Recently I was following some discussions that an Automatic Language Growth enthusiast prompted through writing about their experiences as a student for the first time in the AUA Thai Program, where the ALG approach has mainly been applied.
A highly experienced language teacher expressed skepticism about the effectiveness of the ALG method, and was unimpressed with the student’s report of being able to recognize many words, though not yet understand most of them, after 30 hours of classes.
The teacher uses TPRS (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling), another comprehensible input-based language teaching method.
TPRS teachers use tools such as translation to establish the meanings of new words, very slow speaking of the target language to ensure understanding, and asking many questions to provide meaningful repetition of language and check student comprehension.
They generally aim for very high levels of comprehension on the part of their students, with some trying to ensure that nearly 100% of the words that they say in the target language are not just comprehensible to their students, but indeed comprehended by them.
To these TPRS teachers, it may appear that the time that the student has spent in the ALG classroom has mostly been wasted.
What acquisition of language could have occurred if the student has comprehended so little of the actual language that they have heard?
Continue reading “An ALG student understands only a few words after over 30 class hours. Has that time been wasted?”
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 may upend common beliefs about language learning in adulthood and 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”
UPDATE: I’ve decided to start doing something about the lack of comprehensible input that I wrote about in this post. Read more about it in my post Creating Comprehensible Input Videos for Beginning English Learners.
It’s been well over 30 years since linguist Dr. Stephen Krashen popularized the notion of comprehensible input as the basis for language acquisition.
According to Krashen, even as adults we become fluent in new languages not by studying and practicing words and rules, but by gaining exposure to language in ways that make it understandable to us.
You can see Krashen demonstrating comprehensible input in a 1983 BBC documentary where he’s shown giving an audience two brief German lessons.
Continue reading “Where Is All the Comprehensible Input?”
Today is the start of a new year, and it’s been exactly one year since I started this blog.
My focus remains on topics around language learning, and in particular, how we might effortlessly learn new languages to very high levels of ability at any age, while having fun and learning other things in the process.
Reflecting on a year having passed, I can’t help but think of the many language-learning opportunities that have been silently lost over this time.
Continue reading “One year of Beyond Language Learning”
While I intend to write on many different topics that relate to language learning, there are two main things I want to advocate for with this blog:
More research on language learning, especially on issues like age and second language acquisition. I think that research that controls for the differences between what adults and children typically do and experience when learning languages will reveal that adults have a much greater potential to effortlessly pick up languages than commonly believed if they are given the right opportunities, namely:
More opportunities for comprehensible input in second languages. I think we’ve really just barely scratched the surface in terms of creating media and experiences that adults can pick up language from without the need for study or translation, especially opportunities that are highly understandable and interesting for beginners.
As it is now, it seems the lack of research on language learning and the lack of opportunities for comprehensible input make up kind of a “chicken-and-egg” problem—a vicious cycle where the lack of one reinforces the lack of the other.
Continue reading “Language learning research and opportunities for comprehensible input: a “chicken-and-egg” problem”
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”
Over the past decade, I’ve been researching language learning methods and theories with the question of how we can more effectively learn new languages.
Based on what I’ve learned and experienced, I think it’s not only possible for the typical adult to reach very high levels of fluency and ability in new languages, it also doesn’t have to be a struggle.
In fact, given the right opportunities and resources, I think it could become normal for second language learning at any age to be an incredibly fun experience where the learner gains other skills and knowledge throughout the process.
We might even be able to go from zero ability to approaching the level of a native speaker having hardly spent any conscious time or effort on the language learning itself.
Continue reading “Welcome”