Antimoon (see e.g. How to learn English) claims that two Polish men (Tomasz P. Szynalski and his friend MRW) taught themselves English primarily without studying rules and grammar. Instead they read, listened, and used SRS methods. As non-native writers they are quite remarkable. Does anyone have any experience with this approach that would evaluate its usefulness?
The Antimoon website describes various techniques for learning English:
- Motivation: the focus here is on what you can achieve when you learn English (see Why learn English) and only to a lesser degree on motivational techniques. The authors state that you need to enjoy learning English; as a motivational technique they recommend imagining yourself in the future when you already know English.
- The authors point out that you should have a good monolingual English dictionary and that you should look for a learner's dictionary. This is sound advice.
- They claim that you should learn English without mistakes, that you should avoid bad (linguistic) habits. They give some advice on how to do this (e.g. speak carefully and slowly; use simple language; look things up in a dictionary). Tomasz Synalski admits that his emphasis on avoiding mistakes is controversial.
- They stress the importance of studying English pronunciation; this includes choosing between American and British English and looking up the pronunciation of words. Correct pronunciation is also emphasised in Gabriel Wyner's book Fluent Forever but Wyner recommended adding sound files (e.g. from Forvo.com) to your flashcards.
- They stress the importance of getting a lot of input. For grammar, input is more important than relying on grammar rules. The importance of input was also stressed in Stephen Krashen's language learning theory; Krashen's stressed the importance of comprehensible input, not just any input. Using lots of example sentences to learn grammar patterns is also a technique recommended by Gabriel Wyner (see Fluent Forever, above). Szynalski even tries to estimate how much input you need to become fluent in English.
- The authors recommend using spaced-repetition software (SRS). This advice will also sound familiar to readers of Wyner's book Fluent Forever.
Most of this is reasonable and useful but I missed (or overlooked) how it fits together as a method, i.e. a consistent view of how the individual techniques should be combined along a specific path. Language itself or individual language materials do not provide such a path, so if you are new to learning foreign languages, you may need some more guidance on how to get started.