Back in school I tried to put thousands of words and grammar rules into my brain using conventional schooling methods of brute-force memorization. But nothing worked when I opened my mouth.

It wasn’t until I stumbled on the work of American linguist and researcher Stephen Krashen... and his scientific research in second language acquisition, which has opened my eyes...

He found that the traditional approach wasn’t helpful at all.

Even hurtful.

And this came from a passionate grammarian.

Krashen has a PhD in grammar.

(A Phd in grammar, let that sink in.)

But after seeing overwhelming evidence in study after study that he and his colleagues performed on students, even him...

A linguist who loves grammar more than anything had to acknowledge that we don't acquire spoken fluency by studying grammar (not by accumulating conscious knowledge of grammar rules or memorizing words from vocabulary lists of categories).

And countless polyglots agree with his research, like Steve Kauffman or Luca Lampariello or Olly Richards who speak well over over 10 languages.

And what's even worse? Krashen found that not only isn't a grammar approach helpful, but that it is actually damaging. It hinders students' speaking ability. 

Apparently, if I put too much grammar into my brain, I’d develop a bizarre cognitive phenomenon called a monitor. Where I will monitor and observe myself as I speak and think about grammar constantly, doing slow and painful mental gymnastics or translations...

And that was exactly my case. Eyes looking up left, always trying to recall the rule or word and place it into the phrase.

No flow!

Painfully slow.

And...

As a result of my halted and broken Spanish, I used to believe two things about myself:

  1. I have zero talent for languages. I mean, as a son of a language teacher. At school, I was unable to speak English nor German after years of formal study... and Spanish was just cherry on the top now.

'Nough said.

  1. The second reason I thought I was so bad was because you have to be really young to learn languages. Like a baby.

But now I was hearing from Krashen about a different system in human brains that works for babies, kids and adults...

I was reading about the difference between 1. Learning, school's system of memorizations... and 2. Acquisition.

The research showed that real language learning is actually not learning at all, but acquisition.

Meaning: Acquiring the language through repetitions in context, but... from the input (listening), NOT the output (speaking)...

And that input is also spaced out...

Krashen pointed out that kids from 0–5 years old do things in a completely opposite way to 99% of people when studying foreign languages.

Kids don’t study any grammar rules or do some tedious grammar drills; in fact, most of them can’t even explain one single rule. **What they do is... they listen (mainly) and recognize patterns.

Kids learn because they hear the same words, structures, and sentences in context repeated over and over.

It works something like this:

I’ll use “let’s” as an example. On Monday, someone says, “Let’s go play,” then on Tuesday, someone says,“Let’s eat," and on Friday, someone says, “Let’s go outside.”

And further spaced out like that...

It has been proven by research that by the time kids heard 40–50 repetitions of input (from the outside world), these new words and structures sink into their deep memories.

Basically, they listen and copy the superior speakers (the adults).

And often...

It is obvious to us that when a child utters an F%$^ word, that it has acquired it through repeated hearings.

Not learned from some dictionary or grammar book.


But what isn't obvious to us... or what is the big illusion that the rest of the language was "studied."

The child in the previous clip hasn't acquired only the F$%^ word. It has acquired everything it says there.

Otherwise where is the vocabulary, structure and grammar of these sentences coming from?

I highly doubt this child is reading some grammar books.

It is so convinced of what to say because it heard those patterns before.

Simply put...

The child doesn't do what you and I are often forced to do in foreign language classes.

  • Babies don’t repeat to themselves "let's," "let's,"  “let’s,” 1000 times in a row (AKA practicing speech)
  • They also don’t write "let's," "let's," “let’s,” 1000 times on paper
  • They don't look up the dictionary definition of "let's”
  • No tedious grammar drills, tests, or watching grammar instructions on YouTube about “let’s” structure
  • There are no words in lists of categories to learn or memorize.
  • No Duolingo, Babbel, Rosetta Stone, or even flashcards
  • And also, caretakers are not forcing them to speak...

Also, the child might not get the word or expression right the very first few times. It might butcher it and say something like, “Laze ploy outside,” but the caretakers don’t say

Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

As instructors do in foreign language classes, discouraging the students.

In fact, caretakers encourage the child with “yeah, let’s play.” Until, with more repetitions of input, the child realizes the completely correct way and starts saying “Let’s” play outside.”

As Krashen explains, the child isn’t even making errors; it is using predictable transitional forms.

A transitional language.

All of this contributes to the kid's fluency.

And everyone thinks it’s magic.

But is it?

It was the result of the acquisition of hearing spaced-out repetitions of words or structures in contexts. Basically, a child doesn’t learn a language but picks up the language.

But here’s the problem: we don’t know exactly which repetition of “let’s” has sunk into the deep memory.

Was it the 37th, 43rd, or 52nd?

And that’s the acquisition’s problem: once a word is acquired, we have a feeling it’s always been in the brain; we are not even aware we acquired it.

With memorizations, it feels like learning because new material is always entering our surface memory (kind of like a Facebook feed of a language), but the material from a week ago is already looong forgotten.

And that’s why it’s just a constant illusion of learning...

In semester 2, you forget almost all the material from semester 1; in semester 3, you forget almost all the material from semester 2, and so on until you wake up one day after studying German or Spanish for years... without being able to speak it.

After reading Krashen's research I started to realize that...

Just like...

  • We can use a pen without knowing all about how or what it's made of.
  • We can use our cars without knowing everything about them.
  • We can also use a language without having all the knowledge there is about grammar terminology.

In fact, the evidence is in your own language.

If you are a native English speaker, you know that the following sentence is wrong: The red big car.

You might not be able to explain to me why that is. But you do know it sounds wrong because you first acquired this structure as a kid.

You heard it so many times, some variations of it, like “the big red house," “the big bad wolf,” or “the big yellow submarine,” that your brain has worked out the pattern by acquiring it through all the repetitions you heard.

Whether you knew the rule (and forgot it or not) is irrelevant!

You first acquired the structure of how we say it, not the rule. It's pretty confident bet you didn’t memorize some dictionary definitions from the thesaurus when you were 4 years old.

Your brain used pattern recognition. But for that, we need a lot of what Krashen calls comprehensible input; otherwise, there's not enough material in your brain to work out the patterns.

I, as a non-native English speaker, don’t know this rule (and thousands of other rules), because in my twenties I finally acquired English when living in the UK.

If I were interested, I might ask someone to explain it to me. But then again, what’s the point now? I already know the most important thing: how to use it correctly in a sentence, because it feels right to me based on all of the cumulative (heard) repetitions of this particular structure.

“Big Grammar” lies, pushes, and convinces us we need to learn a million rules in foreign languages.

But why?

Why do we think we need to memorize millions of Spanish rules?

Because...

It’s a business.

These institutions are not interested in pushing the truth out to the public.

That would collapse their whole trillion-dollar industry of printing grammar books overnight.

If typical language learning worked, we would all speak the languages we studied in high schools.

Btw, Krashen isn’t saying that grammar is not important. But he is saying that the way we get that grammar into our brains is not through conscious memorizations.

And that includes your very Spanish teachers!

Yes, those Spanish teachers that push you to do all kinds of tests, drills, and memorize subjunctive, etc...

And then wonder why we (the students) just don’t get it.

But guess what?

They haven’t learned their native (Spanish) language that way.

They acquired it through countless repetitions of hearing words and structures in context when they were kids and only later studied rules because they needed to know them to become teachers.

It’s as if, when it comes to Spanish language learning, they’d preach water, but they drank wine when they learned as kids.

Bad metaphor, but you get what I mean...

And here’s the problem: teachers like my mom are indoctrinated to talk in "teachers language". Nouns, pronouns, plus quantum perfectum, praeteritum, etc.

And we “the normies” don’t have a clue what they are talking about...

This incessant babbling becomes, for the most part, incomprehensible input for us.

A noise.

It might maybe help us pass some test because they teach according to that test. That’s why we see so many people with even B2 diplomas but still unable to speak Spanish. Because it’s easy to game a test if you and the teacher know what’s going to be on that test. You cram the material into your short-term memory, and three days later...

Puf.

Gone.

And still unable to speak.

Then they say it’s because we don’t practice.

But imagine you went to a tennis school and 99% of the time was spent reading about strategy, what the tennis balls and rackets are made of, and how gravity affects the tennis ball.

Then, after a few years of that, you’d ask, “Why am I still so bad at playing tennis?” To which the coach replies, “It’s because you don’t practice enough in your free time”. You’d think, “Practice, where, with whom? I thought that’s why I come here”.

It seems like a perfect excuse for schools...

The fault is always on the student who doesn’t study or practice enough.

The child, on the other hand, receives a great deal of comprehensible input, and as a result, it develops a “feeling” for the language. But that “feeling” of something sounding right isn’t based on nothing.

It’s not magic.

It’s based on all of the accumulated repetitions that went into its ears first 3 years of its life and beyond.

By the time kids go to school, they already speak the language at a very good conversational level.

What school or formal training does is enhance their knowledge. Enhancement of what is already there, as sort of a bonus. It helps them to analyze phrases and understand what a noun, pronoun or subject is.

However, the kids are already conversationally fluent when they enter the school.

One of my favorite authors, G. Keller, popularized the “One Thing” approach, which boils down to this:

Eliminate all the activities until you arrive at the one thing (activity) that will give you more than 80% of the desired results.

And that’s what I did...

I stopped everything that is based on the wrong assumptions: that we can memorize language grammar books or lists of vocabulary, and then somehow one day we’ll speak a new language...

Once I discarded all the pointless activities and focused only on acquisition through heavy C.C.I. (concentrated comprehensible input), I started to acquire foreign languages with the speed I never imagined as did many of my students...


So... I created

And case-study...



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