Saturday, May 05, 2007

ALG Principles

I recently noticed this summary of the Automatic Language Growth (ALG) philosophy on the ALG website.

ALG Principles

1. Our point of reference is the native speaker, not other students.

2. Children are the best examples of how to learn another language.

3. The adult ability to translate, memorize, and practice can never produce as good results as naturally learning a language. Trying only makes things worse.

4. Practice cannot help, and in fact it damages one's ability to learn naturally.

5. The ability to speak comes from one's ability to understand. Therefore, understanding is what must be sought after, not practice speaking.

6. Understandable and interesting experiences are the key to learning another language.

I try to follow this approach in my own study. I do sometimes compromise to compensate for the lack of a teacher, for example, by looking up translations. But I dedicate most of my study time to comprehensible input. Once I have a certain level of comprehension, I minimize translation and memorization and try to understand directly. I've been pleasantly surprised by how well it works.

It's interesting that, although these principles are supported by research, they are not taken into account by most language programs. I wonder whether part of the inertia has to do with the practice of assigning grades based on homework and exams, which is difficult to reconcile with a natural approach.


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