A sometime enthusiast of the Automatic Language Growth approach recently remarked to me that there’s a somewhat cultish aspect to the theory.
I definitely agree that the central claims of ALG—that given the right experiences and approach, adults can acquire new languages effortlessly and approach native-like levels of fluency—are of the sort that can inspire potentially cult-like devotion.
One of the main messages I try to communicate is that there are good reasons to take such claims seriously and they need to be the subject of rigorous scientific research.
Research of this kind largely hasn’t been done yet, but I think it could yield important insights supporting far better language learning.
In the meantime, we need to think clearly and carefully about how we go about putting ALG ideas and concepts into practice.
A danger that can arise from an uncritical devotion to ALG based on aspects of the theory that can capture the imagination is to become dogmatic about applying it without regard to practical concerns such as the overall context.
Continue reading “The Dangers of “Cargo-Cult” Thinking in Applying the ALG Approach”
About a month ago I released a video telling the story so far of Automatic Language Growth, the AUA Thai Program, and the need for better research and opportunities to support language acquisition for adults.
The response has been positive from those who are already familiar with AUA and the ALG approach, as well as from others who are involved in language teaching using comprehensible input-based approaches.
Of course, to focus on the response from this audience would be, to some extent, just preaching to the choir.
I’m more concerned about feedback from people such as those who are unfamiliar with comprehensible input and those who are skeptical of approaches like ALG, so that I can respond to their questions and criticisms and learn from them.
Continue reading “We Need Opportunities To Pick Up Languages Without Study”
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:
Continue reading “Automatic Language Growth: The Story So Far (New Video!)”
In a previous post I wrote that what’s missing from research on second-language acquisition overlaps so much with Automatic Language Growth theory and methods that SLA research could be said to have an ALG-shaped hole.
I focused on what I think are the largest areas of this research hole, starting with the lack of scientific control in research on the issue of age and second language acquisition.
ALG posits that adult language learners typically attain less with greater effort than children learning languages because of how their approach and environment typically differs from children.
Yet researchers have generally observed the lower rates of attainment in adults and assumed that they result from some loss of ability, without even proposing to try to control for these differences.
I argued a major part of controlling for these differences would be research into a “silent period” of listening to a language before speaking, based on the observation that while a child gets a lot of exposure to a new language early on, for some time their production is quite limited.
Continue reading “The ALG-shaped hole in second-language acquisition research: a further look”
Every academic discipline has its research gaps and holes—those areas that haven’t been adequately investigated and the questions that haven’t been answered, or even asked.
The field of second language acquisition is no exception.
What’s fascinating, and at times maddening, about looking at the Automatic Language Growth, or ALG approach, alongside existing research on second-language acquisition is how so much of what ALG asserts and touches upon has not really been examined.
These gaps coincide so much with ALG theory and practice that I would say it’s as if the research on second language acquisition has an ALG-shaped hole.
In this post I will focus on what I think are the most prominent parts of this research hole: scientific control in research on the issue of age and second language acquisition, and the so-called “silent period”.
Continue reading “The ALG-shaped hole in research on second-language acquisition”
In my previous post, I wrote that while the ALG approach suggests adults can pick up languages as easily as young children can if they have the same learning environment and approach, even if language learning is harder for adults, the response should be to help them by offering them more of what children get rather than less.
I focused on how children naturally get many understandable experiences that allow them to pick up language without translation or study.
This kind of high-quality comprehensible input isn’t easily available to many adult beginning learners.
I asked why more such opportunities for input are not being created for adults, as has been done with the AUA Thai Program, which uniquely implements the ALG method.
In this post I want to look at another language learning opportunity that children get in abundance but is normally denied to adults.
This is the so-called “silent period”, but perhaps it’s better to refer to it here as “the right to remain silent”.
Continue reading “If language learning is harder for adults, why give them less and not more? Part two: A “silent period””
Many language learning methods, programs, and products are touted as new, different, or even revolutionary, yet a cursory examination reveals they’re at most a rehashing of what’s been done already in many other times and places.
So often is this the case that I find myself wondering if the same thing is true of the Automatic Language Growth, or ALG, approach, and the AUA Thai Program where it has mainly been implemented.
Maybe they aren’t as unique as they seem, and I just haven’t looked hard enough to find other methods and programs that are essentially the same.
Continue reading “Are ALG and AUA really that different from other language learning methods and programs?”