This is part 3 in a 6 part series. If you haven't, please go and read parts 1 and 2 first. They are on the first two principle of the Comprehension Hypothesis: Acquisition and Learning, the Natural Order Hypothesis, and its role in social justice in the classroom.
So, I'm going to start today's blog with a story. It is a year's old story and one I often share in person but rarely in writing. I was at a speaking Latin event, often shared over a meal, and was engaged in conversation in Latin with a number of people. Someone asked me a question and I answered it. However, I used a word that another person in the conversation did not prefer. They proceeded to "correct" me using a vocabulary word they liked, but one I was not familiar with. I tried to continue the conversation, but they insisted on repeatedly "correcting" me and wanting me to repeat back what I'd heard. I did not. Instead, I became incredibly anxious that I was using Latin incorrectly and completely disengaged. I only answered questions briefly and mostly spent my time trying to figure out this word I didn't know. When I finally got home, I researched both words only to discover that not only was my use of the word correct, it was more common. I was baffled at the experience. Why was the preference of one word over another, when both were correct, such an issue?
The Monitor Hypothesis
This hypothesis/principle is two fold. The first piece speaks to language acquisition theory and states that, when certain conditions are met, conscious learning can happen and can be useful (Krashen, 1983). We can self correct or edit our output and it happens in both first and subsequent languages, when enough comprehensible input has been received and language has been acquired (Krashen, 1983). The second piece of this principle is a warning. When there is too much of this self-consciousness, too early, or at inappropriate times, it can cause damage and harm (Patrick, 2019). Knowing these things, it is clear to see what happened to my brain in the above story. When the monitor is applied inappropriately or before someone is ready, it raises anxiety levels to a point where, at worst, no communication happens and no comprehensible input is received. Now imagine what happens to a student...
The Monitor Hypothesis and Equity
Patrick (2019) describes these moments really well, "Relationships become awkward, and dangers and opportunities can be misread with too much self-consciousness... in great amounts can become entirely paralysing" (Patrick, 2019, p. 41). As teachers, we must be very careful with this hypothesis. If we force the monitor on students too early, they will shut down. If a student comes to us, asking for more, and we silence their questions, we shut them down. But even more so, consider these points of equity:
How I use the Monitor Hypothesis
The accusation is often made that because CI teachers don't teach explicit grammar until students are ready that "we don't use grammar". (1) Of course we use grammar. We use it every time we use the language. (2) What this argument really suggests it that we let our students "run rampant" all "willy nilly" with language. That isn't true either. I get it though. It's an easy jump to make when I say things like " I have no charts in my room" or when my students tell their friends at other schools, "we don't take grammar notes". So, if you'll indulge me, I'd like to share when I DO engage the monitor hypothesis.
Emdin, C. (2016). For white folks who teach in the hood: And the rest of y’all too. Boston, MA:
Krashen, S. (1983). The Natural Approach: Language Acquisition in the Classroom. Alemany Press.
Patrick, R. (2019). Comprehensible Input and Krashen's theory. Journal of Classics Teaching, 20(39), 37-44. doi:10.1017/S2058631019000060