AUA Thai Program alumni create comprehensible input for beginners

In many of my posts I have lamented the lack of comprehensible input for language learners, whether it be in the form of classes or other resources.

In my last post, I observed that while academics today generally agree that comprehensible input is very important to language acquisition, more comprehensible input exists today mainly by accident—because technology has made so much foreign language media easily available.

However most of this media, like TV shows and movies, is aimed at native speakers and so is not very comprehensible for beginners to efficiently pick up language from.

Even though media is so easy to create and distribute today, there isn’t a comparable effort to create good comprehensible input for beginner and intermediate learners that doesn’t require study or translation.

In this post I want to take a more positive focus and highlight some work that people have been doing to create this kind of input.

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Where is all the comprehensible input?

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.

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Audio description of TV and movies: a great source of comprehensible input for language learners

A potential goldmine of content might be just the press of a button away if you’re a language learner who wants to pick up a language through watching and listening.

Audio description, also known as described video, video description, or visual description, adds a narrator’s description of precisely what’s happening on the screen to a program’s soundtrack.

Various logos for audio description and described video

Audio description is primarily intended to benefit people who are blind or visually impaired by making the visual content accessible to them through hearing.

What appears to be overlooked is its tremendous value as a tool for language acquisition.

By providing a great source of comprehensible input—language made understandable through context—audio description also makes the target language more accessible to language learners.

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My experiences using Crosstalk to learn Thai

In my previous post I detailed my experiences learning Mandarin Chinese using Crosstalk, a method where each person speaks their own language using non-verbal tools as needed to communicate.

Crosstalk provides a way to implement the Automatic Language Growth approach, which theorizes that adults can learn languages as well and as easily as children if they pick them up like children, through understandable experiences without study or practice, and letting speaking emerge on its own.

This suggests that adult speakers of different languages could use Crosstalk to communicate, gradually gain understanding of each other’s language, and with this, have the basis to go on and approach native-like fluency in their new languages.

While most of my experience with Crosstalk has been with Mandarin, I also have some experience with Crosstalk as part of learning the Thai language.

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More on whether ALG and AUA are really that different from other language learning methods and programs

In a previous post I discussed the apparent uniqueness of the Automatic Language Growth (ALG) approach to language learning and the AUA Thai Program where it has mainly been implemented.

I wrote how I inquired in an online group discussing comprehensible input-based approaches as to whether there were any other methods or programs that were “pure” comprehensible input in the sense of not including study or practice.

All of the suggested answers turned out to involve some element of translation, study, or speaking practice—the kind of conscious learning that ALG and AUA seek to avoid.

I wrote that I still find it hard to believe there doesn’t seem to be anything else like ALG and AUA, and questioned whether perhaps they’re not really as different as they seem from other methods and programs.

Nìall Beag suggests the latter in a post on his blog Lingua FranklyTake nobody’s word for it: a case study.

However, while this post, like others on his blog, raises a lot of great points, it contains a number of inaccuracies and misconceptions about ALG.

Continue reading “More on whether ALG and AUA are really that different from other language learning methods and programs”

Listening classes

The Automatic Language Growth method is currently being implemented in only one program: at the AUA Language Center in Bangkok, where it’s used to teach the Thai language.

This leaves those who want to use the ALG approach to pick up another language somewhere else having to find ways to implement it for themselves.

This can be difficult, but there are more opportunities than ever to get comprehensible input in one’s target language using media like TV and videos online, and, with the help of tutors and techniques like Crosstalk, create input that’s highly understandable as a beginner.

It’s also possible to apply ALG for oneself by attending classes at a language school that doesn’t specifically follow the method as the AUA Thai Program does.

Continue reading “Listening classes”