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Ciudad y País
bogota Colombia
Título y especialidad
Ma. en la enseñanza del ingles como lengua extranjera
Grado Académico
Institución a la que pertenece
Intereses académicos
Diseño e implementacion de programas academicos relacionados con la enseñanza del ingles



There are many factors related to the acquisition or learning of a second language. Notwithstanding more recently theories highlight three main aspects input, output and interaction. When we talk about input and output we have to consider every concept separately in order to understand how they interact independently in the process for acquisition or learning of a language but also how they need each other constantly.

This present paper shows some important points of view which represent two extremes in the second language acquisition/learning field. The purpose of this paper is to try to find a reconciliation state between those theories.
Before to start, it is important to clarify that in this paper I will refers not only to the acquisition/learning of a second language through the instruction or formal education but the informal which is related to the context where a learner can find the target language.


Input is the language information or data the learner is exposed and has access to. This input may be received from different sources(the teacher, textbook, readers, audio and video tapes…) Funiber, Glossary 2011
Krashen state that it is relevant the importance of input because it produce in the learner a subconscious process which permit to acquire and to generate more of the target language.

At the same time Krashen(1978) shows the difference between learning and acquisition of a language “According to Krashen there are two independent systems of second language performance: 'the acquired system' and 'the learned system'. The 'acquired system' or 'acquisition' is the product of a subconscious process very similar to the process children undergo when they acquire their first language. It requires meaningful interaction in the target language - natural communication - in which speakers are concentrated not in the form of their utterances, but in the communicative act.

The learned system or learning is the product of formal instruction and it comprises a conscious process which results in conscious knowledge 'about' the language, for example knowledge of grammar rules. According to Krashen 'learning' is less important than 'acquisition'.

But Ellis (1997, p.3) defines the second language acquisition as "the way in which people learn a language other than their mother tongue, inside or outside of a classroom". In this context he uses the term 'second' not to contrast with the term foreign but to express that whether people learn languages through the direct experience – living in the country, or as the result of the classroom instruction, "it is customary to speak generically of second language acquisition"
On the same hand Krashen also believes that to acquire a language, a learner needs input adapted to his/her level. It is something Krashen called which means the exposition to a comprehensible input based in a higher level than the learner´s. But the problem is to know how much is “just a little higher”

Despite of the premodified input in which Krashen tends to focused his works there are some other points of views. In a study carried by Pica, Doughty and Young (1986) they asked nine low-intermediate learners of English to carry out an assembly task under the directions of a native speaker. One of their hypotheses predicted that the nonnative speaker’s comprehension would be lower in the premodified input directions than in the unmodified input directions with interaction allowed.

The premodified input was characterized by greater semantic redundancy and less complex syntax, which was achieved by means of repetition or paraphrase. Despite these modifications, the results of their study Comprehensible input and learning outcomes confirmed the hypothesis above, since the comprehension on the part of the non native speakers was lower in the premodified directions than in the unmodified input with interaction. In other words, input is necessary, important but when it is accompanied by other factors.


In contrast to the input theories comes the term output which is for many people a quite different.
The Canadian Researcher called Merrial Swain was the first focusing on output process. She put forward the Comprehensible Output Hypothesis, which suggests that producing the target language are not only to enhance fluency and indirectly generate more comprehensible input, but also to facilitate language learning by providing learners with adequate opportunities to use their inter-language system for a better control and improvement of it.

The importance of creating opportunities for output, including what Swain (1985) has called “pushed output” (i.e., output where the learner is stretched to express messages clearly and explicitly) But many times controlled practice exercises typically result in output that is limited in terms of length and complexity. They do not afford students opportunities for the kind of sustained output for that reason is necessary for second language development. Nevertheless, it’s clear that language production (output) serves to generate better input through the feedback elicited by learners’ efforts at production.


The process of interaction is described by Long (1983) as "the negotiation of comprehensible input" (p.131). According to this the modification of language is produced during the negotiation of meaning between a native speaker and the learner of the target language. It means that a learner can focus on the language structures (grammar and vocabulary) through a conversation input (questions)-interaction-output using of course questions, prompts and recasts produced and provided by the native speaker. In here “it is through such negotiation for meaning that learners are oriented toward what they understand about the target language and the reality of the target language, or an area of the target language with which the learner is less familiar or unfamiliar” (Long, 1996: 452-453)

To sum up the views shown above and according to Tsui (2001: 121) Input refers to the language used by the teacher, output refers to language produced by learners and interaction refers to the interrelationship between input and output with no assumption of a linear cause and effect relationship between the two.


Despite of certain kinds of disagreement in relation to the acquisition of a language there is not any doubt about the importance of Input in it. Wong, «we cannot ignore the fact that learners need access to abundant amounts of comprehensible input in order for acquisition to happen» (2005, p. 34).

Therefore, researchers and teachers have become interested in the role of output in the SLA field with the emphasis on the development of communicative competence in the CLT classroom.

But how we can get a balance between these three main aspects input, output and interaction in the learning or acquisition of a second language: researches on L2 learning and instruction reveals that to be successful learners need both rich and varied input in the target language and opportunities to use the language (VanPatten, 2003) While Krashen (2003) is right that input is key, research by Swain (1995, 2005) and others reveals the importance of output and interaction as well. Swain (1993) suggested that output does at least four things, by giving learners chances for meaningful language practice, helping move them from semantic to syntactic processing, providing opportunities for them to develop and test hypotheses in their learning, and generating responses from others that they interact with, which can in turn help them (re)process their own output. In Lessard-Clouston (2007)SLA What It Offers ESL/EFL Teachers short, appropriate input of different types is great, but output is necessary, too.

SLA researchers Gass and Mackey (2006) build on input and output in outlining their interaction hypothesis, observing that in interaction both positive and negative feedback is an important component in students’ second language learning. So the implications here are that learners need to be provided with rich input in class or in every different context, opportunities for output (both written and spoken) and interaction in practice (DeKeyser, 2007), and helpful feedback on their L2/FL use.

I strongly believe that this interrelation is necessary to acquire or learn a language. To conclude we have to understand that anybody learn in the same way but if is taking into account that offering big possibilities to see, to listen and to produce the target language by interacting as much as possible is how a person would be proficiency.


[1] Ellis, N. C. (2002). Reflections on frequency effects in language processing. Studies in Second Language Acquisition.
[2] Krashen, S. (1985). The input hypothesis: Issues and implications. London, Longman.
[3] Long, M. H. (1985). “Input and second language acquisition theory”
[4] Pica, T. (1994). “Research on Negotiation: What Does It Reveal About Second Language Learning Conditions, Processes, and Outcomes?” Language Learning
[5] Swain, M. (1985). Communicative competence: Some roles of comprehensible input and comprehensible output in its development. In S. M. Gass & C. G. Madden (Eds.), Input in second language acquisition Rowley, MA: Newbury House.
[6] Tsui, A. (2001) Classroom Interaction. In R. Carter & D. Nunan (eds.) The Cambridge Guide to Teaching to Speakers of Other Languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
[7] VanPatten, B. y Cadierno, T. (1993). ”Explicit instruction and input processing”, en Studies in Second Language Acquisition.


[1] Input Processing in Second Language Acquisition: A Discussion of Four Input Processing Models. Teachers College, Columbia University, Working Papers in TESOL & Applied Linguistics, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 1 /359/260


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