I have been thinking about what constitutes the essence of achieving a breakthrough in language learning. I think that the key lies in the word “linking”.
First of all learners must connect with the language they are learning. They must be interested the language, in the people and in some aspects of the culture. Learners need to be interested in the content being studied. This is an essential motivational link.
Second, the study must be constant and ongoing, linked from day to day. There should be no lengthy breaks in the chain, at leasts for periods of committed and intensive study of several months at a time. This is most easily achieved by daily listening to selected content of interest that is at the appropriate level of difficulty.
At The Linguist we recommend one hour a day, every day, of intensive listening to meaningful content. Intensive listening means repetitive listening and a deliberate effort to increase vocabulary from that content. It is essential to read the content being listened to and to save or “link” key new words and phrases. This is not the same as casual listening to radio or watching TV.
Words and phrases need to be learned in a way that is linked to relevant (emotionally linked) content chosen by the learners. What is more, new words need to be learned in a way that links them to other words around them. This creates a natural sense for how they are normally used.
New words and phrases need to be linked to spoken and written output by learners. Learners must be encouraged to list their newly acquired words and phrases and then use them.
The correction of words used incorrectly, and this most easily done when correcting writing, needs to be linked to helping learners observe these words in use in their daily reading and listening. Corrected words need also be linked to the words that normally occur around them, their natural phrase environment.
Corrected writing can be linked to pronuncation and speaking by having learners read their corrected writing out loud 5-10 times on their own.
Learners need to be linked to each other, to share experiences and to work on common projects. The stimulus and feedback from a native speaker instructor is another form of interactive link.
The Linguist system uses modern technology to create these modern linkages for the learner. Learning based on theory, or isolated word lists, or the techniques of passing tests like TOEFL, will not bring about a breakthrough in language skills.
To achieve a drive to breakthrough learners should commit to listening one hour per day and creating 10- 15 new word links every day in our system. For a lower level learner this will mean frequent repetitive intensive study of the same content (mostly listening and some reading). For the advanced learner it will mean more extensive study of constantly changing content in order to achive the same level of new word links.
If this daily commitment is fulfilled, a breakthrough is guaranteed. This has been our experience.