I was once giving a year end diagnostic speaking test to a quiet level 2 student who listens really well in class. I really didn’t know if he could say a word or a thousand words. It turned out to be the latter.
That’s how comprehensible input works. It goes in, rolls around, some of it sticks and then, after years of that sticking, over which we have no control as to order of stickage or how it sticks or when, it starts to show up in the form of organized comprehensible output.
But that wasn’t the neatest thing. The neatest thing was really really neat. The first panel in the prompt had two men in it playing soccer. The student started out by saying
Deux hommes jouent…..
French teachers will get this. You can’t look at that and say it right if you’ve been taught from a book. The link from the x to the h is a z sound. Who would know that detail of sound by memorizing a rule about it? Who could mangage and monitor sound at such a subtle level with the severely limited conscious mind when it comes to L2 production?
And the kid didn’t say the s at the end of the word – another near miracle for an American kid. And he didn’t say the ent on the verb either. The kid followed three very difficult pronunciation rules in French but did so without effort and without even being aware of it!
I was very happy to hear that z roll in there, and to not hear the s on the noun and the ent on the verb. And to hear the kid say “hommes” like “umm” – the way the French say it. It all came straight out of the kid’s unconscious mind. The kid had learned a language principle without ever memorizing a rule, simply by hearing the language alot. So cool.
I suggest that we, more and more in our instruction:
– begin to see the absolute simplicity of this way of teaching languages.
– just pick a word, any word, or a group of words or two groups of words and start talking based on interest, not on how many times you can say it.
– go relax somewhere.
Does a guy delivering housing materials to a house think and meditate on how he is then going to build it all by himself, from site preparation to electrical to plumbing to siding to flooring and all that? Does he also, en route to the house, get all involved with how the truck that he is driving is able to go down the road, thinking about how the steering column, the exhaust, the tires, the engine and all of that work? No, he just drives the truck and others do the work of building it. In language acquisition those others are the unconscious mind.
Of course, doing this is counterintuitive for teachers raised on planning and worrying that they may not do everything right. In their minds, they ARE responsible for all aspects of delivering the materials and building the house. But, when teachers switch over to CI, they have to let go of everything but the steering wheel and deliver CI in interesting and meaningful and funny and personalized ways to the kids. That’s it!
We’re not meant to suffer so much when we teach. There are good people on the job down there in the deeper mind who are bored. They want to work but we don’t let them. Our job is but to give up control of the process, get out of the way, let the deeper mind do it’s thing, and just drive the CI delivery truck. We need to get out of the way.