[Susan notes: Krashen cites research all teachers should look at very closely.]
Submitted to Taipei Times but not published
In order to improve Taiwanese students' English
competence, specifically performance on the TOEFL
(Test of English as a Foreign Language), experts have recommended that English education be extended to all four years of college and that teacher quality be improved ("Students' English disappoints," November 7).
Those studying this issue may be interested to know that research shows that the best predictor of scores on the TOEFL is the amount of recreational reading students have done in English, reading that students select themselves and read for their own pleasure. Other studies come to very similar conclusions: Those in classes that emphasize pleasure reading acquire
more grammar and vocabulary than those in traditional classes.
These students have been done in several different
countries, and include important work from Taiwan.
Prof. Sy-ying Lee of National Taipei University has shown that the amount of pleasure reading done was a significant predictor of how well students performed on a writing test. Of great interest is the finding that the amount of formal study and the amount of writing done did not predict writing proficiency.
We know from linguistics that the grammatical system of any language is far too complex to be taught and learned: Linguists, in fact, admit that they have not yet succeeded in accurately describing all the rules of any language. In addition, academic English requires a vocabulary of between 50,000 and 150,000 words, far too many to memorize one at a time. Massive amounts of interesting reading allow students to absorb the complex writing style of English, gradually
acquire the huge English vocabulary they need, as well as complex grammatical rules.
Before prescribing "more of the same," we might
consider taking advantage of this easier, more
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