learning with steve: the affective filter hypothesis in language learning, what does it mean?

affective filter

I know you have read a lot of the works of Stephen Krashen. What does he mean by the affective filter?

I believe this refers to anything that creates tension or anxiety and prevents us from learning and speaking the language we are learning. This is a very common phenomenon. Many people remain reluctant to speak, and have great anxiety not only about speaking but about the whole learning process. This greatly reduces the efficiency of their learning activities.

How does Krashen believe we can reduce these affective filters?

He believes that too much emphasis on correct output, in the early stages of learning, can be a major reason for these anxieties. Krashen believes we should not correct people in the early stages. He also believes that a sufficient silent period, during which the learner absorbs the language and doesn’t speak, is important in order to avoid anxiety.

What has been your experience in this regard?

I have not done the research that Professor Krashen has done, obviously. All I have is my personal experience as a learner and as someone who has seen other learners struggle. I am a strong believer in an early silent period in order to build up our familiarity with the language. I also believe that this emphasis on grammar instruction in the early stages creates the sense amongst many learners that they have to speak correctly or not all. This is an obstacle to fluency.

A public speaker who doesn’t need to refer to a text will always be more fluent than someone who feels compelled to refer to notes. Often if we don’t have a text and just wing it, we do well. If we have a text handy, we will feel the urge to refer to it and we will speak less well. If we have had grammar rules and tables drilled into us, we are reluctant to just let go and wing it. Surprisingly, this can be an impediment to fluency.

I do refer to grammar rules and do so frequently during my learning process. However, I do so without expecting to remember anything. I do it in the hope that it will help me become more alert and attentive when I’m reading and listening. It is the massive input through large amounts of listening and reading that will enable me to speak well. Of course to speak well I also have to speak a great deal.

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