How many reps? Who cares and why?

Lance touches on something that has lain at the heart of my questions about teaching methods. This is purely personal. My experience is that it is not the number of repetitions but the context that allows a form – be it a word, grammar, even a phoneme like the single tap vs trilled r of Spanish – to “lock in”. This is very subjective, it is something I feel inside, this “locking in”.
Why so many repetitions? To give the form a chance to occur in a context where it will lock in. That may be 12 times or 80 times. So much has to do with the learner’s attention level, personal background, etc.
And all that flies in the face of the current demand for total uniformity in our education system, a uniformity that serves our benevolent overlords rather than our students.

The term “Net hypothesis” came up on the thread, coming from early Krashen/Terrell writings and that is exactly what I am getting at in this entry: we don’t know when the “locking in” will occur (or even why), so we keep throwing L2 at the learner either naturally, in the course of interacting with native speakers, or unnaturally, in the classroom via tprs, knowing that the learner will select out what he “needs” in the way of i+1, understanding enough of the surrounding material aka input to follow along. VanPatten refers to this as “uptake”, I believe, that part of the input that you take up or lock in, in my terminology.


  1. Pat, this is so well stated. I hope people don’t set up an unnecessary dichotomy or false choice between 12 and 80. The “lock in” context can occur on the 9th, 23rd, 61st, or 79th, time–and all the times in between and maybe the 81st–because the “lock in” context may be different for every kid.

  2. I am not sure where Lance was coming from with his questions about repetitions on a TPRS listserve? The name of the game is target language exposure and language in classroom settings with a limited amount of hours.

    Comprehension, context, compelling…. these are words we know well in the field of TPRS and CI. I was frustrated a bit to see such message like that after not being on the moreTPRS listserve for awhile. Maybe I was cranky about something else…

    Summer is near and I hope to see both you and Brian for coffee soon!


  3. Terry Waltz says:

    And yet natural L1 doesn’t seem to differ significantly by those factors. I think sometimes other issues in school settings lead to overthinking of non-linguistic issues. Acquisition is unique.

  4. Pat Barrett says:

    Lance pursues this issue and it brings up another question for me: if we use repetitions to throw out a wide net, we cannot know, esp with a class rather than an individual, when everyone has acquired the structure, then how do we know when it has been acquired? I have ideas but I would like to hear from seasoned tprs-ers how they gauge acquisition. And step easy b/c we may be getting into the output quagmire.

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