Teaching reading strategies is great for teachers but not for readers : Striving Readers does not work. Stephen Krashen.

An interesting article from Krashen, which again shows that teaching reading strategies is not as effective as just making it easier for kids to read. Several hundred million dollars have spent on the Striving Reader program with relatively little effect. When I think of the books, professional development, class time and other resources that are poured into developing the skills of inferring, higher level thinking, critical thinking, anticipating and on and on…what a waste.

To quote from the article:

The programs are clearly skill-based, with only a brief mention of actual reading. There is variation among the specific programs, but they all emphasize direct instruction, including phonics, vocabulary instruction, and instruction in comprehension strategies. There appears to be no awareness of the possibility that a great deal of phonics, vocabulary and mastery of strategies emerge as a result of reading. “

“The 200 million yearly cost of Striving Readers would be far better spent investing in libraries.”

“I present the results for Striving Readers programs in several different locations, in their own words. The measure used was “effect size” which measures the size of the impact of a treatment. An effect size of .2 or less is considered small. The results are dismal. The differences between Striving Readers and comparisons was quite small, with effect sizes close to zero, and typically statistical significant.

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The best way to learn languages.

What is the best way to learn languages? What is going to lead to success in the shortest possible time? There are so many people offering advice on the Internet on this subject, myself included, it is hard to know what works the best. If you check out the list on this website you will find the names of many of these people, and you can read about them in the book by Claude Cartaginese called, what else , The Polyglot Project.

You can learn from all of them. But my conclusion is that the best way to learn languages is by doing what you enjoy doing in the language, and what best suits your circumstances, interests, tastes, and needs. It you do that, you will end up spending enough time to achieve your language goals. If you do not like reading and listening, don’t. If you like to speak when you have little knowledge of the language, do so. If you like SRS review, do it, if you don’t like SRS review, don’t bother, it won’t work for you. If you like grammar, go for it. If you dislike doing grammar exercises, don’t do them. In the end it won’t matter. What matters is that you spend enough time to achieve success in a way that is pleasant for you.

Not everyone can spend 5 or more hours a day, as I once did for Chinese. But do try to get in at least one hour a day. With MP3 players, the Internet, books, what have you, this is not hard to do, if you really want to. And of course the more time you spend, the better. But make sure you enjoy what you are doing or you will probably give up.

Three years to fluency in any language!!

If you google “fluency in ..months” you will find lots of web sites promising fluency in weeks or a few months. Who is kidding whom?

It struck me that most language learners would be very happy to achieve genuine fluency in three years.  Most language learners do not do it as a full time job. Three years to transform yourself into a fluent speaker of another language? Yeah!!.

If we look at what fluency can mean in terms of understanding another culture, more meaningful interaction with people of a different background, increased pleasure from movies, books, travel and other forms of personal and even professional rewards, yeah..three years!! Promise?

Why pretend it is going to take less? In my own continuing love affair with Russian, and ongoing side flings with Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Korean and others, I would not want it to take less,

The critical period hypothesis

Here is a presentation at TED which again stresses how we become less proficient language learners as we get older.

I have seen so many people past their 20s do very well at difficult languages like Chinese and Japanese, that I simply do not buy this. I also know that I am a much better language learner today than when I was in school. The reason is simply that I am more motivated, more experienced and more confident in my language learning.