What is Automatic Language Growth?

Update: This new video gives an introduction to the Automatic Language Growth approach, telling the story so far of the ALG method and theory:

More information is available on the post about the video. You can find a script on Beyond Language Learning’s new page on ALG, where further background information will be added.

Almost everything I write here will directly reference or be influenced in some way by my knowledge and experience of Automatic Language Growth, so it’s worth starting off with a summary of this approach to language learning.

Automatic Language Growth, or ALG, is intended to bring learners of any age from no knowledge of a language to the native speaker’s level of ability without conscious effort.

ALG is based on the theory that, contrary to popular belief, adults have not lost the ability to pick up languages as effortlessly as young children do, and reach native-like levels of fluency and accuracy.

What has actually changed is their environment and the approach that they take, and these changes are the cause of the difficulties and lower attainment we typically observe in adults.

Adult language learners typically lack the rich environment of experiences through which children learn to understand and acquire languages.

Even given such an environment, they almost inevitably use cognitive abilities that they have gained with maturity, such as the abilities to consciously practice speaking and to study language.

According to ALG theory, using these abilities interferes with the process of second language acquisition and limits one’s ultimate attainment.

For example, in trying to produce a new language before having heard it spoken enough, adults fall back on their native language’s features and end up with pronunciation problems and “broken” grammar.

Adults can consciously study and practice speaking correctly, but by using cognitive resources to monitor their speaking, they end up sacrificing fluency for accuracy.

The claim of ALG, then, is if adults are given an environment in which they can understand and pick up a new language, and they approach it the same way that children do for long enough, and the eventual result will be the same levels of fluency and accuracy as if they had learned the language as children.

Next: The development of ALG, ALG in practice, and what research supports ALG.

More posts about Automatic Language Growth

The difference between ALG and AUA looks at the ALG approach and the AUA Thai Program where it has mainly been implemented.

External links

From The Outside In The autobiography of American linguist Dr. J. Marvin Brown, which tells about how he came to originate ALG

ALG World The official ALG website

Automatic Language Growth (ALG) An overview of the ALG approach

Learning Languages Like Children A treatise on ALG by Dr. J. Marvin Brown

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4 thoughts on “What is Automatic Language Growth?”

  1. Nice to see a blog dedicated to ALG! Too bad that only thai is taught that way. I tried to incorporate both ALG and AJATT elements to learn chinese and it’s been working great. Hopefully I can study at AUA one day, not that I have a particular interest in Thailand or thai, but I really would like to experience language acquisition the AGL way supplemented by constant immersion and see how it fares! All the best with the blog

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Boki, how did you come across ALG?

      If you ever do go to Thailand and learn Thai, I would certainly recommend the AUA Thai Program. It’s important to keep in mind though that while the program facilitates learning using the ALG method, it’s not a full realization of ALG as Dr. J. Marvin Brown envisioned. For example, taking place in a classroom, it doesn’t incorporate real-life experiences in the target language to the extent Brown desired.

      Another issue is that the program is small so generally you have to take whatever topic is available at a given hour at your current level. So if you are attending full-time, you may find yourself sitting through many classes whose topics aren’t particularly interesting to you.

      However, if you are taking AUA classes and also constantly immersed in Thai in a supportive environment where you have many opportunities to interact with people in Thai and begin speaking at your own pace, you should see great results. The classes will be a great source of comprehensible input that especially at the beginning will help you gain understanding in your immersive environment and start to interact in the language.

      Depending on you level of Chinese, your experience with that language might speed your acquisition of Thai as well.


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