The Silent Period hypothesis is a stage in Second Language Acquisition in which the learner is not expected to actively produce any language.
The Silent Period is more common in children than in adult learners because adult are expected to speak during the early stages of acquisition.
The Silent Period is the first out of five periods in Second Language Acquisition:
- The Silent Period
- The Early Production Period
- The Speech Emergence Period
- The Intermediate Production Period
- The Advanced Production Period
This process in Second Language Acquistion is linked to the hypothesis introduced by Stephen Krashen.
Krashen indicated that learners should not be expected to communicate during the early stages of acquisition but they should improve their linguistic skills through active listening.
How Students Feel during their Silent Period
The following picture probably describes how students feel when they are in the silent period and they are surrounded by peers and teachers who are committed to speaking English in the classroom.
Some characteristics of learners during the silent period or pre-production stage are:
- Learners are able to understand more than they can produce.
- Students might avoid to be in situation in which they are required to speak.
- Instead of learning from the input of others, they tend to get discouraged and they get easily distracted doing other things in the classroom.
- Their vocabulary is limited to some hundred of words
Silent Period: Lenght of time
The length of time an ELL spends in the Silent Period depends on several characteristics.
Krashen claims that learners with high motivation, self-confidence, a good self-image, and a low level of anxiety are better equipped for success in second language acquisition.
Low motivation, low self-esteem, and debilitating anxiety can combine to ‘raise’ the affective filter and form a ‘mental block’ that prevents comprehensible input from being used for acquisition.
Recommendations to Avoid Feeling Like an Outsider in Communication Classes
First: Make sure you are not enrolled in the wrong class, sometimes learners enrolled in classes where classmates have already played with the language in schools, institutes or at work. Make sure you are in the right place with people who have the same level you have.
Second: Be enthusiastic, it is alright to miss one sentence or word here and there when your classmates and teachers are speaking.
Third: Stay busy with the language, students who study hard reduce the gap between them and their classmates. practice at home the new structures and grammar taught in classes .
Fourth: Look for ways to discover new language with friends, through music, movies or browsing the internet, that will expand your vocabulary and as a result you will be able to understand others more.
Fifth: Don’t give up, you need English and for that reason you are enrolled in classes so keep yourself motivated and moving forward , learning a language takes time otherwise everybody would know English.
For more information, Visit this Second Language Learning and Acquisition page