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  • Language Learners Grand Masters – Steve Kaufmann

    Posted on January 4th, 2009 Mairo Vergara 1 comment

    steve-kaufmannThe third Language Learning Grand Master that I bring to you here at The Language Learning Blog is my friend Steve Kaufmann. Kaufmann is another amazing language learner which isn’t a linguistic or an academic. When young, Kaufmann traveled the World, living in France, China, Japan, etc. After learning 10 (or more!) languages, he started working on a project for language learning, which resulted in his great website LingQ. LingQ is a complete system for language learning, where the ideas of Steve Kaufmann can be seen in action. At LingQ you can select texts from a vast library, listen, read and save words and phrases from the texts to further studies. You can also have you writing correct and join discussions with native speakers (although these features aren’t free). Free or not free, LingQ is great and you definitely should take a look at it.

    However, if want to know more about Kaufmann and his ideas on language learning, I suggest you visiting both his blog The Linguist and his YouTube Channel. Although he sometimes seems a bit extremist, I agree with many of his ideas, like for example:

    – language learning should be fun, you have to have interest on what you’re reading/listening to.
    – you learn far more by reading and listening than by speaking and writing
    – perfectionism isn’t good when it comes to language learning
    – grammar and even pronunciation are usually overrated
    Here are two video by Kaufmann: the first is a recent one where he talks about Stephen Krashen. In the second one he talks in different languages, which is very interesting.

  • Language Learners Grand Masters – Stu Jay Raj

    Posted on January 4th, 2009 Mairo Vergara 4 comments

    stujayrajAfter a short Christmas and End/New Year’s break we are back with our Language Learning Grand Master Articles. Today I bring you the communication consultant Stu Jay Raj from Thailand. Different from Stephen Krashen, Stu Jay is neither an academic researcher nor a linguistic. He’s, in my opinion, one of the guys farther away from the bulk of language researchers/teachers/linguistics out there. Farther away in the sense you can really learn a lot about language learning with him. As well as many great language learners out there, Stu Jay cares more about teaching how to learn languages than teaching the languages itself. It’s a tendency between polyglots and I believe it will grow up in the future, although it will for certain take time.

    Stu Jay approaches language from a rather communicative, social, and interactive perspective, seeing language as a kind of social and interative skill, in a very practical and useful way. But, at the same time, not in a mechanical way. This may seems complicated, but as soon as you watch some of his videos you’ll get what I’m trying to say.

    Stu Jay speaks more than 10 languages, and the interesting thing is that he speaks languages that I have never even heard about like Lao and Urdu. Maybe his different approach to language learning comes from the fact of he being from Thailand, living in a very different culture.

    You can learn a lot about him and his ideas on language learning at his blog Behind The Curtain, and also at his YouTube Channel. But before leaving this blog, take a time to watch this two video where he talks about some of his ideas and approaches to language learning.

  • Language Learning Grand Masters – Stephen Krashen

    Posted on December 23rd, 2008 Mairo Vergara 3 comments

    stephen-krashenToday we start our Language Learning Grand Masters series with Dr. Stephen Krashen. At the university I learned about Krashen, but it was in a very brief way, so that when I started reading Krashen by myself I suddenly realized “oh, some time ago some teacher in some class talked about this guy”. In fact, most language students at university don’t know about Krashen. But why should you know about him? First, because his ideas about language learning are, in my humble opinion, amazing! Second, because every serious language learner will greatly benefit from reading and knowing Krashen. Let’s take a quick look at what Wikipedia says about him:

    Stephen Krashen is professor emeritus at the University of Southern California, moving from the linguistics department to the faculty of the School of Education in 1994. He is a linguist, educational researcher, and activist. Dr. Krashen has published more than 350 papers and books, contributing to the fields of second language acquisition (SLA), bilingual education, and reading. He is credited with introducing various influential concepts and terms in the study of second language acquisition, including the Acquisition-learning hypothesis, the Input Hypothesis, Monitor Theory, the Affective Filter, and the Natural Order Hypothesis. Most recently, Krashen promotes the use of free voluntary reading during second language acquisition, of which he says “I believe that it is the most powerful tool we have in language education, first and second.” From Wikipedia.

    As you can see, Krashen has formulated a series of hypotheses on language learning: The Natural Order Hypothesis, The Acquisition/Learning Hypothesis, The Monitor Hypothesis, and The Affective Filter Hypothesis. Let’s take a look at each of them:

    The Natural Order Hypothesis
    “we acquire the rules of language in a predictable order”

    The Acquisition/ Learning Hypothesis
    “adults have two distinctive ways of developing competences in second languages […] acquisition, that is by using language for real communication […] learning, ‘knowing about’ language” (Krashen & Terrell 1983)

    The Monitor Hypothesis
    ‘conscious learning […] can only be used as a Monitor or an editor’ (Krashen & Terrell 1983)

    The Input Hypothesis

    “humans acquire language in only one way – by understanding messages or by receiving ‘comprehensible input'”

    The Affective Filter Hypothesis
    “a mental block, caused by affective factors […] that prevents input from reaching the language acquisition device”(Krashen, 1985, p.100)

    From Krashen’s Comprehension Hypothesis Model of L2 learning

    At first it may seem too complicated, but, in fact, the hypotheses are very simple. Acquisition and learning are different. We acquire language in natural contexts, reading, listening, talking to people. It’s using the language in the real world for real communication. On the other hand, learning is what usually takes place inside the classroom, it relates to every conscious study on and about the language. Nomenclatures, explicit grammar rules, drills, and so forth. We acquire language through input, i.e., listening and reading real content. We learn the language deliberately studying, be it in a classroom or by self-study. Although one can learn a foreign language through only input/natural learning or through only conscious learning, the best learner would be one able to balance natural acquisition and explicit learning. In other words, we need lots of input in order to acquire language, and by studying, we consciously learn the language in order to polish the few errors that the input by itself couldn’t correct.

    This article is just a short introduction to Krashen. His theories about language learning goes much further. You can read his papers for free at Great language learners like Stu Jay Raj, Steve Kaufmann and Khatzumoto were highly influenced by Krashen, so I strongly recommend reading Krashen papers and books.

  • Language Learning Grand Masters

    Posted on December 17th, 2008 Mairo Vergara 3 comments

    guru_nanaYou probably know Michael Jordan, Bruce Lee and Bill Gates, don’t you? Have you ever heard of Tiger Woods, Nadia Comaneci or The Beatles? All those people have something in common: they succeeded in their field/area. They not only succeeded, they succeeded extremely well, so that nowadays they are considered geniuses. What many language learners don’t know is that there are many language learning geniuses out there. Those guys have learned so many languages, they have done so well in theirs studies, they went so hardcore that ended up understand exactly how language and language learning works. It’s almost you duty as a serious language learner to know those guys, at the very least to have heard of them.

    At the university I had taken so many literature classes. In these classes we had to read classical literature, we have to read the works from the masters, the big guys (the unique problem is that there are so many big guys in literature…). In the same way, you have to read/know the big language learning guys. Hopefully they are in minor number than the literature folks. It’s weird why we don’t study those guys at the university. For instance, at least here in Brazil, language students usually have no clue about who is Stephen Krashen. Notice that Krashen should be known since he is in the academic field! But people like Steve Kaufmann or Stu Jay Raj are totally unknown between most of language students. University language teachers should start studying more languages and language learning (and less linguistics) and set up programs that make students aware of all those language masters.

    This is an introduction to a series of articles about the people I call language learning grand masters. We gonna start with Stephen Krashen, since he is quoted by all others grand masters I know. I hope you like it! Stay tuned!