Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Power of Narrow Reading and Listening

Dr. Stephen Krashen is the top language learning expert in the world. He just published a new paper with Dr. Clara Lee Brown titled, "What is Academic Language Proficiency?"

In the article, Drs. Krashen and Brown discuss the best strategies for learning "academic English". Academic English is basically Advanced English. Its the English you need to succeed in universities and professional jobs.

Academic English is the next step after fluency.

So, how do you learn academic fluency? What does the research show?

1. Narrow Reading and Listening
"The narrow reading strategy is to read texts by one author, which helps ensure comprehension and natural repetition of vocabulary and grammar." (Krashen, 2004b).

Many students believe that they must listen to MANY different speakers and read many different authors. But, in fact, this is a less successful method. Picking just one speaker or writer is much better. Why?

Because speakers and writers naturally repeat many words and phrases. Each speaker has their favorite set of phrases. In speech, they naturally use these many times. By focusing on just one speaker, you will automatically get a lot of repetition of new vocabulary and grammar.

In other words, you will learn English deeply. If you want to learn academic English, you should listen to a speaker who discusses advanced topics. For example, in my level 3. lessons, you hear me discuss many academic-level topics related to culture, politics, human rights, and relationships.

By listening to all of the lessons, you naturally get a lot of repetition of common academic words, phrases, and grammar. You learn these deeply, but you don't need to try to memorize them. You learn deeply and automatically. You learn them effortlessly.

2. Don't Study Word Lists or Grammar Rules
We acquire language and develop literacy by understanding messages, not by consciously learning about language and not by deliberate memorization of rules of grammar and vocabulary (Krashen, 1981, 2003).

This is a very important point. To learn Academic Level English, you do not study grammar rules.... and you do not memorize vocabulary lists. As Dr. Krashen says, these strategies are failures. They are not successful.

To learn Academic Level English, you must listen to and read a lot of academic English-- and you must understand it. This seems simple, right?

The important point is that you MUST understand what you hear and read. How do you do that if the English is difficult? First, you can use interesting and fun lessons that help you understand more difficult articles and speeches.

Second, you can start with easy speeches and books, then slowly find more difficult ones. For example, you start listening to easy audiobooks for children. You pick one writer-speaker and listen to all of their books.

Soon, these will seem easy, so you find some books and audiobooks that are a little more difficult. You keep repeating this process, and within a year, you are reading adult novels.... and listening to adult audiobooks.

Finally, you choose academic level books, magazines, and audiobooks that interest you, and you listen to them everyday.

By following these methods, you will learn Academic English. You will understand Advanced vocabulary and grammar. You will correctly use advanced vocabulary and grammar.

And you will never again study grammar rules and vocabulary lists!

Listen To This Article at:
The Effortless English Podcast.


Bernard said...

Sound common sense approach focusing on what works
Very good pointers for the right approach.
I´ve been teaching in Brazil for 10 years and how to improve methods is the most important question

All the best

Bernard Itu

Dominic Waterford Ireland said...

yes , i agree , keeping it simple is the key , books like Enid Blyton,s are very useful tools and using simple questions to get students talking , the BBC flatmates audio series is very useful , and 1 page essays on simple topics ,