Krashen, «Is There a “Fast Track” to Second Language Acquisition?»
- one hour of pleasure reading for 3 years in the lower end of individual variability would bring ESL proficiency from TOEIC 250 ("Basic") to 733 ("Limited Working Proficiency")
- same amount of reading for the fastest learners would reach 1027 (over the scale)
- on avg, 2h/reading/day for 1 year would add 200 points.
this is honestly kind of discouraging :/ welp it's not like people become fluent in 3 months or anything
"Some subjects engaged in other activities in addition to reading: test preparation, vocabulary study and listening to the radio. None of these activities had any significant impact on TOEIC gains." ← this part really surprised me: what's so specially unique about reading for pleasure that listening for pleasure or test prep don't contribute to improvement? Just a small sample effect?
@melissaboiko I make Bayesian SRS algorithms and my hypothesis is that SRS algorithm is probably one of the least important factors in your progress at actual domain mastery, compared to your materials, time spent, reading and listening for pleasure, writing and conversation practice, etc. Sometimes people argue that no, SRS algorithm does matter, and studies like this give me hope that some day we can settle this: I can imagine a few friends doing the same experiment as Mason & Krashen.
@22 there are major advantages to incidental learning from natural input:
- goal-directed (using language _for_ something, e.g. a series you like, rather than as a goal in itself, as "study") means motivation means orders of magnitude more hours of activity
- natural input has optimum, perfectly calibrated SRS: the words that appear more often will appear more often
- it also has perfect context, exercising full semantic ranges, collocations, idioms, pragmatics etc. also at optimum SRS rates
@22 the sheer amount of words to learn means that every fluent L2 learner has acquired the majority of their vocab via incidental acquisition. the only question is when do you jump from intentional learning to incidental acquisition. Krashen's answer is "from step 0 – by preparing comprehensive, compelling input for all levels". others may differ on the point (e.g. Nation would suggest flashcards for the very beginner) but the data clearly show incidental acquisition to be at least necessary.
@22 intentional study like test prep and vocab drills have terrible long-term retention rates when not accompanied by large-scale input. and if you do lots of incidental input, the gains dwarf what little you learned from the few hours you could tolerate the grammar drills etc.
no details on article, but I would bet "listening to radio" didn't work cause it wasn't comprehensible (probably music or background voices). comprehensible input from audiobooks/TV/etc. should work as well as reading.
@melissaboiko Thanks for these thoughtful and incisive notes! Could I burden your generosity of time with just one personal question—I find myself getting anxious and discouraged when reading second-language text without translation where I can't check my understanding, so I shy away from untranslated material even though that's what I'm most interested in. I wonder if I should just try anyway?
(I'm reading Kato Lomb's book (freely available online!) to get more inspiration.)
@22 Lomb's book is excellent!
here's how reading an L2 text for acquisition should feel like:
- you understand the gist of what's happening
- enough that it holds your interest
- you miss some details and stuff but—
- you don't care cause you want to know _what happens next_
- you forget you're even reading in L2
the ideal text is addictive, binge-inducing (Krashen's "compelling"). if it feels like work something's wrong; prob. you need more vocab before tackling this one
@22 graded readers can help here, but beware—too many graded readers don't actually control vocabulary, and bog you down with boring paraphernalia like exercises, bolded terms etc. you want ones that quote numbers, "only the 1000 most frequent words".
other forms of input can help too by providing additional context. I learned English by binging on story-rich videogames, Japanese by teen-level manga (Fullmetal Alchemist and One Piece were my first binges). I'm trying cartoons for German now
@22 (I failed to measure properly before, but after 70h of animation series I find that German podcasts became understandable, and my vocab went from "crummy B1" to "safely >B2". I'm still a bit green to read A Song of Ice and Fire – I'm missing about 1 word every 8, which would require too many dictionary interruptions to make sense of it.)
@melissaboiko German-language animation, with no subtitles?
@22 German dubbed animation, with German subtitles. (never use subtitles in a language you know, it diverts your attention from acquisition).
no series I watched had closed captions (the ideal); instead, the German of the subtitles was a different translation than that of the dubbing. this was annoying at times, but helpful in others (I only need to know 1 of the 2).
series watched so far: She-Ra, Avatar, Dragon Prince, Undone, Hilda, Kipo. all were bingeable and plenty compelling for me :)
@melissaboiko so after this amazing advice, I settled down and tackled one of the books I’ve long wondered if I could handle (one of the big Studio Ghibli hardback picture-book adaptations they have, with lots of stills from the film but also an actual written retelling, ~100 pages with large font, some kanji with furigana). Just finished it—thank you so much! I bookmarked words I looked up while reading—300 of them in one book! I’m convinced, incidental reading (and rereading) is the best! 🙇♂️🙏!
@melissaboiko oooh actually I'm finding this very encouraging. Because I'm Bad at learning languages (mostly at the "sticking with it" part) and I love just randomly reading texts that i mostly-understand, so i feel like i should value that more and do it more, instead of being like "I'm bored to death by these grammar exercises and can't follow the speed of this class so i will never be able to truly Language".
@maunzi if you read a lot of texts that you kind of understand, you will know the language eventually :) the trick is the "a lot" part. it means it's important to find texts you're really personally interested in, and that you understand well enough to stay interested in. when it works just right, you get into a virtuous circle; the more you read the more you can read ("narrow reading" a single series/author/genre works well for this purpose)
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