Tag Archives: input hypothesis

Input and Output in the Language Classroom

Language acquisition is a multifaceted process, shaped by various factors and methodologies. The ideas of input and output often play a significant role in any discussion of how language is acquired.  Let’s look at the intricate interplay between input and output, drawing insights from the book “Common Ground” by Florencia Henshaw and Maris Hawkins.

Input and Output in the Language Classroom (French, Spanish)

How is Language Acquired?

At its core, language acquisition is an implicit process, unconsciously constructing a linguistic system by connecting form and meaning based on the input we receive. It’s the subconscious work that takes place while we’re immersed in comprehending messages, operating beyond our conscious control. Language acquisition thrives on grasping the portions of input that assist in decoding the intended message, as opposed to consciously dissecting language rules.

Communication, conversely, revolves around the deliberate interpretation and expression of meaning. Our focal point on communication hinges on two pivotal questions: What information or content is being conveyed? And what will the audience do with this information? These inquiries form the bedrock of meaningful interaction and exchange.

The Role of Input

Input serves as the cornerstone of language acquisition since understanding must precede the establishment of form-meaning connections.

The Role of Comprehensible Input

Krashen’s Input Hypothesis introduces the concept that learners progress in language when they comprehend input that is slightly beyond their current proficiency level, often referred to as “i+1.” While Krashen’s ideas have evolved and faced criticism, a consensus remains regarding the importance of comprehensible input. Crafting such input involves a combination of strategies:

  • Ensuring that the topic and text type align with students’ proficiency levels.
  • Employing visual cues, body language, and target language equivalents.
  • Utilizing examples that relate to common associations and cognates.
  • Gradually delivering content and simplifying language.
  • Embracing circumlocution to convey intended meaning.
  • Incorporating authentic resources to provide genuine context.
  • Implementing comprehension checks to maintain communication-driven interactions.

While explicit instruction isn’t deemed necessary for acquisition, directing learners’ attention to grammatical forms during meaningful communication can be beneficial in strengthening form-meaning connections.

The Role of Output

Output, defined as the production of the target language to convey meaning, plays an essential but distinct role in language development. Merrill Swain’s Output Hypothesis suggests that pushing learners to produce accurate and meaningful messages facilitates language development by prompting them to pay closer attention to linguistic form. Output assists learners in recognizing their gaps in knowledge and affords opportunities for testing hypotheses. However, Hawkins and Henshaw contend that output doesn’t construct the linguistic system; its primary function lies in helping learners identify their input needs.

While there is often a significant emphasis on input, the role of output remains paramount, particularly in communicative language teaching. Traditional teaching methods tend to prioritize output, associating communication primarily with speaking and writing. However, the equilibrium between input and output isn’t dictated by a fixed ratio. Instead, it is essential to provide ample communicative input and grant the linguistic system the time it requires to develop organically, particularly at the novice level.

You can also listen to episode 63 of the World Language Classroom Podcast where I go in-depth on the topic of input and output.

In Conclusion

The journey of language acquisition involves a delicate dance between input and output. Both are integral components, each contributing uniquely to the development of linguistic competence. By understanding their roles and finding a harmonious equilibrium, educators can guide learners towards achieving language proficiency and effective communication.


Henshaw, Florencia Gilio, and Maris Hawkins. Common Ground Second Language Acquisition Theory Goes to the Classroom. Focus, an Imprint of Hackett Publishing Company, 2022.

Sales, Antonia De. “The Output Hypothesis and its Influence in Second language Learning/Teaching: An interview with Merrill Swain.” Interfaces Brasil/Canadá, vol. 20, 2020, pp. 1–12,

94: Targeted Comprehensible Input with Angie Torre

How do we choose the input that we use when engaging students in comprehensible input activities?  In this episode, we are talking about the idea of targeted comprehensible input.  Angie Torre, a Spanish teacher in California, joins me to talk about the pros and cons of using targeted and non-targeted comprehensible input.  There are likely diverse opinions on this out there, so here is our chance to find the common ground.

Topics in this Episode:

  • what “targeted” and “non-targeted” Comprehensible Input are and their objectives
  • the varying opinions on both approaches
  • Angie’s personal reasoning behind using targeted Comprehensible Input
  • the benefits of considering age and developmental levels in the language acquisition process
  • planning of a lesson or unit that using targeted Comprehensible Input
  • sheltered videos, how do you use them, and the effectiveness 

Connect with Angie Torre:

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Compelling Input and Output in the Language Classroom

It is essential that language be comprehensible so that that students can make form-meaning connections, however it also has to be of interest and compelling to learners. This is what motivates them to engage and make meaning. But, what about how students use the language they are acquiring?  That also needs to be compelling to students.  Let’s look at how to make input compelling along with output activities that are of particular interest to learners as well.

Compelling Input and Compelling Output, Comprehensible Inout, CI, French and Spanish.

Comprehensible Input Hypothesis:

  • Language acquisition occurs when learners are exposed to messages that are slightly beyond their current level of language competence
  • Learners acquire language subconsciously, through their own natural processing abilities, rather than through direct instruction or explicit grammar rules.

Compelling Input Hypothesis:

  • Learners are more likely to acquire language when they are exposed to messages that are interesting, engaging, and personally relevant to them.
  • Compelling input captures learners’ attention and motivates them to engage with the language, which can lead to more effective language acquisition.

Making Input Compelling:

  • Incorporate authentic materials, such as news articles, podcasts, videos, and TV shows, that are interesting and relevant to your students’ interests and cultural background. The format can be as compelling as the topic.
  • What movies, TV shows, books, games, sports events or local events are happening? School related activities?
  • Use exit tickets to figure out what the interests are?  Use Card Talk Drawings.
  • Focus on meaningful communication instead of grammar rules. Research has shown that language acquisition is more effective when students are focused on meaning rather than form.
  • at their age and proficiency level

Compelling Input and Compelling Output, Comprehensible Inout, CI, French and Spanish.

Compelling Input and Compelling Output, Comprehensible Inout, CI, French and Spanish.

 Making Output Compelling:

  • Provide students with opportunities to use the language in authentic situations, such as role-playing scenarios, mock interviews, and real-life simulations. 
  • Give students choice and autonomy in their learning by allowing them to select their own topics and projects. 
  • Provide feedback that is specific, actionable, and focuses on both form and meaning. 
  • Use the same formats for making input compelling to provide opportunities for compelling output.

Compelling Input and Compelling Output, Comprehensible Inout, CI, French and Spanish.

Compelling Input and Compelling Output, Comprehensible Inout, CI, French and Spanish.

Podcast episode on this topic:


  • Krashen, S. D. (1985). The Input Hypothesis: Issues and Implication. 
  • Krashen, S. D. (2011). The Compelling (not just interesting) Input Hypothesis