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1.1. Key principles of design for an ongoing language learning program


Language learning is at once complex and simple. When I think of the complexity of language learning, I'm amazed that people succeed. As a linguist, I have spent much of my life puzzling over the complexities of language, and I feel I still understand so very little about any language. Yet people do learn new languages, not only as children, but also as adolescents and as adults. Observing that process only increases my sense of wonder. People learn far more than they are aware that they are learning. How do they do it?

Fortunately, the bulk of the complexity of language learning is handled by your brain, without your even being aware of it. You simply need to give your brain the right opportunity, and it takes over from there. That is where language learning becomes simple. “Giving your brain the right opportunity” can be boiled down to three principles which are easy to grasp, easy to remember and easy to apply:

I'll keep coming back to these three principles. First I will elaborate on them, but that is only so that you can come back to them and remember them as three simple principles. Then I will illustrate ways you can apply them. You may find that the techniques and activities I suggest will appeal to you. But if they do not, they should still help to solidify your grasp of the three basic principles, so that you can go on and devise techniques or activities of your own which apply the three principles. Any techniques and activities which apply these principles will work, if they are conducted on a large enough scale for a long enough time. Mind you, those are big “ifs”.

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Go to SIL home page This page is an extract from the LinguaLinks Library, Version 3.5, published on CD-ROM by SIL International, 1999. [Ordering information.]

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