Re: [xmca] a reply to David Kellogg

From: Mark (
Date: Thu Mar 08 2007 - 18:28:02 PST

Dear David,

Here I was ready to sit down and begin reading a new book, when your mail
came through.

What do you really think would happen if Krashen and Vygotsky actually were
in the same room together? Putting aside Chomsky for a moment, he's in a
different ballpark, how far off really is Krashen's Comprehensible input,
from that of Vygotsky's ZPD when it comes to language acquisition?
Student's who learn new language or more properly put, acquire new language
in a second language classroom, do this how? In Japan we deal with the
confucious approach, so far off any Vygotskian or Krashenian thinking. Here
we open student's head, pour language in, and test them the next day. If
they fail, they're to blame. If they pass, the teacher is good.
Chomsky only proposed that with UG we can figure out how all this language
works, he doesn't touch acquisition, so from that point innatism is not
anything to do with Vygotsky. The critical period hypothesis as well has
been proven and disproven over and over, Scovel, White, they all touch base

But going back to the original thought of Krashen and Vygotsky being in the
same room. Put them in an EFL classroom. What would happen? Krashen's
thinking is from the teacher's point of view, I think. It is necessary for
lesson preparation. Who knows what the student's 'i' is and how we can go
from 'i' to 'i +1'? Neither Krashen nor Vygotsky focussed on any real
methodology, but moreover the process of how language is acquired. Students
don't know their real potential either, but once a lesson has been prepared,
the teacher then has the role of helping the students acquire the language.
Or helping them move through their ZPD's.

I agree that i+1 and ZPD are much different and yet at the same time, they
complement each other. Vygotskian approaches help the teacher understand how
to help the student move through their ZPD, based on a lesson created by i+1
thinking. Here in Japan we face the atrocious PPP approach to language
teaching, and when TBL took storm it was merely the way to cognitively
'bring students up to speed'. Vygotsky doesn't exist in Japan. Vygostky
doesn't exist when it comes to methodology either when it comes to EFL.

When students acquire the language, what do they acquire? I believe they
acquire what they can term as their own comprehensible input, by working
through their ZPD, they can themselves determine what they are ready for
and what they will not be able to do even if helped by the teacher. As you
mentioned VOLITION, is a key step, intrinsic motivation plays a key role,
but it all comes down to the student chooses what they acquire. Methodology
in this case would be something similar to a task based lesson which
focussed not on the communicative approach but on the skill of being able to
choose what language you needed and how to get it. The output hypothesis
comes into play here, but I think initially when a student needs to acquire
language, (and not for the purposes of a test) the student will need a
methodology in the EFL classroom which will help him or her acquire that
language through being able to ask for it. This is where methodolgy and
Vygotsky need to meet, so that the ZPD of the student can be self realized
and eventually through this the student will learn autonomy and choose their
own path to fluency.
So you can't dispel Krashen, he's needed, he just didn't take the right side
of the fence. His comprehensible input really is the movement through the
ZPD, through social interaction. He just wasn't thinking child-centered

Chomsky's UG is still up in the air as to whether it is available for SLA or
not, not for acquisition but for being able to determine how the language
works. I'm sorry I don't agree that there is opposition to Vygotsky here,
since the concepts are entirely different. Innatism, or the concept of UG,
is not acquisition. Vygotsky is acquisition through social interaction. How
we figure out the grammar is innate, how we use the language is Vygotsky.
The problem with SLA from a Chomsky point of view is whether UG is still
available the second time around. Vygotsky's acquisition is based on social
interaction, scaffolding and moving through the ZPD.

Hope to hear your thoughts on this one!


----- Original Message -----
From: "David Kellogg" <>
To: "xcma" <>
Sent: Friday, March 09, 2007 8:25 AM
Subject: [xmca] For Mark

> Dear Mark:
> Actually, you and I are in the same boat, as well as in the same neck of
> the woods. I do English teaching, and I work in East Asia. I'm also not a
> Ph.D; I only have an MA in applied linguistics (now of rather quaint
> antique origin).
> Let me put to you, then, a rather perverse proposition that I was turning
> over in my mind this morning on the Seoul subway: in most areas of the
> social sciences and humanities, certainly including the field of language
> teaching, it was the Russians who, after all, won the Cold War.
> This shouldn't really be so surprising. The Russian investment in
> language teaching outweighed the American one in much the same way that
> the American investment in the machinery of murder overwhelmed the Russian
> one. During the height of the Cold War, there were doubtless more English
> TEACHERS in Russia than Russian STUDENTS in America.
> I know that when I started studying Chinese at the University of Chicago
> there were almost as many teachers in the room as students (and most of
> the students didn't give a damn about China, they were self-righteous
> Maoists on their way to careers as neo-cons).
> But the discoveries that the Russians made about language teaching sit
> rather uncomfortably with what Westerners think, and in particular with
> what we teach. Vygotsky's writings about foreign language teaching are not
> extensive, and some of them seem rather contradictory (though when you
> think carefully about them you see that they are not).
> On the one hand, he believes that the "early years" are made for languge
> learning and especially foreign language learning. He was even a rather
> enthusiastic champion of bilingual parenting, of which he was, of course,
> a product. But on the other he holds that foreign languages are a school
> subject like any other, and should be taught that way, and that when the
> process of learning is so different, the product cannot possible the same.
> He argues that fluent use of the foreign language will emerge only after
> many years of study, if then.
> There is, in fact, no contradiction here at all. He rejects the Piagetian
> notion that foreign languages can be built by "displacing" the child's
> first language learning strategy; he wants to build the foreign language
> on the level of the child's most advanced (most abstract) understanding of
> his native language and not begin all over again at the bottom. That is
> why (to use a very broad brush) Russians treat their children as adults in
> the classroom, while American teachers prefer to treat adults as children.
> Krashen is a particularly bad example. Krashen and all the other
> "comprehensibilists", "inputtists", "immersionists" and peddlers of
> painless or unconscious or non-deliberate language learning in the West in
> general must believe that children start over again at the bottom.
> Cameron says, for example, that there is a "switch point" at
> approximately seven or eight, before which the child learns better in
> spoken language and after which the child learns better in written
> language. She claims that this "switch point" must be considerably delayed
> in a foreign language. Vygotsky claims precisely the opposite.
> Above all, for Vygotsky, learning involves VOLITION. Now, if you think
> about it, you will see that this places him in DIRECT opposition to both
> Chomskyan innatism (the theoretical basis of Krashen's "LAD") and the
> emerging paradigm in foreign language learning, which is probably
> emergentism. Both of these argue for a bottom-up learning of foreign
> languages. But Vygotsky holds that they are learnt from conscious analysis
> to unconscious synthesis.
> The Russians know. During the Cold War, the image we had of the "Evil
> Empire" as a kind of Klingon society; highly advanced technologically with
> their sputniks and vostoks and whatnot, but basically feudal and maybe
> even savage in their social relations. But as soon as we look at their
> successes in language learning, we realize that the real Star Trek, as
> opposed to the one on TV, was a tragedy: the Klingons won.
> David Kellogg
> Seoul National University of Education
> PS: I'm afraid I disagree with Phil about Lantolf and Thorne's new book,
> "Sociocultural Theory and the Genesis of Second Language Development". I
> thought Lantolf's edited compilation "Sociocultural Theory and Second
> Language Learning" was much better. But both books contain a good
> refutation of Krashen and unconscious learning (Swain's contribution in
> the latter).
> The problem with Lantolf and Thorne (for me) is that it's really an
> edited compilation without the contributors; it's an attempt to integrate
> personal accounts, activity theory, dynamic assessment, and a whole number
> of paradigms that are not only incompatible with each other, but each in
> its own way incompatible with Vygotsky. The ways in which they are
> incompatible with LSV are studiously ignored.
> The worst point (for me) is Lantolf's absolutely uncritical acceptance of
> his informant Genung's complaints about the informant's Chinese teacher,
> and out of hand rejection of the Chinese point of view (Lantolf and
> Thorne, p. 242, but see also Lantolf and Genung in Kramsch ed. Language
> Acquisition and Language Socialization, London: Continuum).
> Geneung's complaints (I wouldn't call them criticisms) are EXACTLY what I
> heard from my peers as a student of Chinese at the University of Chicago.
> Maybe that's why I speak Chinese today while most of them are probably
> getting ready to invade Iran. It's certainly this kind of bloody-minded
> imperialist contempt for other points of view on teaching that lost
> America the Cold War.
> dk
> ---------------------------------
> Don't be flakey. Get Yahoo! Mail for Mobile and
> always stay connected to friends.
> _______________________________________________
> xmca mailing list

xmca mailing list

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Sun Apr 01 2007 - 01:00:10 PST