Getting Ready for Prague

I am excited as I prepare to go to Prague for my “five days to fluency in Czech challenge”. I am not going directly there, though, since I have my 50th high school reunion to attend in Montreal first, over the weekend. That should also be fun. Anyway I am packing tonight and will spend most of tomorrow getting to Montreal. The flight takes 4 and a half hours and the time difference is three hours. Two days there and then on to Prague to see what I can learn in five days. I will be reading and listening to Czech on the way over, unless I fall asleep or have a talkative neighbour on the flight..

Time to stop avoiding grammar rules!

The evidence is now in: the explicit teaching of grammar rules leads to better learning. At least that is what this article from The Guardian in England claims.

Unfortunately the article does not offer any proof that the evidence is in, but rather just makes the statement. In fact, there are other studies, such as this article by Benkiko Mason in Japan, entitled “Impressive gains on the TOEIC after one year of comprehensible input, with no output or grammar study”, which tend to prove the opposite.

Personally, when it comes to language learning, I am somewhat in the middle. I think that massive comprehensible input is a necessary precondition for language improvement, even in your own language. If you don’t read a lot, you will not write well. In my experience, if you read a lot, and listen a lot, in a foreign language, you will improve faster than by trying to nail down grammar rules.

However, I find that output, speaking and writing, that is based on a solid base of input acquired language experience, which includes the acquisition of a rich vocabulary, helps you to notice your mistakes. The occasional review of grammar rules helps to notice patterns in the language, but only if you have acquired some experience in the language via input.

However, a grammar centred form of instruction, with limited time for input based activities, will, I think, be counterproductive.

Meet up in Prague October 2. Join us!

In  less than a month I will be in Prague. I hope to speak as much Czech as possible in five days. The first opportunity will be a dinner on October 2. Please join us for a meet up. I would also appreciate any suggestions as to location.

I also attach a video of my discussions with Ondrej, one my Czech tutors, just to give you an idea of my progress and how much there is left to do…a lot! But I am hopeful that full immersion in Prague will bring out a lot of my passive knowledge of Czech, and make it active. We will see. 

Listening, reading and literacy. Kindle and launch new product.

Kindle and have lanched a new product that combines listening and reading and they call it immersion reading.  Yes listening enhances reading, especially for struggling readers, or for language learners. That has been at the core of the LingQ system for years. LingQ, of course, offers other functions to help readers acquire language. I guess our ideas are now going mainstream.


Academic research supports the assertion that all readers can benefit from

listening while reading. In an influential 2007 study, “Learning through

Listening in the Digital World,” neuropsychologist David Rose and professor

Bridget Dalton drew upon cognitive educational research to report that “both

learning to listen and listening to learn are critical to literacy in the 21st

century as new technologies rebalance what it means to be literate and to

learn.” Professor David Dockterman commented on Rose’s and Dalton’s findings,

“For struggling readers, narration can provide decoding support, but there’s

an added benefit to well-narrated text that helps even competent readers.

Hearing something read with expression provides additional clues to the

meaning beyond the words themselves.”

I have been saying this for years. I have tried to interest basic literacy teachers in LingQ, with no luck. They want to “teach” people how to read, how to infer, higher level thinking, and other such “cognitive” skills rather than just letting them listen while they read, and enjoy whatever interests them. More information here.

Organic food and eating local.

Organic food and eating local produce (the locavore movement) are popular ideas because we feel that we should do all we can to contribute to a better environment. It would appear that neither organic food nor eating locally contributes anything to our health, nor to the health of our environment. In fact, any major swing to organic farming would reduce agricultural output and threaten the lives of people. I must say that I enjoy eating improted food products, oranges, tropical fruit, or just plain produce that is out of season. Canada is also a major exporter of a variety of products, and if we oppose imported products, this could, in the end, cost us our export markets. 

So I think it is best to resist these fads.