Freedom to Play

As someone who’s interested in advancing research on second language acquisition to help people better learn languages, I think that a careful and rigorous scientific approach is tremendously important.

Good research of lasting value involves carefully planned studies and experiments that require the investment of a lot of time, money, and human resources—not things that can be thrown together on a whim.

At the same time, I think there’s enormous value in also being able to research and experiment in a much more informal way: through unbounded play with language acquisition.

The ability to try out many things spontaneously can help us break away from preconceived notions and generate new insights, and this can ultimately lead to better research questions and better formal studies.

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How Automatic Language Growth Might Help Preserve Endangered Languages

An approach inspired in part by the language learning practices of indigenous peoples themselves could open up more opportunities to revive indigenous languages and others that are endangered.

The United Nations has proclaimed 2019 the International Year of Indigenous Languages to raise awareness and mobilize efforts to protect and promote the languages of indigenous peoples around the world.

With indigenous languages making up most of the thousands that are in danger of disappearing, an important question is how to keep them alive.

Before getting into this topic, I must acknowledge that preserving and reviving endangered and minority languages requires the expertise of those who specialize in that area, and of course the involvement of the speakers themselves and other members of their communities.

I am not in any of these categories, but I want to share and discuss the Automatic Language Growth (ALG) approach because I think it presents some possibilities and methods that with research and development could be very helpful to language preservation.

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Automatic Language Growth: The Story So Far

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:

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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.

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