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Comprensible Input

Page history last edited by ahmet colak 9 years, 8 months ago

William Espeset

Linda McKeighen

Marie-Helene Lacascade 


What is Comprehensible  Input?


Comprehensible Input is a hypothesis that students acquire language best when they are given challenging, but understandable input.  The language should contain structures that are a little bit more difficult than the learner currently understands, but there should be the proper context to help the student understand the meaning.  Stephen Krashen believed that languages are acquired when the learner understands the intended message (Nunan, 1999). Vygotsky's Zone of Promimal Development also relates to Comprehensible Input becuase they both need the assistance of an adult in order to schaffold. Vygotsky Over time, and after enough exposure to the target language and its structures, the student will become proficient in the target language because she receives enough comprehensible input.  Some scholars even think that comprehensible input inside and outside of the classroom can teach a students the target language (Neuman and Koskinen, 1992). This means that students could effectively learn to speak the target language without traditional forms of language instruction. One means to achieve this would be to use communicative competence, one of the main purpurposes in a foreign language classroom: to learn to communicate effectively with native-speakers. 


Stephen Krashen's Input Hypothesis states that for learners, language is acquired by understanding input that contains linguistic structures that are just beyond the learner's current level of competence (i+1). Speech is not taught directly but emerges on its own. Early speech is typically not grammatically accurate. If input is understood and there is enough of it, i+1 is automatically provided (Krashen, 1985). Exemplary teachers should hold high expectations for their students, but these expectations should not be out of reach . As per Krashen (1981a, p.62) “People acquire second languages when they obtain comprehensible input and when their affective filters are low enough to allow the input into the language acquisition device;" this is learning taking place.


The following video is a good example of Stephen Krashen contrasting traditional instruction with and without the use of comprehensible input. You see how effective using comprehensible input is. Communicative Approach Note his remarks that he did EVERYTHING necessary to get his message across (using gestures and facial expressions).  



What does Comprehensible Input "look like" in the classroom? 

As you just saw in the video, Dr. Krashen believes that comprehensible input is important for language learners.  In the classroom, it could take essentially an unlimited number of forms.  For example, a teacher could show a video in the target language with subtitles.  This qualifies as comprehensible input because the actors are probably going to be speaking at a level more difficult than the students can understand, but the subtitles help provide context so that the message is understood by the students.  Comprehensible input could also take the form of a text in the target language that the teacher helps the students understand by teaching them difficult words or discussing difficult passages.  Another example of comprehensible input could be the teacher herself.  If she speaks only in the target language, she could slow her speech, use gestures, and/or provide other contextual clues for the language learners. The attached image displays various strategies used to help learners acquire comprehensible input. 


Comprehensible Input can be used in an interactive way in the classroom if the teacher and the students use the target language in debates, presentations, games, readings, conversations about world issues, and using PowerPoint presentations. Here is where the language becomes exciting for the students because the class becomes very interactive and students have high motivation where they are able to use their creativity. Students see first-hand the benefits of learning the target language and they see that the hard work pays off. They work best in classrooms when provided with the variety of learning strategies they have options to choose from. Some strategies we might see teachers use would include: speaking at a slower rate of speech, using shorter and less complex sentences, giving many examples, rephrasing, modeling and repetition, using gestures and visual enforcement, and using concrete references such as realia and hands-on manipulatives. Please open this video to help understand realia used in the foreign language classroom.  


By Katty Watson: (In this website a series of mini videos demonstrate comprehensible input in action in a Italian lesson.)


Why do teachers need to know about Comprehensible Input?


Teachers have different strategies available to them to teach while using comprehensible input.  Here are a few:



They can use these with students to negotiate meaning. This is paramount in a classroom. In any classroom, there are different types of learners with different learning styles and backgrounds. An important task of an exemplary teacher is to get to know her students well so she can accommodate students in the learning style that is best for them. The more they speak to students in the target language and use strategies and techniques to send messages, the more proficient students become. 


Teachers can still incorporate the i+1 of Krashen’s Comprehensible Input Hypothesis, while exposing them to a great deal of the target language by using these different strategies in the classroom. Understanding what Krashen’s hypothesis of Comprehensible Input is will help them know another great way to help students master a foreign language and negotiate meaning. It's important that learning a language is challenging, but understandable for the students. When teachers assign complex problems, students are taken to a higher level of thinking where they begin to use their critical thinking and can become proficient in the language. This is when students will feel more comfortable speaking the language more often. But as Krashen says, "expectations have to be reasonable; otherwise, if expectations are too high, students will not perform as well." 


It can be challenging to teach a foreign language in a classroom setting, especially when students become frustrated, fearful or bored if they didn't understand everything the teacher had said.  It is a complex process that requires a lot of expertise and patience from the teacher. But the teacher shouldn't give up giving the students as much comprehensible input as possible because it will benefit students in the long run.


Why do parents need to know about Comprehensible Input?

Parents need to know about comprehensible input so they understand why the teacher conducts the class primarily in the target language, or why the students are reading texts and watching video clips in the target language.  Some parents might not agree with the way the teacher runs her class so it is important the teacher explains this to parents, administrators, and students in hopes everyone fully understands the research behind the methods chosen.  Again, comprehensible input will benefit the language learner in the long run.


Teachers need to be in constant communication with parents so they know how students are progressing in class and how parents can enhance the learning of the target language outside of the classroom. Parents might even be able to help students with the target language at home. They can ensure students do their homework, complete projects, and participate in different community activities, places where students are exposed more to the target language. Teachers and parents might participate in community activities together where parents can meet other parents who speak the target language. To students to reach proficiency, it is important to practice and speak the target language inside and outside of the classroom setting.


How does Comprehensible Input concern students?


Comprehensible Input constantly challenges students and teaches the students the target language in a non-formal way. It concerns students because of the way they are taught that will impact their learning. If Comprehensible Input has a positive impact on them, they stand to benefit learning the language for the rest of their lives. They could potentially share that positive experience with their peers. If they have a negative experience, they might have a negative attitude about the target language and culture. To make it a positive experience, the teacher must ensure the lesson is engaging and interactive. They would incorporate new activities and strategies while speaking the target language as much as possible. In this way, students will share their memorable experiences with others when learning is fun and creative for all students.  An activity example would include this semantic map of a hand where verbs and pronouns are reinforced.  





If students understand that all knowledge they mastered learning their first language (academic English) could transfer to learn their second, they might feel empowered to realize they already have the skills and techniques available to them to succeed in comprehending.  


Further reading...


Larsen-Freeman, D., & Anderson, M. (2011). Techniques & principles in language learning. Oxford: Oxford U.P.


Neuman, S., & Koskinen, P. (1992). Captionedte levision as comprehensible input: Effects of incidental word learning from context for language minority students. Reading Research Quarterly27(1), 94-106. Retrieved from: http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.lib.usf.edu/stable/pdfplus/747835.pdf 


Nunan, D. (1999). Second language teaching & learning. (pp. 44-45). Boston: Heinle & Heinle Publishers.


Ormrod, J.E. (2012). Human learning. (6 ed.) New York, New York: Pearson Learning, Inc.


Comments (10)

Adam Schwartz said

at 4:21 pm on Nov 20, 2012

Hey team, fine work! A few points:

Wonderful use and contextualization of the Krashen video. What a nice, concise piece to really underscore your definition.

Be sure your line 'Why do teachers need to know about Comprehensible Input?' is bolded and sized appropriately.

Lastly, I notice all of your links are only within your first two paragraphs. Let's continue linking throughout your page, please! For instance, how about providing support/connections for the various strategies that are listed in the yellow image?

Finally, double check your spacing and indents under your references list...

ahmet colak said

at 2:00 am on Nov 30, 2012

I changed a few things, some punctuation and changed the refences a lit bit (separated Larsen-Freeman reference from Nunan' s work, and brought Larsen-Freeman before Nunan).
I liked your work here very much! :))

Linda0347@gmail.com said

at 11:42 pm on Dec 1, 2012

I am not quite sure what you mean by this but coming from you, I trust your judgement. Thank you!

ahmet colak said

at 2:07 am on Nov 30, 2012

I forgot to ask if you could enlarge the images, "The Comprensible Input Hypothesis" and "Why do teachers need to know about Comprehensible Input?". I did not want to mess up your page that's why I am asking. Thanks:)

Linda0347@gmail.com said

at 11:40 pm on Dec 1, 2012

Hello Ahmet! Yes, you can enlarge the images.

ahmet colak said

at 6:12 pm on Dec 1, 2012

Thank you William, now I can what is inside the images. May I suggest that you do not use indent for the references. The problem is as the screens change, the format of references also change. The tabbed (indented) parts on larger screens become part of the previous line; however, with a tab-long space in between the words. That was the reason I deleted the indents in the references. Of course, I respect your decision:)))

Linda0347@gmail.com said

at 11:41 pm on Dec 1, 2012

Thank you for the indent suggestion. I noticed that with the Mac and totally agree.

Linda0347@gmail.com said

at 11:43 pm on Dec 1, 2012

Ahmet, notice Dr. Schwartz's instruction to "indent". I sent him a heads-up on this situation.

marie16@mail.usf.edu said

at 10:34 am on Dec 2, 2012

Thank you Ahmet for your feedback and for wanting to help us.

Katty Watson said

at 12:22 am on Dec 3, 2012

Great job guys! I had read about Krashen before, but I had not seen him talking. Great finding. I totally agree that education should be engaging and interactive. That would helps absorb what we are being exposed to in a better way and for a longer period of time. That is the natural way of learning things.

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