The silent period, or preproduction, is a stage in second language acquisition where learners do not attempt to speak. Silent periods are more common in children than in adult learners, as there is often more pressure on adult learners to speak during the early stages of acquisition. This can be due to communication demands such as a language being necessary at work, or to mainstream language teaching methods insisting on production from the very start of instruction.
In second language acquisition research
The silent period is often associated with Stephen Krashen's input hypothesis, and does not appear very frequently in the modern second language acquisition literature. Krashen hypothesizes that learners are building up language competence during their silent periods through actively listening and processing the language they hear, and that they do not need to speak to improve in the language. He says that silent periods of up to six months are not unusual. According to VanPatten and Benati, although discussion of the silent period in modern second language acquisition research is rare, this is not necessarily any indication that the idea is wrong; rather they are of the opinion that it indicates how the priorities of the field have changed.
In language teaching
The silent period has been put into practice in language teaching methods such as Total Physical Response, the natural approach, the delayed oral response approach, and the comprehension method. In Total Physical Response and the natural approach, the instructor is specifically recommended to wait for students' speech to emerge naturally, rather than forcing early output.
- Tomioka, Taeko. The Silent Period Hypothesis. Sanno Junior College Bulletin, 1989, 22:150-162
- VanPatten, Bill; Benati, Alessandro G. (2010). Key Terms in Second Language Acquisition. London: Continuum. ISBN 978-0-8264-9914-1.
- Haynes, Judie (2007). Getting Started With English Language Learners: How Educators Can Meet the Challenge. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. p. 29. ISBN 978-1-4166-0519-5. Retrieved 16 May 2013.
- Julio Foppoli's article "The Silent Period of Second Language Acquisition" at Eslbase.