Krashen on input, brief and to the point.

Here is a succinct summary of the value of input from a letter that Stephen Krashen submitted to Newsweek.

I agree with him. Of course it is great to speak,?? when you have enough words, when you have the opportunity. However, listening and reading are easy to arrange and control, especially today. And you need to understand?? before you can speak.

“The more you listen and read, the better off you are.

Prof. Gollan’s remark about languages, “The more you use it, the
better off you are” is nearly correct (“Why it’s smart to be
bilingual,” August 7) Our research over the last four decades shows
that it is input that counts: We acquire language when we understand
what we hear and read. This means that the more you listen and read,
the better off you are. It also means that it doesn’t help to talk to
the mirror or read out-loud from books. But real conversation, when
other people talk to you, and reading books you find interesting will
help a lot.

Stephen Krashen”

Language police in Ottawa

Canada has an Office of the Commissioner for Official Languages, which to me is just a waste of money and example of bureaucratic nonsense.

Looking for things to do, the our language Commissar has decided to hire investigators who will pretend to be shoppers, to determine if shopkeepers in Ottawa provide service in French. This caused a bit of scandal. Here our Commissar defends his position.

English Canadians do not learn much French in school, despite all the hand wringing and appeals to national duty. English speaking students are not very interested in French to start with, and the way the language is taught does not make them any more interested. Maybe that is something that needs to be looked at, rather than how many shopkeepers in Ottawa speak French.




The ideal length of a language lesson.

At LingQ, each of our lessons consists of audio and text, which are available for download. These are mostly provided by our members. We are having a discussion at our Forum on what constitutes the ideal length of content for learners at different stages of their learning.

Here is what I had to say in a recent comment on that thread.

Our content generation system is somewhat anarchic. We rely on what our providers feel like creating or contributing. This will vary. What users are looking for will also vary. Hopefully, over time, this spontaneous generation of content is working. I am amazed at the amount of content I am finding in our library for Czech and we have just started. I am also starting to import content from Radio Praha, and will soon add other sources.

I suggested some length guidelines for different levels of content but we are happy for all content. There is no direct relationship between the effort required to generate content, and the value to learners, all of whom have different tastes. I have said that we need to improve the ability of our users to directly reward content producers whom the especially appreciate. We have this on our list, our long list of improvements.

We used to sell content and few users bought content when free content was available.We are trying again with our store and we will see how things develop there. We are also looking at other things we can do.

In my own view, in other words for me personally, what is most important in content are the following: These things are subjective and can vary with language and with my stage of learning.

1) Interest level, which is obviously personal and subjective.
2) Voice and sound quality, and clarity and general quality of narration.
3) Length, and I have indicated my personal preferences for length at different levels of difficulty.

The speed and convenience of LingQing has improved to the point that I am quite content attacking difficult content at an early stage, as long as it is of interest to me, not too long (2-5 minutes long), and the voice is pleasing and clear. That kind of content is preferable to content of little interest, with poor sound, and either too short or too long. I can read it and listen to it over and over while reviewing the flash cards. I can also play the text to speech on the flash cards, and even record the text to speech from the flash cards on to a sound file for a sort of audio flash card review. I know that even if I do not fully understand while reading, and understand little while listening, this is only a temporary situation and in time the fog will lift. I have trouble going through mountains of uninteresting content, however easy. But that is only me, and other users have different tastes and strategies in learning.

It is great if there are translations and notes for beginner lessons, and videos also add value.

I generally go to google (Czech grammar etc.) for additional help on the language when I need it.


Learning Czech, an update

I am not sure when I started on Czech, but I know that I had my Cantonese radio interview on July 23, so it was not before July 24, Sunday. I am assumng I have spent 2 weeks on Czech.

My activity has consisted mostly of downloading lessons from our LingQ library to listen to and read, and creating LingQs of the words and phrases that I need to know. I have also leafed through a phrase book that I had from before, but most of the time it has been listening, then reading, and then reviewing flashcards on LingQ.

I have even recorded the text to speech from my flash cards to create sound files of the words and phrases that I have saved. Good stuff to listen to while doing the dishes.

I still have lots of trouble understanding what I listen to, if I don’t have the text in front of me. I would not be able to begin speaking. I know that there are case endings out there, and verb forms, and I have occasionally googled to just have a glance at them. However, mostly I am just letting it all flow over me. I am confident that things will start to solidify in a few weeks. Things are getting clearer all the time.

I have discovered Radio Praha, and have subsribed to some of their podcasts. I have imported some of their texts and worked my way through them at LingQ, creating tons of LingQs.

I attach my profile at LingQ to give you an idea of my activity level.


From this you can see that I have saved LingQs like crazy. I have not moved many of them to learned yet. They are still bouncing around in never-never land in my brain. I will harvest them later. I don’t know how many I actually know, but more and more of the texts that I read are intelligible. Listening comprehension without the texts is another story.

You will note that I am still going at Russian. I still listen to more Russian than Czech because at this point it is more interesting.

I have studied somewhere around 200 lessons at LingQ, including what I have imported from Radio Praha, Czech newpapers and even a Czech blog.

You will note that my Avatar (generic Avatar for Beta languages) is starting to take shape.



To learn a language, you need to struggle a little.

I have just started Czech, about a week ago. When I listen without reading, I mostly don’t understand. When I listen to a text where I have looked up all the words, I understand. I don’t mind. I know I wil get there. I just started.

What is really interesting is that my Russian has noticeably improved since I started Czech. The moral of the story. We need to challenge and stimulate our brain. If things are too easy we don’t learn as much.But if we make things difficult and then offer easy things to learn, we learn these easy things more easily, so to speak.

That is why it is useful to vary easy content with difficult content, and not just stick with content at our level, graded readers and the like. That is why we do our kid a disservice by spoon feeding them in school. Let learners struggle a little. Then make it easier again. They will be beter able to focus on these easy things that would otherwise just have bored them or passed them by.

That is my experience. What do others think?