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- 1 1. Do not learn wordlists. Learn phrases in context.
- 2 2. Do not learn grammar.
- 3 3. What is Comprehensible Input, also known as StoryLearning?
- 4 4. Listen, Listen, Read
- 5 5. My story
- 6 6. Stress-free, Anxiety-free environment
- 7 7. Do not correct other people’s mistakes.
- 8 Why this method is so effective.
- 9 English materials for beginners & intermediate
- 10 Summary:
This post was inspired by English teachers Prof. Stephen Krashen, A.J. Hoge, Olly Richard, and Steven Kaufmann. With their method, hundreds of thousands of people learned English at an advanced level, including me.
1. Do not learn wordlists. Learn phrases in context.
Why? Memorizing words, only remain in your memory for a short time. Furthermore, you will not be able to use those memorized words, since you won’t know when and where to use them in a sentence. Learning a word in context or “sentence” helps you understand how a word should be used correctly and when not to mention that you can also automatically master grammar. The more compelling the input is the better. For example, a child learns best from short tales or stories and not from scientific publications. The more the material is engaging and exciting the better.
How to use the method:
Watch basic everyday simple English stories, conversations, and cartoons. Write out words you don’t understand with the whole sentence. Then check it every two weeks. This method is also called the GoldList method.
These kinds of videos can help you at the beginning levels:
Important: Watch videos that you understand 60-80% of the time. It is hyper super duper important that you are interested in the topic you use.
At the advanced level, video is not important, it can be an audio recording, podcast, etc.
Bonus: You will also learn the correct pronunciation.
2. Do not learn grammar.
This statement may be quite steep at first reading, but let me explain it to you briefly:
- ” Grammar only slows down language learning” – A.J. Hoge – International English teacher for more than 25 years
- Grammar is like learning the language back. Example: We don’t explain to babies the grammatical rules when we talk to them, yet they learn how to talk sooner or later.
Example: A football player does not improve by calculating the angle between his feet and the ball and determining which is the correct shooting angle, but by exercising a lot with the ball. This is how a child learns grammar, he hears a lot of basic sentences over and over again. After enough listening (comprehensible input), he or she begins to talk.
- “Based on the research we have today, it is clear that grammar learning is inefficient and can be harmful to learning a new language.” – Stephen Krashen professor of languages at the University of California. (1)
- Real-time English dialogue is too fast to put together in our brains the grammatical rules we have learned and form sentences in our heads. It’s not natural to talk like that. Just as we speak our mother tongue and don’t think about grammar should we speak English as well.
One exception may be to study specifically for a grammar exam, but it should be noted that this kind of language learning does not remain in long-term memory and does not support speech.
The good news is that all the available research shows that traditional language learning is inferior to comprehensible in all respects, even in the case of grammar 1
3. What is Comprehensible Input, also known as StoryLearning?
In a nutshell: Highly interesting and engaging English content such as books, audio, cartoons, comic books, and podcasts that you understand 60-80%.
The story learning method is a ready-made version of comprehensible input. This means that all you have to do is take the material and start reading or listening to it or both at the same time for even better results.
Why this method is different from traditional language teaching:
- No fill-in-the-gaps exercises
- No grammar drills
- No correct the sentences.
- No circle the correct answer
- No boring texts
Why? Because they don’t work?
4. Listen, Listen, Read
This is the most important thing. In points 1 and 3 I already mentioned this, but now let me explain it in more detail.
Linguist Stephen Krashen has done several studies on how people learn their second language (in this case, English). He has written more than a dozen books on language learning and published several studies on the subject. Basically, he realized that the most important element in mastering the language is the “comprehensible input” ( understandable, highly engaging content).
This means listening, reading, and watching videos that you understand 60-80% of the time. It’s very important to choose material that interests you and engages you, which will help you stay motivated, and it has also been proven that you learn faster and you will remember it better.
If you would like to delve deeper into Krashen’s work, I highly recommend his books, in which he describes in detail how the worst students caught up with the best by the above methods.
In these videos, Krashen summarizes the essence of his learning method.
5. My story
From the 5th grade, I really liked English, I was straight A. I went to a bilingual high school, where I continued to pile up the As, I also used extra textbooks and workbooks at home over the years. Despite all this, I could not speak English, but I was able to fill in, circle in, and criss-cross correctly the exercises (which is not good for anything). My speech was sluggish and as slow as a sloth.
Meanwhile, my classmate, who didn’t pay attention in the English classes and usually slept, when it was his turn was confident and fluent. From childhood, he read a lot and watched movies in English. He spoke more sophisticated English than some teachers.
I always listened to and read content that interested me, if I did not understand too much of the material (30-50%), then I did not continue, but chose another one. I can’t stress enough that interesting content will be extremely helpful for you since you won’t have to worry about motivation and consistency. You will want to learn.
If you’re at a beginner’s level, or you don’t speak English at all, it will be hard to find interesting content, because of your level. You might have to read something that is not to your liking.
For example Oxford stage: 0-1 books, storybooks, little children’s books, and videos. At the end of the article, I put video materials and reading materials for all levels.
How much time I spent reading and listening: 1-3 hours on a daily basis. On the bus to school, on the way home, or at home in my spare time. I never listened to audio or read a book without feeling like it or being very tired. My favorites are Dr. Joseph Mercola Podcasts, Ben Greenfield Podcasts, Dr. Tom Cowan Podcasts, Dr. Jack Kruse Podcasts, and many more.
6. Stress-free, Anxiety-free environment
Research on language learning has found that if you want to learn a language, you should not be stressed, as this makes language acquisition impossible since it blocks your memory. It
would be very helpful not to force students to speak in classes, because if the student is not comfortable with the language or feels embarrassed he will only get to hate the English lessons even more.
However, if the student raises his hands or appears to be enjoying it, then you can let him speak.
Speech should not be the priority of English learning, especially in the initial stages. Over time, when you have mastered the basics of language from reading, children’s cartoons, and videos, speech will come naturally.
7. Do not correct other people’s mistakes.
What do I mean by that? A review study conducted at the University of Southern California found that correcting errors while speaking English does not help language learning at all. Conclusion: Do not correct the mistakes of others, nor should they correct our mistakes. Correcting an error will result in focusing even more on grammar, instead of sharing your opinions and thoughts freely.
Why this method is so effective.
Are you not convinced yet? In this video, Olly a polyglot teacher shares the groundbreaking StoryLearning method.
Especially for English teachers (book):
Free Voluntary Reading by Emeritus Prof. Dr. Stephen D. Krashen
With a bunch of scientific references of why this method works.
English materials for beginners & intermediate
- Dr. Seuss. Green Eggs and Ham PDF link
- Dr. Seuss. The Cat in the Hat PDF link
- Dr. Seuss If I Ran the Zoo PDF Link
- Oxford Bookworms Starter or Level 1 books
- Peppa Pig (this is one of my favorites):
- Olly Richards English Books:
- Richard Scarry’s Busy, Busy Town
- Avatar: The Legend of Aang Comics Series
- The Adventures of Tintin Series
- The Hardy Boys Series
- Nancy Drew
Important: These books can be a good resource but keep in mind that it is always up to the reader to decide what he wants to read and what interests him.
- Stress-free environment, 0 worries, no pressure (unfortunately in school this is almost inevitable)
- Lots of interesting videos, audios, podcasts, books, and comics (at your current level) – I do these while walking, gardening, and cooking.
- Faith: Believe that you will succeed. Just as you have learned your native language without any problem, the second language should be the same.
- Perseverance: You will only need this at the beginning until you can read or watch content that you enjoy. I even craved English podcasts because I found them so compelling and interesting.
- When you apply these rules, language learning will happen automatically
Finally, I would like to thank all those who have researched and pointed out this wonderful, enjoyable, and simple method:
A.J Hoge, Emeritus Prof. Dr. Stephen D. Krashen, Steven Kaufmann, Olly Richards, Dr. James J. Asher, Blaine Ray
- Krashen, S. 1993b. The effect of formal grammar study: Still peripheral. TESOL Quarterly 27: 722-725.