Here are the things you must not do while acquiring a new language as stated in the book:
- Don't Speak!
- Don't Ask!
- Don't Look Up Words!
- Don't Take Notes!
- Don't Think!
A little background on Dr. Brown will show you that he had been there and done that. He had been through the FSI drilling and "practicing until it becomes automatic" type of learning. In fact, he learned Chinese through the Navy in the 1940's and was the guinea pig for the Army Method in the 50's. He is the one who proved that their methods "worked." And in 1980, he again set out to prove that practice makes perfect:
I was excited as I walked into the Japanese class that fall quarter of 1980. I had never been less than number one in a language class—and that was without trying. This time I was going to knock myself out. Getting an “A” wouldn’t be enough. Being the best in the class wouldn’t be enough. I was going to be the best the world had ever seen. You wouldn’t believe the extremes I went to.
I practiced until I could deliver it with perfect pronunciation and without a single hesitation. Then I practiced up to double speed without a hesitation.
I did this sort of thing with daily drills and quarterly speeches for three years. It didn’t work. And I could see that it never would. Not a single sentence was ever triggered by a thought. And this had been one of my requirements for success. I had set out to prove the success of practice. I proved, instead, its failure.So, as you can see, Dr. Brown went from a motto of practice, practice, practice to a motto of don't practice! Another thing to point out is that Dr. Brown had created Thai language programs in the traditional way. He had many years of experience in revising the program and trying to improve it the traditional way. He had left AUA and when he came back is when he started the ALG way. With the old methods of teaching Thai, in 30 years he never had a single student pass his own abilities in Thai. And he wrote that after 10 years with the ALG method, he saw students passing him up all the time.
First, we need an understanding of how advanced Dr. Brown was in Thai. He studied Thai for 4 years and was immersed in Thailand for 40 years.
Now what was my own language preparation? I had studied Thai for 2 years at Cal at 3 hours a week and 2 years at Cornell at 6 hours a week. ... So when I arrived in Thailand I had been through almost 500 hours of classroom study by the Army Method. I could make near-perfect sounds once I had assembled a sentence for delivery, but I couldn’t even begin to ‘carry on a conversation’.
Where was the guinea pig after 32 years? I told you that by 1960 I thought I had arrived. Well I kept getting better and better through the 60’s ... People described my Thai as ‘legendary’ and I tended to believe them. When I gave lectures to Thai schools, the teachers would later tell me that my Thai was better than theirs. Now I knew full well how damning this comment can be, but I still lapped it up. More convincing were things like this. I phoned to speak to an American friend, and the servant who answered the phone later told him that a Thai man had called -- and swore by it. “Are you sure it wasn’t a foreigner with perfect Thai?” (he had been expecting me to call). “No. It was a Thai. I’m 100% certain.” I could see through this too, but I was succumbing to something I said earlier: ‘Short term satisfaction tends to blind us to long term goals.’Now, the point that I am making here is that when your language skill is that much advanced and you recognize that someone else is even bettter, then that "better" person must be really, really good!
But what were the long-term goals of the guinea pig? I had set out to prove that the Army method could produce perfect speakers. Then, I thought I had proved the method right. Now, I can see that I had proved it wrong. The difference is hiding in the word ‘speak’. Then, I was thinking of ‘delivery’ (how the speaking comes out). Since my delivery was near perfect, I had proved it right. Now, I’m thinking of ‘production’ (how I get from thought to sentence). Since my production of Thai is very different from my production of English, I must have proved it wrong. Let me put it this way. When I speak Thai, I think in Thai. When I speak English, I think only in thought--I pay no attention to English.A mif is a mental image flash. There is an article on it by David Long at the ALG World archive page. For now, I just needed to tell you what 'mif' stands for so when you read the next quote, you won't be wondering so much.
I found long ago that whenever I was in a Thai-speaking group together with other foreigners, I could easily tell whether they were better or worse than me. When I could see what they were trying to say, I would be flashing my own internal speaking (mifs), and I could easily see how my mifs compared to theirs. Was I faster or slower than them? Better or worse? Of course anyone could do the same thing for their own range. We’ve all got such a meter.So, how long does it take for a successful student of the ALG method to pass up Dr. Brown at speaking Thai?
Our first success story came in 1988 when our course had grown to a full year. He was the first ‘student’ to pass me up. It took him about 5 years (one year of class plus 4 years of partial immersion). The most recent success story that I noticed was in 2001--after our course had reached new heights. It took her 2½ years (1½ years of class plus 1 year of partial immersion). And this is the current state of the art: 2½ years.So, the proof is there. The concept has been proven. To sum it up, I'll state it this way. Not thinking about the language while acquiring it is far superior to drilling, practicing, and learning the language.
Remember now, I’m talking about a level above me. Her 2½ years had overtaken my 40! Notice also that my ‘bell test’ could only come at some time after a student had finished our course; that is, after a certain amount of immersion. It just so happened that the two people mentioned above worked in our department after their course and we were thus able to observe their immersion.