A Beyond Language Learning reader has emailed me with some good questions about second language acquisition, comprehensible input, and the Automatic Language Growth approach. I’ve decided to post my answers here, as I’m sure other readers will have similar questions. I answered each question much like an interview, with the things that first came to mind, and then edited it. These answers should be taken as some of my thoughts on each question and not the final word. There’s much more I could say about any of them.
What led you to follow the ALG method?
Having grown up monolingual, as an adult I became interested in how adults could reach very high levels of ability in second languages. I discovered ALG and it interested me because of its claim that adults can pick up new languages like children, without conscious effort, and approach native-like abilities, and its theory that it’s how we learn languages that matters far more than when.
I returned to university to study psychology and linguistics and examine the research on second language acquisition in light of these ideas. I was surprised to find that there wasn’t any research that really tested ALG theory, for example by having adults learn languages more like children over extended periods of time by having them learn implicitly without forcing speaking and so on.
Given both this lack of research, and my interest in the possibility of being able to pick up a new language to very high levels of ability as an adult, I wanted to try out the ALG approach and experience it for myself to see what would happen.
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:
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.