There are only 2 ways to learn a language
Want to learn a language?
Linguists know that there are only 2 ways to learn a language. And here it is – the only two ways to learn a langue are
- Total immersion
- Comprehensible input
I’ll explain what each of these is and then show you how to use the one you can reasonably do, that’s comprehensible input by the way.
How do linguists know these are the only two ways to learn a language? Because many different ways have been experimented with to teach language and only two of them work.
The other methods used to learn a language don’t work because when students use those methods they can’t speak the language well.
Learning in the classroom or online
A well used and popular method to learn a language is in the classroom, both in-person and online. This typically involves teaching from a textbook, learning grammar, and memorizing vocabulary. Educators have used this method for over 150 years and achieved moderate results at best.
I used this technique to not learn French in high school. I used it again at university and it did not work again. Most people have a similar experience. This method continues to be used despite the fact it is ineffective.
Learning in the classroom about, for example, “A day at the post office” or learning the present, past, and future separately is not how language is acquired. You don’t grow up only speaking and listening to the present tense then at a certain age start speaking and listening in the past tense. The classroom technique is the wrong approach.
Computer learning and apps
With the widespread use of computers and then the internet, computer learning and apps have become popular.
Researchers now have data to show that computer programs and apps are ineffective. Still, millions of people continue to use these computer programs and apps.
Apps and programs typically provide students with out of context words and are heavily dependent on mechanical drills. Learning to speak a language is not done one word at a time or via mechanical drills. Both approaches are ineffective learning methods.
Apps are effective in teaching students to match the correct word with the correct answers but a language is learned in-context in which the meaning is understood and by listening and speaking.
So why do educators and app companies use methods that are ineffective? Why don’t they employ the methods that have been shown to be effective? I have an idea, but that’s for another blog.
Total immersion and comprehensible input
The two effective methods for language learning
- Total Immersion
- Comprehensible Input
Total immersion is exactly what it sounds like. Immersing yourself totally into the language. Really, the only way to do this is to live in a country that speaks the langue you want to learn and never speak English. That’s the key, never speak English.
It’s really easy to go to another country and speak English and never learn the language. So for immersion to work, you have to never speak English. It’s pretty straight forward: the more English you speak the less language you learn.
Total Immersion is probably not feasible for most people. It takes money to get there, stay there, not earn any money, and it takes time (at least 3 months).
Check out this TEDx Talk about two guys that tested this idea in 4 countries. It takes only 3 months to become proficient in another language if you never speak English. If you speak some English it will take you longer.
Comprehensible input is something you can do. Comprehensible input is all about interacting with the language. It’s about listening and speaking the language.
Listening and speaking right away – the first day, the first lesson, the first part of the first lesson. And it works.
Comprehensible input is really a simple idea. If you listen to the language in a way that you understand the meaning, not necessarily the words, then you acquire the language. Check out this video about it.
If you start speaking right away then the interaction of listening and speaking build on each other and then you are speaking and understanding the language.
The key to learning a language is listening and speaking. That’s exactly what the Easy Travel Speak programs teach you to do. They teach you to speak, the first day, the first lesson, the first part of the first lesson so you can listen, respond, and learn.