicality of language in her book Language is Music.  In this TEDEd video, Grammy Award Winner Victor Wooten, relates insights from how we learn our first language to learning/teaching music.  Everything he says also applies to the learning/teaching of languages.  Watch Victor Wooten’s full TED Talk.

Related to the Language is Music video, you’ll enjoy this tongue in cheek explanation of How to Read Sheet Music. This is how detailed grammar explanations sound like to beginning language students.

“Too many rules at the beginning actually slow you down.” Victor Wooten


Story Proof: The Science Behind the Startling Power of Story by Kendall Haven
This NASA scientist turned master storyteller leads the reader on a logical and easy-to read journey to arrive at an understanding of how we process our thoughts using the story format.  Every stop is based on logically-explained research.  Here’s another great selection for professional learning communities and educator book clubs.


The Power of Reading and Free Voluntary Reading by Stephen Krashen

The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease

Literature for Language Learners

Graded readers are leveled for novice, intermediate and advanced language learners.  As they build confidence and read more, students progress into the ability to read authentic texts.

Novels by Mira Canion
Each story takes place in a real historical setting
La vampirata
Agentes Secretos, Rebeldes en Tejas and Piratas
Teacher resources for Rebeldes en Tejas and Piratas

Novels by Blaine Ray
Multiple titles in several levels:  Chinese, French, German, Spanish and Russian

Novels multiple authors, TPRS Publishing
Spanish and French titles at various levels.

TPR Total Physical Response (TPR)
Dr. James Asher, Creator

Dr. Asher, studied how parents teach language to children.  When the same strategies are used in the classroom, learners of any age acquire language as effortlessly as a child.

Learning Another Language Through Actions by James Asher

Instructor’s Notebook:  How to Apply TPR for Best Results by Ramiro Garcia

Teaching English Through Actions, 101 Lesson Plans by Berty Segal Cook
(Also available in Spanish, French, German, Japanese and Russian)
I learned a great deal about sequencing and scaffolding easy to complex TPR from Berty! This book has excellent step-by-step instructions for the teacher and ideas for expanding TPR into future and past tense lessons.

Teaching for Proficiency Through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS)
Blaine Ray, Creator

Tapping into the powers of story, high student engagement and repetition, Blaine Ray blazes the trail to get teachers out of the grammar-based textbook and into communicative language teaching.  The “story-asking” strategies build classroom community and foster creativity while students acquire practical language at an accelerated pace.

Fluency Through TPR Storytelling by Blaine Ray

Putting It Together by Elizabeth Skelton
TPRS as a Sheltering Strategy for high school and adult English Language learners