Input only

General discussion about learning languages
nuncapense
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Input only

Postby nuncapense » Sun Jan 10, 2016 6:34 pm

What is the consensus on input only language learning these days? Does it produce people who can understand really well but can't speak? I have been focusing on Spanish input while living in Mexico. I think my speaking is really bad. I meet with a tutor once a week and we have a conversation, but I don't get a lot of speaking practice except with really simple things like buying food.
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Montmorency
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Re: Input only

Postby Montmorency » Sun Jan 10, 2016 7:43 pm

nuncapense wrote:What is the consensus on input only language learning these days? Does it produce people who can understand really well but can't speak? I have been focusing on Spanish input while living in Mexico. I think my speaking is really bad. I meet with a tutor once a week and we have a conversation, but I don't get a lot of speaking practice except with really simple things like buying food.


I doubt whether you will find a consensus.

I think a lot depends on the nature and the quality of the input, e.g. does it include at least a fair amount of comprehensible input?

What I do not know, and it is a question that interests me, is whether sheer quantity of input, if it is high enough, can make up for lack of quality / comprehensibility.

In general though, I tend to think that in order to speak well, one needs to practice speaking fairly regularly, probably more than once a week to be honest. Others may not agree though.
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Bakunin
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Re: Input only

Postby Bakunin » Sun Jan 10, 2016 7:46 pm

nuncapense wrote:What is the consensus on input only language learning these days? Does it produce people who can understand really well but can't speak? I have been focusing on Spanish input while living in Mexico. I think my speaking is really bad. I meet with a tutor once a week and we have a conversation, but I don't get a lot of speaking practice except with really simple things like buying food.

The "consensus" I gather from following discussions and experiences of different types of learners is that input only is generally not sufficient for competent language production. Input goes a long way and can provide a great base from which to work on output, but I haven't seen any convincing reports that input only leads to good speaking skills. Other than that there are a zillion of opinions on how much input, when, in what form etc. The great thing about input activities is that they never harm. It's always better to understand more than less, to have been exposed to more language than less.

There are other ways to work on your output than meeting with a tutor. I hope other forum members will offer more detailed advice, but here are a few pointers: writing in all its forms (lang-8.com, TL forums, pen pals, Hello Talk etc.), self-talk, shadowing, memorizing. If you have fast access to the internet, it should also be easy to find Spanish speakers for Skype conversations or informal tutoring, for instance on italki.com.
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Re: Input only

Postby Serpent » Sun Jan 10, 2016 8:03 pm

Only under the circumstances described here. And input can only lead you to a point from where you can improve further just by practising, not to perfect speaking/writing.
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nuncapense
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Re: Input only

Postby nuncapense » Mon Jan 11, 2016 1:18 am

So how many hours a week of speaking is enough to make some progress? I could do some free language exchanges here in Mexico.
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Re: Input only

Postby solocricket » Mon Jan 11, 2016 5:14 pm

Input can take you farther than you would think. With enough input, both comprehensible and "atmospheric," I tend to reach a point at which I want to write or talk, and I start naturally thinking in the language. At that point, output is much less strenuous than it would be if you had started from day one. I really like using "input only" for several months before I try output, so I'd say give it a shot if you haven't tried it yet.
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Re: Input only

Postby lusan » Mon Jan 11, 2016 6:42 pm

For me, output and input are different animals. Reading input is easier than speaking output. They depend on our learning goals. For example, if reading is my main focus, I would read intensively and extensively. If conversation is goal, then I must make sure that I take care of listening comprehension and having a personal active vocabulary. After all, we do not speak the way we write. Speaking is faster, colloquial, and very flexible. It uses shorter sentences, etc. Reading and writing seems to be the exact opposite. We can read slowly, reflecting on the read material while when we speak there is no time to think at all. When we write, we can construct carefully the sentences while when we speak, we have another person impatiently waiting and waiting. So different skills require different approaches.

So my current practice:

Speaking
    1. Listening practice using Glossika
    2. Personal active vocabulary – Anki personal set
    3. Grammar – Italki tutor
    4. Short speaking practice –Italki and others
Reading
    1. Read of short stories and occasionally internet news – using Readlang
    2. Flash card passive vocabulary - Anki
Writing
    1. F1 to F2 translation – lang8 (not started yet)

Yes, this is a lot of work but a pleasurable one. Learning a marriage is entering into a long term relationship.
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Ed1991
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Re: Input only

Postby Ed1991 » Mon Jan 11, 2016 11:29 pm

Well I think a fair few readers here will already be familiar with Krashen's comprehensible input hypothesis. The idea is that we acquire languages via comprehensible input. I'm pretty much in agreement with this hypothesis and there is plenty of empirical evidence backing such an idea up.

But a strict dichotomy between input and output is false.

If I do exercises in a grammar textbook, is this output or input? Same with chatting with a tutor the value seems to be that your actually speaking the language and being forced produce the foreign language. But your really getting incredible amounts of really valuable input, within a certain context or setting.

If you have the chance to speak or write in a language take it. At the very least it's an incredibly valuable form of input.
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Montmorency
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Re: Input only

Postby Montmorency » Tue Jan 12, 2016 12:22 am

Ed1991 wrote:Well I think a fair few readers here will already be familiar with Krashen's comprehensible input hypothesis. The idea is that we acquire languages via comprehensible input. I'm pretty much in agreement with this hypothesis and there is plenty of empirical evidence backing such an idea up.

But a strict dichotomy between input and output is false.

If I do exercises in a grammar textbook, is this output or input? Same with chatting with a tutor the value seems to be that your actually speaking the language and being forced produce the foreign language. But your really getting incredible amounts of really valuable input, within a certain context or setting.

If you have the chance to speak or write in a language take it. At the very least it's an incredibly valuable form of input.


There are some interesting ideas around this sort of thing (and much more) on this site (have a browse around...I haven't read all the articles by any means): http://www.lingua.org.uk
(And I am indebted to Serpent for making me aware of Erik Gunnemark and his co-author and collaborator Amorey Gethin (whose website that is), both fairly controversial figures, I gather, and no longer with us).
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ThumbWar
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Re: Input only

Postby ThumbWar » Tue Jan 12, 2016 1:58 am

I've only just begun studying a language, but I've read and thought a fair bit about language learning, so I'll throw in my two cents.

I tend to agree with people that describe language as imitative rather than creative.

Most of the time we are repeating words, phrases, and sentences that we have already heard before. Obviously there are people who use language creatively, such as writers, poets, creative types, and children (I thought that I'd be 'hip' forever), but in general we are copying.

It seems like if you have input a lot of a language, but you can't repeat what you input word for word, you won't be able to bridge from input to output.

What I mean by repeat word for word is the capacity to reconstruct conversations, sentences, and expressions. I am not referring to just shadowing.

'Outputting' seems to be the capacity to reconstruct (with VERY minor tweaking) the appropriate expressions you have seen others use in whatever situation you are currently in.

We are usually told that we are making mistakes when we aren't imitating others closely enough and we are being too creative with whatever we just made up.

I believe that we need to relisten/reread/rewatch until it is easy to recall the language exactly.

As a supplement I believe that mental or actual rehearsal of language (think acting) can aid in this process. By my estimation I would count this as input review, not output, because you're just reviewing and identically mimicking the language of others.
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