Automatic Language Growth: The Story So Far (New Video!)

Beyond Language Learning’s YouTube channel is up with its first video. In about seven minutes it tells the story of the Automatic Language Growth (ALG) approach and the unique AUA Thai Program, describing how they upend common beliefs about language learning in adulthood, and may represent the future of language learning. Enjoy!

The Automatic Language Growth page on this site features the script of the video and will eventually include and link to more detailed background information and research. For now you can watch the video and read this synopsis:

The Secret to Learning Languages Effortlessly and Approaching Nativelike Levels of Ability and Fluency?

Can you pick up a new language as an adult and approach the fluency and ability of a native speaker? The story of an American linguist and the unusual language learning method he developed suggests that’s not only possible, but it could be practically effortless and a lot of fun.

According to Dr. J. Marvin Brown, the secret is for adults to use the same kinds of opportunities and approach that come naturally to children: get many understandable experiences with a new language without trying to speak, study, or practice it. Let speaking emerge on its own as one gains understanding of the language through listening to all this comprehensible input.

The approach Dr. Brown developed, known as Automatic Language Growth, has been applied with success at the AUA Thai Program in Bangkok, Thailand for more than 30 years, yet remains virtually unknown.

Dr. Brown argued that contrary to popular belief, adults have not lost the ability to pick up languages like young children and become near-native or even native-like. Rather, with maturity they’ve gained abilities to try to speak, study, and practice language that interfere with the natural language acquisition process. Almost all language teaching today for adults requires that they use these conscious abilities instead of providing them with the kind of experience that children naturally get and pick up language from without study.

Meanwhile, despite control of variables being fundamental to the scientific method, there’s still very little research that controls for the huge differences between typical adult and childhood language learning in order to see how much these differences, rather than age, are behind the adult difficulties with language learning we commonly observe.

However, these things are starting to change, and emerging research and opportunities may yield a future where adults can routinely pick up new languages and approach native-like levels of ability while having fun and learning many other things in the process.

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