A brief summary of The Linguist principles

Something I wrote recently on language learning:

I believe that the most important thing for language learning is a lot of exposure to the language, spoken and written. This exposure should take place in the form of content that is interesting and authentic, except in the very beginning. The exposure should be repetitive and should consist of short doses at first with the length of the content items gradually increasing.

The learner should use a computer when reading text (which ideally comes with audio for repetitive listening) in order to instantly see the meaning of new words and phrases and to be able to store them for systematic study and review. The learner should be automatically directed towards content where the words and phrases he/she is learning reappear frequently. For the beginner there are a lot of unknown words, but eventually the number of unknown words should settle down to between 5-10% of any passage. All of this can be controlled by a computer program. This input activity should constitute at least 75% of the time spent by the learner.

There should be a minimum of grammatical explanation. There should be a minimum of additional isolated examples of these words and phrases in use, synonyms, related vocabulary etc. presented out of context. There should be a minimum or no quizzes and exercises and all the other teacher oriented activity that is the norm today.

Up to 25% of the learner’s activity should be in speaking and writing. The learner should use his/her newly learned words and phrases as much as possible and get credit for doing so. Inappropriate use of words and phrases will be the major problem for the learner. The learner should be encouraged to speak and not corrected too often while speaking.

Writing should be corrected more severely than speaking. Problems with the use of words and phrases should be identified systematically and the learner should be directed to become observant of how these words and phrases are used during his/her listening and reading. In other words, the output is not only an exercise in expression but also a chance to provide focus for the all important input activity.

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