When acquiring languages through comprehensible input, how can we help others acquire languages in the process? Here’s one thing I’ve been doing.
In my post on the first anniversary of this blog, Beyond Language Learning, I wrote how one of my intentions is not just to acquire new languages myself, but to do it in ways that will make language acquisition easier and more accessible to other people.
One small way that I’m doing this right now is with a project that might help other people acquire a language as I acquire one, and even enhance my own language acquisition in doing so.
I’m sharing it here because I’m interested in what other possibilities there may be for helping other people acquire a language in the process of acquiring a language oneself, and I hope that it can inspire other people to try similar things.
Continue reading “Creating More Comprehensible Input While Getting Comprehensible Input”
They say that it’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness, and that you should be the change you wish to see in the world.
I’ve written a lot about the lack of content that presents languages in ways that make them understandable so that even beginning learners can just watch, listen, and pick up languages efficiently without study, practice, or translation.
Experts widely agree that exposure to a new language in ways that you can understand what is being said—known as comprehensible input—is critical to acquiring the language and becoming fluent in it.
Yet decades after linguist Stephen Krashen popularized the concept of comprehensible input, for practically any given language, there is still very little material that lower-level adult learners can easily understand without added study or instruction.
This kind of comprehensible input seems to be so rare that I had to go halfway around the world to the unique AUA Thai Program in Bangkok in order to find it in abundance.
For a long time I’ve complained about the lack of comprehensible input and lamented the opportunities silently lost because of it.
Now I’ve decided to do something about it.
Continue reading “Creating Comprehensible Input Videos for Beginning English Learners”
Answering questions from readers about applying the ALG approach—acquiring a language by listening to comprehensible input—with tutors and language exchange partners
In my last post I described the language exchange method that polyglot and language instructor Jeff Brown has explained and demonstrated in a couple of popular YouTube videos.
With his method, you pick up a language from partners or tutors who speak it by having them speak it to you in ways that you can understand, such as by using actions, describing pictures, and telling stories using illustrated children’s books.
I wrote about how the method provides a way to acquire a language following the Automatic Language Growth (ALG) approach, which at present is only being used in one program to teach one language—the AUA Thai Program.
Both ALG and Brown’s approach are based on Dr. Stephen Krashen’s input hypothesis, which says we acquire languages by listening, not by speaking, and that we subconsciously learn to use them correctly and fluently by getting comprehensible input—hearing them in ways that we can understand—not by studying and practicing things like grammar rules.
The main difference with the ALG approach is that it advocates delaying producing the target language until it emerges naturally, without trying.
Continue reading “How Can We Learn to Speak a Language without Speaking It?”
I’ve written lots and even made a video pointing out a very common mistake made by academics and laypeople alike on the topic of second-language acquisition.
This is the conclusion that language learning is inherently more difficult and less successful with age, based on the observation that the older one begins to learn a new language, the worse the results tend to be.
What this assumption ignores is the vast differences between what adults and young children learning new languages typically do and experience.
Adults generally consciously study and practice new languages before they’ve even had much exposure to them, while children pick up languages implicitly, listening and understanding a lot before speaking much.
However, research and the experiences of many learners show that with a lot of comprehensible input—language presented in a way that’s understandable—adults too can pick up language without instruction as children do.
Continue reading “The Focus on Age over Method in Language Learning Harms Children as Well as Adults”
Sometimes when I’m thinking and writing about all of these issues around language acquisition, so much of it can seem so highly technical or theoretical that I wonder if it’s all just academic with little actual relevance to everyday people’s lives.
Then I see or hear something that reminds me of the real need for better ways for people to pick up languages, and the huge consequences of limiting or simply incorrect ideas about language learning, leading to many opportunities (and perhaps even languages!) being silently lost.
I looked at some of these limiting ideas in a recent post on heritage language learners, many of whom seem discouraged as a result of the influence of “traditional” language learning approaches that put the focus on the language itself through study and practice.
Without knowledge of how they can improve in their language through comprehensible input and meaningful communication, many of these learners appear to give up on their heritage languages despite the great foundations they already have in them.
I saw another example of ignorance around language acquisition having big consequences in a TV interview that aired several years ago in Canada, where English and French are official languages and Quebec’s status as the sole Francophone majority province shapes the politics of the country.
Continue reading “This Whole Language-Learning Thing Really Affects People”
When trying to imitate what young children learning languages do, we adults must also take into account how they think (and don’t think). Ignore this, and what we end up doing can be totally different.
I was interested to come across a recent post by Donovan Nagel on The Mezzofanti Guild blog titled “How To Learn Languages Like A Child (Yes It Is Possible)“.
Many other language learning bloggers appear quite skeptical about that idea, so I wanted to see what he had to say.
I think he’s on the right track in a lot of ways: for example, he says that adults can and should pick up grammar like children do, acquiring it through comprehensible input without explicit instruction.
He also writes that “[t]raditional language study and reading can actually get in the way of learning”, and suggests focusing on reading after getting attuned to the spoken language—a point I think is overlooked even by many proponents of “natural” or “learn like a child” approaches.
However, I think he’s also made the same kind of error that I’ve seen many other people make when they look at children’s language learning and try to apply it to adults.
Continue reading “How Young Children’s Mimicry of Language is Very Different from Adult Learners’ “Listen and Repeat””
Another year has come and gone!
R.I.P. 2018 (2018-2018), as a joke I think is old by now goes.
I’m eager to look forward to this new year, but first I want to share a few highlights from Beyond Language Learning over the past year.
Automatic Language Growth: The Explainer Video
Since Automatic Language Growth is the main approach I’ve been researching and have focused on in this blog, I decided to make an explainer video about it.
Continue reading “Beyond Language Learning: Looking Back at 2018”
A typical heritage language learner has learned their heritage language to some extent in childhood from parents and relatives, but they’ve become more proficient in the language that dominates where they’ve grown up and been formally educated.
The question they face is how they can develop their heritage language from their current level to higher levels of proficiency.
Heritage language learning is quite a complex area that encompasses a range of issues, and I don’t pretend to be an expert on it.
However, seeing a couple of questions recently from heritage learners on the subreddit r/languagelearning, I felt obliged to offer some suggestions based on my experience and knowledge of language acquisition.
To me the difficulties these posters express appear to be consequences of the influence of “traditional” language learning with its focus on language itself, and they point to the advantages of comprehension-based approaches such as Automatic Language Growth (ALG) that focus on understanding and communicating meaning.
Continue reading “Advice to heritage language learners: Don’t focus so much on the language!”
Over the past year I’ve observed from the stats for Beyond Language Learning how people all over the world are visiting and reading this blog.
Not surprisingly, major English-speaking countries like the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom top the list for number of views.
Many readers also come from Thailand, almost certainly because I write a lot about the unique AUA Thai Program and the Automatic Language Growth approach it uses to teach Thai.
South Korea stands out as another country that I get a lot of views from consistently.
Occasionally I will see many views from less expected and far-flung places like Angola or Uzbekistan.
Wherever you are reading this from, I wonder what brings you to this blog.
Continue reading “What are you doing reading this blog?”
I started this blog at the beginning of last year with the opinion based on my research and experiences that given the right kind of opportunities, adults might be able to effortlessly learn languages to very high or even native-like levels of ability.
I wrote that these learning opportunities could involve having a lot of fun and gaining other things at the same time, something I further envision in another post describing the possibilities of optimal language learning experiences.
The ALG approach
In many posts over this past year I have focused on the Automatic Language Growth approach to language learning, which I introduced early on as something that has greatly influenced my thinking in this area.
Continue reading “Looking back and forward: One year of posts on Beyond Language Learning”