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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Input Based Learning

Today one of my favorite YouTube polyglots, Lingo Steve published a video called 'Input Based Learning.' The learning method stresses taking in as much authentic material as possible, and progressing from beginner books to living texts withing a few months. The method requires that you download audio programs onto any listening device. With consistency, learners must attentively listen to the material.  It also requires that the learner read the language with as much frequency as they listen to it. This method certainly sounds easy. The good news is that it is easy. But like any language learning strategy, you must be disciplined and willing to put in the effort.

One of the things I discovered about polyglots is that they tend to agree that the most important part of language learning is listening. Moses McCormick repeatedly stresses the importance of listening. I wish that someone had said this to me when I was in high school learning French. I used to rent French movies on my own and watch them. It never occurred to me to try input based learning. I trusted that I would learn French from my teachers.

Many people think they know how to listen. It is the most basic skill, we've been doing it since birth. But many people actually do not know how to listen. Allow me to break down listening into six categories:


1. Ignoring /  Passive listening
2. Pretending / Usually stock nods and uhums, yes, of course, etc.
3. Selective listening - Intentionally disregarding/dismissing the other person's views.
4. Attentive listening - personally driven fact gathering and analysis
5. Active listening - understanding feelings and gathering facts
6. Emphatic listening

Input based learning is based on the idea that one should spend a bulk of their time taking in information. This technique is opposed to Out-put content, such as speaking, writing, and composing. I think of it in terms of taking more than giving. Steve finds this to be one of the best ways to learn a language, and he lists five reasons why Input Based Learning is the way to go.




  1. It works, it works very well. Some of the most famous polyglots use this method. Their methods involve listening and reading. Input learning gives on a sound basis in the language making it effective.
  2. Its easy, a person can do it anytime, anywhere. Steve does it while washing the dishes. I do it when I am pushing the stroller. 
  3. You are not making mistakes. A lot of people are afraid to make mistakes. You might not understand what you are listening to, it might be fuzzy to you, but you are not tripping over your own feet. 
  4. You can choose what interests you. In the beginning months it will mostly be beginner material. But later, you can choose what ever is interesting to you. 
  5. Learning by an input based approach is cheaper! You can go to the library, checkout the material, and download it all onto your I-pod. I went to iTunes and took an image of my Chinese Lessons. All of this material came from the library - I do not pay a cent. 

Shot of Naomi's I-pod
























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