How Steve Kaufmann uses comprehensible input to learn languages

For those of you who don’t know me, I am a certified English teacher from the United States, and I have been giving English lessons online since 2021. I get asked a lot by my students what my advice is for learning English, and one response I consistently give is “increase your language input”. Input is so import when we are learning a new language, as I wrote about in my last blog post. One of the many polyglots I enjoy following is a Steve Kaufmann, and he swears by the input method.

Steve Kaufmann, besides being a polyglot who has learned over 20 languages, is a language enthusiast. He preaches the power of comprehensible input through his language learning approach. Kaufmann emphasizes the importance of extensive reading and listening in the target language, and encourages learners to immerse themselves in content that aligns with their interests and passions. This makes the learning process enjoyable and sustainable, instead of being a chore that you just want to get done with.

Kaufmann’s language learning habits are based on the following principles:

  • Focus on comprehensible input. Kaufmann believes that the best way to learn a language is to expose yourself to as much comprehensible input as possible. He achieves this by watching movies and TV shows, listening to podcasts, and reading books in the language he is learning.
  • Reading Extensively: He advocates for reading extensively in the target language, allowing learners to encounter a wide range of vocabulary and sentence structures in context. He also uses his Lingq app to help him keep track of how much he is reading along with new vocabulary.
  • Listening to Content: Kaufmann emphasizes the benefits of listening to audio content in the target language, such as podcasts, audiobooks, and radio shows, to enhance listening skills and familiarize the learner with natural speech patterns.
  • Repetition and Review: He recommends revisiting content multiple times, reinforcing vocabulary and comprehension through repetition and review. For example, Kaufmann had said that when he is learning a new language, he will listen to the same mini story approximately 40 times. This helps him get used to the language while learning new words and phrases.
  • Don’t worry about making mistakes. Kaufmann believes that it is perfectly normal to make mistakes when you are learning a new language. He encourages learners to not let their fear of making mistakes prevent them from speaking, but to find a language tutor and start speaking.

How to use comprehensible input to learn a language

Kaufmann’s language learning habits have been very successful for him. He has been able to learn a large number of languages to a high level of proficiency. If you want to use comprehensible input to learn a language, here are a few tips:

  • Choose content that is interesting to you and that is at a level that you can mostly understand.
  • Don’t be afraid to skip over parts that you don’t understand. You can always come back to them later.
  • Don’t worry about making mistakes. The more you expose yourself to the language, the better you will become at understanding and speaking it.
  • Try to find opportunities to speak with native speakers, even if it is just to say a few words or sentences.

Learning a language takes time and effort, but it is definitely possible. By using comprehensible input as part of your language learning routine, you can make the process more enjoyable and effective. You can also listen to the first episode of this podcast discuss Steve Kaufmann and how I used input to learn Spanish.

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