Optimal input in language learning
Input is an essential source of language learning and development. Without sufficient input, learners’ language development will not progress smoothly. They will not have the knowledge they they need to express their thoughts clearly, accurately and fluently in authentic situations.
Unlike 20 or 30 years ago where language input was not widely accessible, these days we are practically surrounded by massive amounts of oral and written language. Thanks to the Internet, students can now access a wide variety of language input from their mobile gadgets or home computers.
However, for language input to be useful for language learning purposes and for it to contribute optimally for language and literacy development, it has to contain rich language, i.e., it has to be affectively and cognitively appealing. The input will have to be linguistically accessible. This type of input is what Prof Stephen Krashen calls Optimal Input.
To obtain the most language learning benefits from optimal input, we can encourage students to do the following:
read a story book
listen to the same story via podcast
- read and listen to the same story from an audio book
view the same story as a movie on Youtube
have the subtitle in either L1 or L2 turned on for a more pleasurable experience with the story
adjust the speed by reducing or increasing the speed
- read and finish the whole book in one go if the book is not too long
read/listen/view at their own leisure: on the bus/train, at home, during recess, etc.
use their laptop, tablet, smart phone so that they can absorb the target language input on the go
share their feelings, thoughts etc. in a various forms and through various channels (e.g., blog, school website, or other social media apps such as FB group, Whatsapp group, Discord. As they share their thoughts with others, they get additional language input from their interactions with their peers.
There are many other things that we can guide students to enjoy the pleasure of being surrounded by rich, meaningful and comprehensible language input. The key thing to remembers is that students must have positive and pleasurable experience with the input. When this happens, students will feel energized to continue immersing themselves in the joy of reading and listening in the target language.