This paper is an attempt to shed light on the notion of Second Language Acquisition (SLA) in general, and the characteristic features of optimal input that accelerate the process of L2 acquisition in particular. Here, reference is made to Krashen’s theory of SLA which emphasizes the role of comprehensible input as the most important factor for language acquisition (Krashen, 1982), and the features that characterize optimal input.
The paper also explores other features that encourage and facilitate acquisitionin order for it to occur at its highest possible levels. Language acquisition occurs via two main mechanisms; the native language, first language acquisition (FLA) or a foreign language in addition to L1. In this case it is called second/foreign language acquisition (SLA).
Both processes are achieved through different means, but the main focus in this paper is on the latter; SLA. Krashen (1981) thinks that speaking the foreign language promotes acquisition, and conversation in which the acquirer has some sort of control over the topic and in which the other participants exert an effort to make themselves understood provide valuable intake. Krashen believes that the best activities for the classroom are those that are natural, interesting and comprehensible. He claims that if the teaching programme can provide these characteristics then the classroom may be the best place for L2 acquisition, up to the intermediate level. Similarly, Littlewood (1984, 59) considers “the ideal input for acquiring a second language is similar to the input received by the child, comprehensible, relevant to their immediate interests, not too complex, but not strictly graded either”. Krashen (1982) presents a set of requirements that should be met by any activity aiming at subconscious language acquisition. In this respect, he considers comprehensible input the most important factor for language acquisition, and he regards incomprehensible input as a factor that hinders L2 acquisition.
According to him, this explains why educational T.V. programmes fail to teach foreign languages unless the acquirer speaks “a very closely related language”. These factors have led Krashen to define the good language teacher as “someone who can make input comprehensible to a non-native speaker, regardless of his or her level of competence in the target language” (ibid,64). Krashen (1982) also strongly believes that the best input is so interesting, natural and relevant that the acquirer (the learner) may even “forget” that the message is encoded in a foreign language.
In addition, optimal input is not grammatically structured. When we focus on grammatical considerations, there will be less genuinely interesting input. He maintains that optimal input must be in sufficient quantity. It seems clear to him, however, that much time should be devoted to supplying comprehensible input, and that would stimulate more rapid second language acquisition in that the acquirer can get more of the target language (Hasan, 208).