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Learning in an unstructured setting



An unstructured or informal language learning setting is one where you immerse yourself in a speech community where the language you want to learn is spoken. You learn through the everyday experiences of life.


Here are some characteristic features of learning in an unstructured setting:

  • There are many fluent speakers around.
  • People talk to you to communicate with you, not to teach you their language.
  • The learning takes place in open, unconstrained areas, with lots of physical context.
  • The language is normal and uncontrolled (not bookish): there is a wide range of natural styles and registers.
  • There is no systematic approach to new material; learning tends to be uneven and unstructured.
  • Learners may not be aware that they are learning or aware of what specifically they have learned.
  • Learners go through stages before learning to communicate.
  • Communication is not organized around the learner's needs.
  • Language is experienced in a variety of natural social contexts, therefore it is possible to learn a lot about the nature of interaction and appropriate ways of speaking.
  • Opportunities for practice are unlimited.
  • Some learners may learn to speak fairly fluently but continue to make grammar mistakes. These eventually "fossilize" and resist change thereafter, even when a deliberate attempt is made to work on them. This is attributed by some people to the fact that the learners had no correction when learning.

Context for this page:

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.]

Page content last modified: 17 September 1998

© 1999 SIL International