So, I was seeing a video today where the narrator brought this approach as the best for L2 acquisition. I believe it can be useful, that's how we all learned our L1 after all, but I wonder how it can work and if it works if we are involved with L2.

The issues I'm concerned with are mainly two: 1) comprehension, 2) speed.

1) Comprehension

We really did learn our L1 by mostly associating images to the words but I feel we can't base our acquisition on this. In a natural language acquisition approach, we are always misunderstanding things and in the end actually understanding very little. For example, I had a "natural" japanese lesson and the teacher played a couple videos and after commented on them, telling us what he believed we could have got from the dialogues. Most things he said I didn't get at all. As kids it was okay if we didn't understand much of what others said, but as adults neither can we or the people we talk to tolerate that.

2) Speed

It generally takes at least over 5 years for us to acquire our L1 to communicate our thoughts sufficiently well for day to day life. At 5 we weren't masters of the language though, as we probably didn't know how to create many words, how to organize words in a coherent way, which words to use and so on. Past that age we needed a couple more years to get to hone our skills, resulting in over 10 years of "natural" language studying. The average L2 acquisitioner can't work with 10 years, as most of us need to learn a language for something that requires the knowledge as soon as possible.

I hope you enlighten me about these issues in particular as some people claim to have turned into 10 lang. + polyglots with this approach despite of what I said.

  • 1
    Is that video available online? Was the person presenting this approach Stephen Krashen?
    – Tsundoku
    Commented May 24, 2019 at 8:15
  • 1
    In general, if you meet someone who claims to have turned into 10 lang. + polyglots, you should be highly doubtful of the validity. They just speak a few phrases or sentences in these languages, and most of their language levels are at most B1.
    – Blaszard
    Commented May 24, 2019 at 12:08
  • @Cristophe, the video is online and yes, professor Krashen was in it but a few others were too. m.youtube.com/watch?v=illApgaLgGA Commented May 25, 2019 at 2:05
  • @Blaszard, how many languages do you think these people actually reached fluency in? Commented May 25, 2019 at 2:06
  • @DuarteAlfonsoMartin It depends on each person, but I mean that when you hear someone claims to speak 10+ languages it’s more like 3 languages at C1, 2 languages at B2, and all the others are at most B1. Plus, it is very common that their the B2/C1 languages only come from the similar Indo-European languages.
    – Blaszard
    Commented May 25, 2019 at 11:47

1 Answer 1


Well as someone who's tampered with 'natural' language acquisition approaches here are some conclusions I personally made:

  1. Like Steven Krashen said, comprehensible input is key. If you listen to a language and understand nothing, you'll learn nothing. For immersion-based approaches to work you need a foundation of basic vocabulary, which will allow you to expand your knowledge based on what you already know.

  2. We have an advantage over children because we have cultural knowledge (also known as cultural capital), which we've acquired over the years and can easily translate into other languages. For extremely foreign languages however, we need to learn about the cultural context of vocabulary and the culture of the nation they're found in to truly acquire them.

    One of the reasons it takes children so long to learn a language is because they need to learn about the world around them, learn objects, abstract concepts, theories, mathematics, shapes etc. We have that knowledge already and can simply translate that, saving us 10+ years of learning.

  3. You get good and natural at what you do a lot, as long as it's input-based. If you listen to a lot of songs, you'll get good at writing songs. If you read a lot of books, you'll be able to reproduce writing naturally. If you listen to a lot of conversations, you'll be able to produce natural sounding language. Just think of those Spanish footballers when they give speeches after a match: they speak like the English players because they've watched thousands of post-match interviews!

This isn't an answer to your question but just a few insights I had. I hope these help.

  • Krashen's input hypothesis has been very influential in my teaching. I would add to your first point above that in order for the learner to make progress it is important not only that the input is comprehensible but also that it is at what Krashen calls i+1 - in other words just a little beyond their current proficiency. Learners make progress neither when everything they hear or read is easy (i+0) nor when it is very difficult (i+10).
    – Shoe
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 18:11

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