An approach or method developed in the 1970s by Stephen Krashen and Tracy Terrell emphasizing that people “acquire” languages best by learning naturally like children do. Krashen and Terrell believed that comprehension should precede production and that students should not be forced to speak until they are ready. They proposed that production would emerge in stages. They believed that the course syllabus should be based on communicative goals and that activities should be planned to lower the affective filter and eliminate, as much as possible, any anxiety that students may feel about speaking a new language. In theory, if these principles are followed, students will feel comfortable with the new language and learn the language at an automatic level just as children learn their first language (L1). The approach is intended to help students acquire, as opposed to learn, a new language so that they will be able to understand and speak it automatically and fluently.
Strategy of Natural Approach
English Skill Level: Advanced Beginning to Intermediate
Grade Level: Elementary to Adult
Method: Natural Approach
- The teacher speaks to the students in the target language at a level they can more or less understand. The teacher may use pictures, actions, or realia to communicate meaning.
- The teacher asks questions that the students can answer. As students become more comfortable with the language, more difficult tasks such as role-plays, open-ended dialogues, discussion, and group work can be used.
- Students do not have to speak until they are ready to. They can be encouraged to speak but should not be forced to do so. The focus should be on communication, and error correction should be limited and nonthreatening.
Strengths of Natural Approach
- Students are more likely to participate actively and meaningfully when they feel they are ready to do so.
- Students can become fluent in the target language.
- Such an approach lowers the anxiety level of students, which is not only kinder but also more likely to produce positive results.
Weaknesses of Natural Approach
- The approach does not address academic needs of students, including reading and writing.
- Some students may need more impetus to speak.
- Students, especially older learners, do not necessarily learn a second language (L2) as they learned their first language (L1).