Article – the Effectiveness of the Comprehension Hypothesis

Article Critique Comprehensible input in SLA

Article Critique


The article authored by Ponniah (2011) analyzes comprehensible hypothesis (CH) in alternative hypotheses describing how the second language is acquired. Ponniah (2011) emphasizes that the CH is more powerful than the alternative hypotheses in explaining how people acquire second language knowledge and skills irrespective of criticisms. Also, the article compares the impacts of incidental and intentional or explicit learning of a new language. After analyzing a few empirical studies, Ponniah (2011) concludes that learners retain more words of a new language when engaging in incidental rather than intentional learning. The intended audience of the article’s content is the teachers of second language learners (SLL). The article’s purpose is to reiterate that despite criticisms, the CH significantly explains how students acquire a second language. Also, the article focuses on emphasizing the superiority of incidental to intentional learning Article – the Effectiveness of the Comprehension Hypothesis.

2. Analysis

One of the article’s strengths is that Ponniah is an experienced English language learner teacher. As noted in the article, he has twelve years of experience teaching English to students in India. As such, he has practical experience of the applicability of the CH relative to other hypotheses in explaining how students acquire a second language. Also, he has practical experience of the effectiveness of incidental relative to intentional learning of language. Another strength of the article is the use of empirical studies by Ponniah (2011) to support his claims. For instance, Ponniah (2011) uses the results of the studies conducted by Tekmen and Daloglu (2006) and Sánchez and Schmitt (2010) to support the claims about the superiority of incidental learning of a new language Article – the Effectiveness of the Comprehension Hypothesis. On the other hand, one of the notable weaknesses of the article is the author does not use empirical evidence to support the claim about the superiority of CH. Instead, Ponniah uses the logical approach of explaining why CH is powerful.

3. Key Elements

One of the key ideas in the article is that second language learners retain more words and other aspects of a language when engaged in incidental learning than in explicit or conscious learning. I can apply the idea in the second language acquisition (SLA) context through increasing instructional strategies facilitating incidental learning. A good example is asking students to watch exciting videos.

4. Personal Analysis and Critique

In agreement with Ponniah (2011), incidentally, is superior to intentional learning in supporting the understanding of new words in a second language and their applications in different contexts. Also, the CH helps explain how learners acquire a new language through incidental learning. However, words have more aspects, such as semantic and lexical information, that may not be obtained through incidental learning. As such, conscious or intentional learning is also valuable. As such, the incidental should complement the intentional and conscious learning of a second language Article – the Effectiveness of the Comprehension Hypothesis.

5. Personal and Practical Application

In the future, I would adhere to the suggestions made by Ponniah (2011) in informing instructional strategies in SLA contexts. First, I would combine strategies for incidental and conscious or explicit learning of language. In addition to teaching aspects such as semantic and lexical aspects of new words, I would allow the students to experience their use in different contexts. Further, I would focus on building on the knowledge the students already have of the new language, as suggested by the CH.

6. Reflection

I can apply the information learning in the article on teaching methods in various ways. One of the ways is activating the knowledge the students already have about a language before teaching them new vocabularies, words, or phrases. One of the ways is connecting them to their past experiences. I would also incorporate instructional strategies supporting incidental learning by asking the students to read stories written in the targeted language. Also, I would incorporate more strategies for content, presentation, such as asking the students to play games and watch videos in which they experience the contextual application of new words.


Ponniah, J. (2011). The Effectiveness of The Comprehension Hypothesis: A Review of The

Current Research on Incidental Vocabulary Acquisition. I-manager’s Journal of English Language Teaching, 1 (2), 1-4 Article – the Effectiveness of the Comprehension Hypothesis.