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Chapter 1. Introduction


So you've learned a language?

“Sort of,” you respond.

Yes, you can sit around with people and make attempts at conversations, but it is hard work for you and it is hard work for them. And you have trouble discussing any but the simplest topics. What's more, when you overhear a conversation between two native speakers, you are often unable to make heads or tails out of it.

Now if I hear you speaking your new language, since I don't know it at all, I will get the impression that you really can speak it pretty well. You're not so sure, yourself. As you say, you speak it--sort of. But the part of the language that you don't know still seems pretty formidable, if not overwhelming.

I don't know the road by which you have reached this point in your language learning. You may have spent a year in a language school. Or you may have taken language courses for several years, always as one academic course among many. Or perhaps you have been living among people who speak the language, and have been forced to start speaking it in order to survive. You may have memorized “grammar rules” and “verb forms” and vocabulary lists, and then applied your knowledge to constructing sentences as you conversed with people, until you got so you could construct new sentences relatively quickly and easily. Or you may have used a self-directed language learning approach, such as the one I proposed in Thomson (1993a), where I outlined ways to become a “basic speaker” of a moderately difficult language in about two months. Whatever the road by which you have come this far, you feel you have a long way left to go. Where do you go from here?

1.1 Key principles of design for an ongoing language learning program
1.2 Principle I: Expose yourself to massive comprehensible input
1.3 Principle II: Engage in extensive extemporaneous speaking.
1.4 Principle III: Learn to know the people whose language you are learning.

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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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