Wednesday, May 09, 2007


The site has free Thai audio and video with transcripts.

Wow. Very nice.


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Sunday, May 06, 2007


This is quite an interesting thought from Stuart Jay Raj, a polyglot who has appeared on Thai television demonstrating his remarkable abilities.

My grandfather used to tell me “When you’re learning a language, you want to try your best to avoid having speakers of that language complimenting you. If people are complimenting you on how well you’re speaking ‘their’ language, it means that you still haven’t arrived”. That’s not to say that you want them insulting you! What he meant was that, if you’re speaking a language proficiently enough to a native speaker, the thought of complimenting you won’t even cross their mind.

This is somewhat unintuitive, but it makes a lot of sense to me.

I do think that there are exceptions. For example, I love to talk about language study and acquisition. At such times, I often compliment people who speak English as a second language with native or near-native proficiency and accent.

Mr. Raj alludes to another mitigating situation in the same post. In some cases, a speaker's physical features may make it unlikely that they are a native speaker. Obviously, this does not apply to ESL students, since native English speakers have all sorts of features. However, I would suspect that a farang speaking Thai with native proficiency could still expect curiosity and a few compliments.

In any case, I think this is great food for thought.


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I'm removing a few posts that are no longer interesting to me. You can reach the homepage here.

Thanks for your interest!

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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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Post Removed

Update 7.23.2010: I'm removing a few posts that are no longer interesting to me. You can reach the homepage here.

Thanks for your interest!