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  • Judy Schulten

3. Consider the advice of Stephen Krashen: You’ll never be fluent if you strive for correctness.

Updated: Jan 24, 2020

Stephen Krashen is the author of many works on teaching English to speakers of other languages. They include The Natural Approach, a 1983 book which influenced my own teaching. He emphasizes the importance of listening for what is being said, not for how it’s being said, listening for information. He urges students to seek opportunity for extended conversations in which something important—something necessary to understand—is being said.

Krashen is also the person who memorably said you will never be fluent if you strive for correctness. Instead, you should strive for fluency and correctness will come. Why is this true? Because to focus on using correct forms requires taking your mind away from the conversation—away from the communication—and into a space in your brain where you detach yourself while you work out the correct form. Only then do you go back to the conversation, but, meanwhile, the flow of communication has died waiting for you. So, first of all, try for communication in the easiest and most natural way for you. It’s as simple as that. Don’t lose sight of this goal.

Meet Señorita Persnickita. She’s the “A” student in every high school class. She knows a good amount of Spanish, but will not open her mouth until she has mentally arranged a perfect sentence. Loosen up, Señorita Persnickita. Focus on communication.

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