The Power of Comprehensible Input When Learning a Language

The power of comprehensible input in language learning

Comprehensible input is one of the most important concepts in language learning. It refers to language that is at a level that is slightly above the learner’s current level of proficiency, but still understandable. When learners are exposed to comprehensible input, they are able to acquire new language and grammar structures naturally, without having to explicitly memorize them.

This is the method I used when trying to learn Spanish after a decade of failure. It’s also the basis for the Learn English Podcast. I created the podcast for my students because I heard over and over again that they struggled to understand native speakers. From my own journey in Spanish, I knew that it was hard to find good, quality content at the intermediate and lower-advanced level. Once you are no longer a beginner, the resources you first used to study the language begin to become boring and stop challenging you. However, you aren’t quite at the level to understand fully native content like TV shows and movies. Instead, you need to find content that is slightly above you level, but still easy to understand. That’s why I created the Learn English Podcast and why I hope that you will find it as a useful resource in your own language journey.

But where did the concept of comprehensible input come from? And why is it so important to learning a language? Let’s discuss that and see why you can use it to increase your fluency and meet your own English goals.

The concept of comprehensible input was first introduced by Stephen Krashen, a linguist and language educator. Krashen believed that language is acquired through a subconscious process, and that the best way to learn a language is to expose yourself to as much comprehensible input as possible. Krashen suggests that learners can internalize a language naturally and effectively when they are exposed to meaningful and understandable input. This input can come in various forms, including reading, listening, or engaging in conversations. It is through this comprehensible input that learners are able to subconsciously pick up grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation, ultimately progressing towards fluency.

Comprehensible input mimics the way we naturally learn our first language as children. We are constantly exposed to language by listening to those around us, and over time, we start to understand and produce the language ourselves. Comprehensible input provides a similar immersive experience, aiding in the gradual and organic acquisition of the language. When exposed to comprehensible input, learners can effortlessly absorb new words, phrases, and grammatical patterns. The brain starts making connections and understanding how words are used in different contexts, facilitating a deeper understanding of the language’s structure and rules. It also boosts learner confidence by allowing them to engage with the language at a level where they can understand and interact effectively. This positive reinforcement motivates learners to persist in their language learning journey, building a foundation for continued progress.

One of the best ways to get comprehensible input is to read and watch content in the language you are learning. This could include books, articles, TV shows, movies, podcasts, and YouTube videos. It is important to choose content that is interesting to you, that is at a level that you can mostly understand, and that you can listen to without worrying about catching every detail the first time through. You can always go back and reread or relisten to the parts you didn’t understand later. The point is to understand the general meaning, and then go back and revisit the content many more times to pick up new vocabulary and grammatical structure.

If you want to learn more about the power of comprehensible input, be sure to check out Krashen’s website along with the many lectures and interviews he has given on YouTube. You can also listen to the first episode of this podcast where I go more into detail about my own language journey and how I decided to use comprehensible input to learn Spanish. I hope that this podcast can be a comprehensible input source for you. My goal is to keep the podcast episode interesting and engaging so that you want to listen to them, as well as short enough so that you can relisten to them multiple times if needed. Include it into your learning routine and see how increasing your comprehensible input helps you improve your English abilities.

Until next time, keep learning English.

– Dr. C

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