If you've been reading my blog, you can tell that I've become convinced that the ALG method (automatic language growth) is the best way to acquire a language. It is the only method that gets you to native proficiency in 2 to 3 years. And there are many reasons why and how it works, which I won't go into in this post.
So what can we do if we cannot go to Thailand or if ALG World does not offer the language that we want to learn? The way I see it, there are 2 choices. The first is to go with the other methods of learning a language where you use dictionaries and look up everything you don't understand. In the end, you'll have to be satisfied with whatever ceiling you reach.
The second choice is to try to create our own Automatic Language Growth. The way I'm going to do this is to use online TV. In fact, I began about a week ago. I don't remember exactly which day it was. I'm not going to document how many hours I've watched or any statistics like that. I know it's much easier to watch 10 hours of TV than to listen to an hour of limited content.
As you might be aware, I have been trying to learn Chinese. From now on, in accordance with ALG principles, I'm no longer going to try. I'm simply going to bathe in the language and let the language into my brain. If there was ever anyone who was good at not trying, that would be me!
As I have already learned a little bit of the language, I hear many of the words that I have learned. I am experiencing first-hand the crippling effect of my learning. Whenever I hear something familiar, the meaning just won't come. I have to associate it with the English and then I understand the meaning. There is some kind of barrier. But I know I can get over this, because these already-learned words are so frequent and common that I eventually won't feel the need to translate them.
When I watched the first day, the language was very much like a blur. I tried to hear every word, but I could only hear 2 or 3 words in a sentence. I think the words that I could catch triggered something that made me not able to catch the other parts of the sentences. After a few days, I noticed that I could hear much more and it was much clearer. It was a big difference. Although I still don't know most of the language, it comes through more clearly now.
All of the Chinese TV shows and movies have subtitles in Chinese. With the help of seeing the word, I was able to figure out the meaning of a new word last night. When I saw it at first, I couldn't figure out what it meant. The word was 姐夫. I knew each character but was not able to understand what the word meant. After figuring out the relationship of the people in the drama and then finally seeing this word used in a context of only two people, I could finally figure out who 姐夫 was and of course what the word is. I don't think this is the intended way to acquire the language, but anyway, this is the first word I learned or figured out from watching TV.
There's another effect of watching many hours of TV in a foreign language. There's something happening inside my head because of all that input that is pouring in. There are times when I am not watching or thinking about the language at all, and I hear or feel something in the back of my head. Bits of phrases, or a word from the language is playing or repeating in my head. It's not me trying to do anything. But I hear this echo. I guess it is similar to a song you just can't get out of your head. But in this case, it's only partial language. My only guess is that my brain is processing the language. It's doing something in the background.
I believe the amount and variation of the language input is the most important thing to consider in regards to your exposure to the language. Without enough variation, your brain may not be able to work out the meaning. But with lots of variation, it all begins to make sense. Plus, I think you need to be overwhelmed by the language. Massive amounts of language input will really get your brain working. While Krashen states that it needs to be comprehensible, I do not. I believe that comprehension of the language is the by-product of the input. I will get more into this idea in another post. And finally, I believe that you shouldn't try or make any effort. Just relax and let the language flow in.