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December 09, 2003

Krashen vs Childs - Part II

A letter printed in the Daily Yomiuri by the famous Stephen Krashen challenging an article by Marshall Childs has elicited the following response from the author (DY, Dec. 7. Unfortunately, the original article is no longer accessible on the DY site, except to paid subscribers) "No risk to children from bilingual upbringing "I am flattered to attract the attention, even the public criticism, of the famous Dr. Krashen (Letters, Dec. 2). But in this case I must protest that the good doctor seems to have gotten his preconceptions ahead of his facts.

"In response to my column, Krashen wrote that Japanese parents who presume to speak English to their children may actually damage the children with "imperfect" English, for imperfect communication "can cripple emotional and intellectual development."

"Certainly it is true that poor parent-child communication can have bad effects. developmental psychologists teach us the ways in which this can happen.

"But does "imperfect" English lead to poor parent-child communication? The logic is missing a middle step. Surely Krashen is not proposing that the child is able to judge and reject all but the Queen's English. Nor can he mean that "imperfct" English thrusts children into the condition of "wild children" (those few children, famous in psycholinguistic literature) who were denied access to any language and whose psychological development was indeed strange. What, then?

"Human beings use language and many other means to communicate love, security and other necessary messages. Judgements by others as to the degree of perfection of the languages used have nothing to do with the quality of a parent-child relationship or of the emotional and intellectual development of the child.

"To my knowledge, language that others may judge "imperfect" does not, by itself, cause bad communication. Parents and babies usually communicate quite well. The families I have studied were communication very well indeed.

"Where is the evidence that "imperfect" language impairs parent-child communication to the point of causing psychological damage? If Krashen is in possession of such evidence, he owes aily Yomiuri readers - and mankind - a full account of it.

"Marshall R. Childs, Numazu, Shizuoka Prefecture"

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