Input Hypotheses

Krashen introduced the theory that we acquire language via comprehensible input. That is to say that if we are exposed to language at a level we understand then we can begin to acquire it. This ties in with my strong support of Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development, which can be basically broken down by saying that if we understand around 90% of what is presented then we can fill in the blanks for the remaining 10%.

There is also the premise in Krashen’s Input Hypothesis that the learner doesn’t need to produce the language until they are ready to do so. The focus is on received the language and understanding. Many language programs work within these guidelines; Assimil promotes the passive wave and active wave philosophy, which is practically the same as a focus on input and not producing the language for quite some time. There are a number of polyglots that work within these guidelines also. The first that springs to mind is Steve Kaufman, who has no interest in speaking until he feels he ready to do.

There are also a few methods of recent fame that seem to draw on the Input Hypothesis for their foundation:
– 10000 Sentence Method
– Listening-Reading (LR) Method

I will talk about these methods further in other articles, but here are some brief outlines for the time-being.

Firstly, the 10000 Sentence Method was made famous by Khatzumoto (All Japanese All The Time) and is basically just that; learn 10000 sentences. The idea behind this is that if you are exposed to 10000 sentences of varied content and structure then the chances are that you will be exposed to most of the structures and vocabulary associated with typical language.

I can’t really argue with the ideology. It’s like a gigantic dialogue-based course and you know my preference for those being included your language learning. The only negative comment I will note is that it may be difficult to focus as there is perhaps little connection between the sentences that you attempt to learn.

As for the Listening-Reading Method, which is a combination of parallel text with audiobook can be summarised as:
a) read the English (translation) while listening to your audio (target language)
b) read the target language text with the audio
c) repeat a & b several times

There are a few more details to it than that but for these purposes that will do. Personally, I find reading the English while listening to your target language a confusing step. Reading and listening to your target language is absolute input – whether it is comprehensible is another story.

If you do indeed understand the content then it is extremely beneficial to your learning, but other than that I have my doubts. My other complaint about the L-R Method is that Step A only works for me if my target language has a similar structure to the translation. I attempted this with both English / Korean and English / Japanese and it failed miserably as the structure is basically like looking in a mirror. It was however, more useful for English / Spanish.

As you can see, using Krashen’s Input Hypothesis as a foundation it is possible to develop some ideas to assist your language learning. Many have done it, and many more will attempt it. And it’s even at the foundation of my Multiple Phases to some extent.

If you have some other ideas on how to use input effectively, send them in to us and we’ll make a list of the top suggestions for all to enjoy!


Author: Andrew

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    • People have different ways of getting their 10000 sentences… phrase books, grammar books, websites, podcasts, movie subtitles… your imagination is the only limitation. Usually it’s best to make the list yourself because then the sentences have meaning to you and you may find them more useful and memorable. Although, I’m sure there are a number of places to download lists of pre-made sentences. The Anki download centre has some already established for instance πŸ™‚

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