You are hereDo these classes really work?


By dvlong - Posted on 01 December 2009

Do these classes really work?

I'd like to say thanks to "choaphray" for these questions on our youtube channel: "hmm do these classes actually work? how long before i get to understand what they are on about?"

In 1987 I entered the Thai Program and these were my two big questions. They are often asked and so I'd like to address them here.

Q. Do these classes really work?

Before going into more detail, I'd like to answer this first question with a great big YES! These classes have been working very well for me and countless others for the past 24 years. Nature works now for you as it always has - the problem is that your education and understanding about what learning is probably getting in the way.

No one wants to spend money or time on something that doesn't work. My motivation came from the fact that I knew that traditional classes didn't work! This is true of over 90% of those who study language. (What it is about people that keeps them from asking whether the traditional language classes work?)

Is our approach any better? I think that there are a couple of things that must be considered. One, are you doing what we say you must do? Secondly, what else are you doing in addition?

Everywhere you look, young children pick up second languages without effort - and without fail. Adults seldom do. We believe that there are natural things at work here. All that ALG is seeking to do is utilize that natural process. So, does nature work? Yes! Will it work for you? That all depends on you. Are you doing things naturally or not?

For starters, just about everything that adults do to 'learn' language is unnatural. If you don't think so, just look around and see how many young children are doing those things.

For more about what we think you should be doing, check out my blog "Automatic Language Growth and 'Study'"

Q. How long before understanding?

Try this out - pretend that you're unable to translate for a minute. Watch the video, (don't worry about what you're hearing) and see if you can follow what's going on. Normally, when I ask people to do this they're amazed. From feeling as if they don't understand a thing, their understanding of what's going on increases dramatically.

I think of it like this - there are two options for us as adults. To filter everything we experience through language, or to experience it alongside language. Filtering our experiences through language is the normal, educated, adult practice - and it should be obvious by now that the returns on the investment of time and money are very low. Experiencing life alongside our own language, simply means that we focus on the experience rather than the language, and we gain the whole thing.

Try it - you cannot do both at once. When we focus on what's happening, language is then free to emerge as your brain connects the experiences, without being trapped inside your own previous culture/language.

Are there drawbacks? Sure. For starters, you'll need to learn to guess about things that aren't clear. It's quite fun once you get used to it. Secondly, you will not have the tools to speak at first. This takes time, because language is hugely complex. If it doesn't take time, then it's not natural and you will be limited in your ability to use it.

What are the benefits? Speaking without thinking about it, just like in your native language is one very nice benefit. Also, if you have been exposed to native speakers, your speaking (and thinking to some degree) will be more like theirs.

So... the logical thing that many people think at this point is: Ok - so I will listen to the ALG classes for part of my day, and then study in the adult manner as well! While this may seem logical at one level, we've never seen good results from doing this. For a few years, we even offered such a program. Many if not most of our students do this very thing as well. In every case I know of, they all do more poorly for it. In short, study of a language must be held after acquisition, not tandem with it. I think of it as trying to look in two directions at one time.

hey, thanks for the answer to my youtube question. i still have question marks in my head based on two issue. first, you are obviously right saying that children learn languages in a different ("more natural") way. however isnt't it the case that children have some sort of genetically active language aquisition device (i tend to disagree with chomskyian universal grammar, but still open to LAD idea). there are known cases where children were unexposed to language throughout the childhood, and stayed mute for the rest of their lives - so it seems like adults lack the same mechanisms that allow children to learn. my second issue is so called total immersion - kids learning the language are always surrounded by it in multiple contexts - adults attending classes are usually not. that's why i asked before "how long before i get to understand (the actual spoken language)" - if the classes are 5 hours long 6 days a week, i understand that it'll come quicker than 2 hours once a week. thanks a lot for answering

The idea of an LAD is an old idea that has been used to explain the difference between adult and child results in language 'learning'. In fact, no one has ever found such a thing - so from our perspective, it's a bit of a ghost. We have a word for something that has not physical shape, property, or may not even exist at all.Our program in Thai is only for adults, though ALG has been used for all ages. The adults in our program don't seem to suffer from some change in a LAD so we tend to believe that there is no such thing. Our observations have continued to support the idea that when adults do what young children do, in acquiring a new language, they gain very similar, if not identical results.Immersion for adults can be overrated. Children, because they are children, naturally are given a different sort of input that they can understand. Herein lies the key to adult language acquisition - you must gain understandable input (immersion of a special kind I suppose.)