Ex-Professor Reveals How to Learn a Language

I just came across this interesting video:

I think maybe a lot of us already know this stuff, but I haven’t seen this guy before, so there may be some new stuff here.


Nothing new, but interesting nevertheless and he has a very pleasant and laid back way of explaining his ideas. I think anyone thinking about starting a second language should listen to that video.

He said that Duolingo et al are essentially the old traditional teaching system in app form. That is my view, so it’s nice to know that I am in learned company.

1 Like

There is s playlist of his lectures on YouTube. I find the academic support like his important in distinguishing comprehensible input from a random approach.

1 Like

I watched a couple, and was intrigued when he started describing how the brain and language worked. Unfortunately it became clear that he follows the Universal Grammar model. So I stopped watching. What surprises me is that he says that his formalism is how the brain works, rather than a model of how the brain processes language. This might seem trivial to you, but it is a key point. And more importantly UG has been discredited, though some still adhere to it,

1 Like

Maybe I misheard but I thought the guy in the video made a point that Spanish and Chinese are of equal difficulty for an English speaker to learn because Spanish has conjugations and Chinese has other difficulties that “balance out.” I don’t see how anyone can conclude this. The languages are of roughly the same level of easiness for a baby but once you have English as a starting point, with all the grammar and vocabulary that comes with it, Spanish is a much smaller leap.


I agree. That’s nonsense. Since I’ve studied both languages, I know from experience.

He probably reached this conclusion based on his theory (“model”) of how the brain works. Personally, I reject all such theories, or any theory that “we now know” exactly how the human mind works.

Thanks for the posts, which saved my bothering to watch this. There are a bazillion theories out there – why do I want to learn his?

Will it actually reveal “how to learn a language”? If so, how many people have been successful at learning new languages using this method? If that is not sentence 1, I won’t still be listening at sentence 2.

1 Like

Here is a video from Bill in Spanish, if someone wants to hear his views and get some comprehensible Spanish input, too:


Wouldn’t that depend on how you’ve studied both languages though?

If you studied the traditional way, then I can imagine Chinese would be much harder. But acquiring language through comprehensible input would surely even out the difficulties that occur with a grammar-based approach,

1 Like

As someone who has spent considerably more time on Chinese comprehensible input than Spanish, and yet can understand Spanish pretty well and Chinese remains a struggle… No, he’s right. It’s MUCH harder learning Chinese than a much more closely related language like Spanish. (Even though all else being equal, Standard Chinese seems significantly more regular and “streamlined” and easier to learn. The point is that all else is by no means equal for a European or American with experience in Romance and Germanic languages.)


I agree. I think the biggest difference comes from your native tongue. English shares countless word roots with Spanish, and that makes it easier to learn new words. And English grammar is similar to Spanish. Chinese has no past/future verb tenses, and almost no plurals. It can be difficult to figure out how to say something.