One of the points that I mentioned in the post 'How to get 100% success in teaching a foreign language' was that around 90% students spend 9-12 years studying a language but still can't speak it. They may be able to parrot some sentences out, but they aren't autonomous speakers of the target language.
This is because they are 'learning' not 'acquiring'. By 'learning' I mean 'learning about'.
One of Steven Krashen's main points in the 80s was also that there is a distinct separation between 'learning' and 'acquiring'. He called it 'The acquisition-learning distinction'.
Now although he wrote a book on this in 1981 (31 years ago) titled 'Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Learning' we still find that in most schools and language institutes in Indonesia today language is still learned but not acquired.
I feel there are three reasons for this:
- The acquisition-learning distinction has not been socialized enough with potential and current teachers
- It is easier to test that language has been 'learned' rather than acquired (it can be tested just like any other subject)
- The text books which teachers are asked to teach from (and which are preparing for those tests) focus of course on learning rather than acquiring the language.
- It is easy to socialize the acquisition-learning distinction
- The nation will get a far superior benefit from almost 100% of High School graduates being able to communicate autonomously in English rather than 10%. Besides that more students are going to do well in the final year 12 exam in they have been actually acquiring the language for 9-12 years rather than just studying it.
- Teachers want to see their students successful. If the focus is changed to being able to autonomously communicate efficiently in the language rather than just get good test scores. I believe teachers will accept the challenge and any changes in the curriculum that supports it.
If students acquire English starting from their first year of primary education, they will do well in the TOEFL exams for entry into Universities because they will be competent in the language. The main things that are tested in the TOEFL exam are Reading Comprehension and Correct Vocabulary Selection (usually in the form of multiple choice questions). Grammar is tested but somebody with purely a conscious understanding of grammar will most likely do badly. The student with a subconscious understanding of what fits and what doesn't will do much better in questions relating to grammar. This has been proven in numerous studies and I have seen it also in my own personal experience with language students here.
Further more even if only a slight increase in TOEFL scores and fluency are found (worse case scenario) wouldn't it still be better that most students graduate with a communicative competency in English? a B1-B2 (European standard) competency alone opens ups many opportunities for the individual including but not limited to trade, education, employment, contacts, the global village, cultural perspectives and professional development. Essentially we would be giving millions of people a gift for life, the gift of another language.
So I hope this post has inspired you to spread the message of language acquisition which essentially means a campaign against 'language learning' as there is simple not time for both and our priorities should be clear.
Keep on sharing, shining and changing lives!