Second Language Acquisition

Stephen Krashen and Tracy Terrell first explored five stages of second language acquisition in their 1983 book, The Natural Approach. The chart below outlines the five stages and typical teacher prompts or types of activities that are used in class. It is important to realize that students pass through the stages at different rates depending on their exposure to the language, and as new vocabulary and structure are introduced, often the students will devolve back to a lower stage until the new material is acquired. By the end of Fourth Grade at CRES, most students are operating at the high levels of early production and some at at the Speech Emergence stage. Learning a language is very time dependent.... the more time is dedicated to the learning, the more quickly a student will move through the learning stages. In an immersion setting, a student would move through these stages at a rapid pace; at 60 minutes a week, it is a much slower process, especially when one realizes the monumental task of learning a foreign language.

Stage Characteristics "The Student" Teacher Prompts
  • Has minimal comprehension.
  • Does not verbalize.
  • Nods "Yes" and "No."
  • Draws and points.
  • Show me …
  • Circle the …
  • Where is …?
  • Who has …? 
 Early Production
  • Has limited comprehension
  • Produces one- or two-word responses.
  • Uses key words and familiar phrases.
  • Uses present-tense verbs.
  • Yes/no questions
  • Either/or questions
  • Who …?
  • What …?
  • How many …? 
 Speech Emergence
  • Has good comprehension.
  • Can produce simple sentences.
  • Makes grammar and pronunciation errors.
  • Frequently misunderstands jokes.
  • Why …?
  • How …?
  • Explain …
  • Questions requiring phrase or short-sentence answers
 Intermediate Fluency
  • Has excellent comprehension.
  • Makes few grammatical errors.
  • What would happen if …?
  • Why do you think …?
  • Questions requiring more than a sentence response
 Advanced Fluency
  •  The student has a near-native level of speech.
  • Decide if …
  • Retell …

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