Input based language learning, a slow learning curve?

whoI have always stressed the importance of input when learning a language, whether in a language class, or learning a language online. This does not mean that I do not suggest that people review a bit of English grammar, or French grammar or Spanish grammar, or whatever, it is just that I think that it is futile to try to nail down the grammar. Instead I suggest focusing on input, lots of listening and reading.

Now Oscar, at our recent meet up in Barcelona pointed out one of the problems with this approach as opposed to a more traditional approach based on grammar lessons. With an English grammar lesson or a French grammar lesson, the learner has the impression that he or she is learning something. At the end of a French grammar class, you may be able to say a sentence correctly. You feel that something has been taught, and that you are able to do something that you were unable to do before the class.

With input based language learning, you are just listening and reading, and adding to your vocabulary. Much or most of the texts remain fuzzy for quite a while. It can seem as if nothing has been learned.

After a few months however, the input based learner has accumulated lots of words, and can understand more and more of the language. In time this learner will start to speak and be able to describe quite a few things, using the vocabulary he or she has learned.

The learner who focused on grammar has more limited vocabulary, and in many if not most cases, has learned so many grammar rules, that they are largely confused. This leaner has trouble understanding and eve more trouble expressing any but the most limited thoughts.

So the grammar based learner has the satisfaction of early gratification, but achieves less in the long run. The input based learner has to deal with an initial period where it appears that nothing is happening, but very soon speeds past the grammar based learners, and at that time, can always go back and review some grammar to confirm what she or he has already experienced in the language.


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