Interesting video on comprehensible input just dropped (Mandarin Chinese teacher)


I tried to watch the video but found it a bit boring. Maybe that’s me; I might be tired today.

What’s the most interesting key point you found in this video?

I disagree with her on the concept of talent. I don’t believe in it at all. Maybe some people are more talented in speaking, others in listening and so on. But if we want to learn a language in all its aspects, we have to put in a lot of work. Probably this aspect deterred me from continuing to listen.


Agree. Talent isn’t exist just hard work.


I think she was more pointing out that some people find certain tasks easier than other people do. I think that’s what she meant by talent. It’s certainly true that some people find language learning easier than others. I don’t think it’s all down to hard work. If hard work was everything, then my daughter would be a math genius, but she’s always struggled with it.

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This would definitely open up another discussion about being a genius at everything, or just being good after a lot of hard work, or becoming excellent after even more work if we have the motivation and the right technique. Your daughter probably doesn’t care about maths, doesn’t like it, or doesn’t even know why she should learn it! But I don’t know the background, so forgive me for speculating.

I don’t believe that people find it “easy” to learn a language. What they find easy is to learn only part of the language. That’s why I talked about the difference between learning ALL aspects of the language.

Most people only want to speak, others want to read, but it’s not a talent if they do it quickly. We see a lot of influencers learning a lot of languages, but if you look closely, they only have excuses for not learning a part of the language because they think it is not necessary for them.

The reality is that we all have strengths and weaknesses when learning a language, but not so many are willing to work hard on the weaknesses. I get it, it is a lot of effort!

Those who do it don’t have talent; they spend years working hard.

When I was young, I met a guy who could play the guitar very easily. He could listen to a song on the radio and find the key to play it. He was quick to find the notes and play the guitar. I was very impressed. Was that talent? Sure, probably, but it didn’t make him a serious guitarist. He never did much with that supposed talent, and I was surprised about that too. Why was that?

Because he didn’t know how to read music, he didn’t know how to write music, and he probably didn’t know a lot of other things either.
If he wanted to be a real guitarist, a professional, he would have had to put a lot of effort into learning all those other things that he didn’t want to do because they were too difficult for him.
If he had done that, people would have said he had talent. No! He had to overcome his weaknesses and do a lot of hard work.

Talent is not enough to excel at anything. It may be the starting point, I give you that, but it is only the beginning of the journey.
An interpreter may have a talent for listening and speaking at the same time, but everything else is hard work. The same goes for an excellent translator, and so on.

I may be too picky, I admit. But you still didn’t tell me what you found so interesting about her video. Maybe I missed something. :stuck_out_tongue:


@davideroccato I would whole-heartly like to agree with you. People who say they can’t learn something because of lacking “talent” often either don’t have any interest in it to begin with (math is a good example) or they don’t want to invest the hard work. It is an easy excuse for not dealing with your own weaknesses.

People may find the idea to play an instrument fascinating, but they “don’t have the talent”, so they don’t even bother to try as it would be a waste of time for them anyways. It’s easier then admitting you are just too lazy (in that regard, not in general). But everyone who is playing an instrument at a professional level will tell you that they invest hours day after day for several years or decades.

And if you try to help someone explaining why their approach don’t work and what they could do better, they ignore you and tell you that it is easy for you because you are talented, as this is easier then changing oneself.

It becomes a tiresome discussion usually.

In this context I may agree with @Pr0metheus that she was probably more refering to certain strengths and weaknesses we all have that may help us to get started (or make the start more troublesome). I don’t think that this aspects plays a role on the long run, though.

I found the video interesting nevertheless because she is an interesting person. However, there is really nothing new coming out of it for anyone who has dealt with the matter of language learning for some time. This is the case for most videos, though, so not necessarely a critic point.


Now that I think about it there is one point that she brought up in the video briefly that is usually not talked about so often: that it can be useful to take breaks.

From my own experience I often noticed that myself and others can benefit from letting something rest for a short period of time and that after the break one suddenly is capable of doing something he couldn’t do before the break. It may be that the brain can make use of the spare energy to adapt itself to make better use of what was learned, or that you still think about the content and learn even though you don’t actively engage in the matter. Not to mention that your motivation and effectiveness may increase due to the break.

Obviously the ratio of breaks to learning phase should heavely lean towards the latter :wink:


I definitely agree when it comes to the breaks she mentioned. However, I would have appreciated a more in-depth analysis. The reason we need breaks is probably because our brain needs to metabolize and settle everything we have learned in the previous slot. We are actually still learning during breaks; our brain is doing some cleaning up, some reordering, resting, and building new motivation and willpower for the next session of studies.

Regarding the talent, I agree with you, and as I said, maybe I was too picky. The fact is that I’m more critical of people who are on YouTube teaching how to study to a lot of other people of different ages. I’m more critical of how they use words, especially from teachers.

She says this: “I do think individuals have different paces so some are really accelerated like they have a high aptitude for language, it’s not that others can’t gain another language but that some might be quite gifted at that and therefore make more fast progress.”

I disagree on this, as I explained before.
You put two different healthy, same-age students, both driven in the same way to learn the same new language, both learning ALL aspects of the language, and both coming from the same language. I don’t believe one “gifted” student will do the same with 100 hours and the other with 1000 hours. They would probably need the same amount of time to reach the same level in every aspect of the language, more or less.

I don’t believe in the concept of talent or giftedness, unless it is for people like Beethoven and Mozart. But those are so rare that you don’t find them in regular language classes! And they would have lots of other problems to deal with anyway.

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Since there are people with learning disabilities, and since learning disabilities are sometimes not always apparent - for example, many people with Asperger’s Syndrome are not diagnosed until late in life, because Aspergers runs along a spectrum - it’s not rigidly defined. Same with dyslexia.

So it makes sense that ability in any subject varies along a spectrum, and while a lot of it is based on how much effort you put in, some of it is limited by an upper physical limit, or by a reduced speed in ability to learn, and those restrictions are different for different people. Some people have better ability than others in certain areas due to a very mild learning disability that might never be diagnosed.

To say that you “don’t believe” in talent - i.e. that you believe levels of innate ability can’t exist, just goes against everything we know about how the brain works. A brain is not like an iPhone - while every iPhone 15 works exactly the same, with the exact same functions, capacity and abilities, human brains don’t all work exactly the same or to the same level, so I find your blanket assertion that you don’t believe in talent unconvincing. You’re welcome to believe that, but I just don’t think it’s true. It seems to me an overly simplistic and unrealistic way of looking at the issue that can surely only serve to make it easy to dismiss real problems that people face in terms of learning.

Given that science has shown that different people do have different learning abilities, I must say that, as a person who loves languages, but who finds learning languages very challenging, despite having put tens of thousands of hours into language study, I find the underlying notion that people who struggle learning languages are just being lazy a little offensive.

Anyway, here’s a link to a scientific article about this issue:


Yes, certain areas not ALL areas. That’s why I have specified.

If you read what I said, I wrote both healthy students, referring to both physical and mental health. Don’t put on me the card of disabilities, as I have ADHD plus other difficulties, including recovering from a stroke while we are speaking. Don’t you think I’m well aware of that?
I definitely think you are overreacting to something that has nothing to do with what we are talking about.

I really don’t understand why you brought disabilities into this; should I feel offended by it? Definitely not, because I’m not a victim, and I don’t have and don’t want to have a victim mentality.

You are confusing problems or disabilities with talent or giftedness. Or, I believe you are confusing them.
It seems to me that you haven’t read what I wrote but are more reacting with your intrinsic emotional attachment to a personal consideration that I’m not aware of, and shouldn’t be.

In fact, even after asking twice, you haven’t said yet what you particularly liked about the video, or what you have found so interesting to post it. I wanted to know, so I could understand what I might have missed, but you are only focused on the negative and never shared your interest in it.

Again, as I said, a language is a complex aspect. You find many people talking about fluency, but they don’t write, or they don’t know the grammar, and they say that’s because they don’t care.

What talent are you talking about in learning languages? A person who is talented in every aspect of the language? Really?

How can this talented person learn 50k or 80k words without any effort? Or in just a couple of hours? How can this person read a few million words in a few hours?

Since you brought science vs. opinion, I’d like to know where science has ever said that there are people who are more talented at learning ALL aspects of a language.

Reading, listening, speaking, writing, and grammar structure. These are ALL different areas inside a brain. Maybe there is one gifted every one billion. But we are talking about the general population. The same that teacher is talking about. Those “gifted” don’t need her teachings, she never saw one.

Which means they should learn everything fast compared to others. We don’t see many, not even on YouTube.

A person could have a predisposition to speak and another to read, but facing the entire language is a completely different story. This has nothing to do with disabilities!

But I’m not stubborn, and I don’t have preconceptions. I will add that link you shared to my reading list, but I doubt that will answer my statement above regarding languages. Unless you have a specific phrase or paragraph inside that article that supports your claims, if you have actually read it.

Every human being is able to communicate, unless heavily impaired. I have already written above about the different aspects of a language.

I give to a human being way more consideration than you think of. Furthermore, I prefer the Goggins method for overcoming difficulties. Maybe @PeterBormann would have a different opinion on this.

I have found this old thread on LingQ. They were talking about talent, it seems interesing:

I don’t know the exact connotation of the word “talent” in the english language, so maybe there is a misunderstanding here. But the way it is used in German it always implies that

  1. the talented one can reach a high level without a whole lot of effort
  2. talent is some sort of prerequisite for acquiring a specific skill
  3. is used as an excuse for not really investigating why oneself may have failed, if it was even tried

I don’t imply that those people are lazy, they usually aren’t, and a lot of them a persons I respect. I just find that attitude troublesome, as it on the one hand neglects the amount of work artists, multilinguists and people of all kind of professions who made it to some degree of mastery had to invest to reach said goal whilst on the other hand causes many people to not really make use of their potential. One of the typical sentences I get to hear is “How many have tried this and failed?”; well, none that I’ve knew of, at least when assuming that “trying” takes more then a few weeks.

Of course we all have our strengths and weaknesses. But no strength will give you a shortcut at becoming very good and weaknesses can be worked at.

I agree with @davideroccato though that it would be interesting to get to know what you considered interesting in the video?

I don’t know how old you are but would still assume you’ve never met any of those. So probably any assumptions one their character or giftedness is highly speculative. :stuck_out_tongue:


Totally speculative. :rofl:

Thanks for elaborating on the word talent.

@Pr0metheus Extracts from your link research above, not very interesting, and part of it based on factors that themselves considered debatable:

It is uncontested that humans are born with capacities for language learning, which includes the awareness of phonological, grammatical, and social aspects of language.

Human beings are endowed with the many skills that contribute to the ability to write and read, such as, first and foremost, language as well as auditory and visual perception and drawing. These initially independent working resources were coopted when script was invented, and teaching children to write and read at school predominantly means supporting the development of associations among these resources.

Importantly, no matter how intelligent a person is, gaining expertise in a complex and sophisticated field requires deliberate practice and an IMMENSE investment of time. However, intelligence differences will come into play in the amount of time that has to be invested to reach a certain degree of expertise. Moreover, intelligence builds a barrier to content areas in which a person can excel. As discussed in the first part of this paper, some content areas–first and foremost from STEM fields–are characterized by abstract concepts mainly based on defining features, which are themselves integrated into a broader network of other abstract concepts and procedures. Only individuals who clearly score above average on intelligence tests can excel in these areas. For individuals who were fortunate enough to attend schools that offered high-quality education, intelligence and measures of deep and broad knowledge are highly correlated.

In another research, where they study a young adult with “talent” for languages, they write this on the conclusion:

The final conclusion is that research into linguistic talent is SCARSE, therefore further investigation, especially in the field of working memory of talented foreign language learners, is required.

I just found her perspective as a language teacher generally interesting: I found her attitude towards language rules and the grammar-heavy approach to teaching refreshing, the fact that she recognizes the use of breaks, etc.

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I’d say that pretty much sums it up.
@Pr0metheus : Thank you. :slight_smile:
Yeah, the importance of breaks is imho a bit underestimated. I am not sure about the grammar-heavy approach, as it isn’t really a thing in this community that is focusing on immersion and comprehension. I don’t know how it is like in other countries but I can’t recall that our English lessons were overly grammar focused. Of course they were a topic and we especially focused on aspects that differ from German, like the present progressive that doesn’t exist in our language (not that this would hinder people from forming it). However, the majority of our lessons were reading, watching videos or listening to audio. Also speaking, especially in form of presentations or dialogs in front of the class were common. I must admit though that I had an excellent English teacher from grade 8 on, who forced us to speak English all the time. That was a nice boost imho. (Except she would probably punch me for saying imho :smiley: )

I just think it’s nice to get positive reinforcement from time to time, especially when there are so many people in many language-learning communities (they even pop up here from time to time) who are dismissive of the comprehensible input approach.

And regarding your previous question on the word “talent”, in English it has a pretty broad definition, and is generally considered anything from a slight advantage onwards, but less than a genius-level ability. A talent for languages may just mean you find languages easier than most, but it can also mean you have a special or somewhat unusual ability.

So to clarify, lots of people can have a talent for languages, but only a very few can be genius-level language learners.

That’s awesome! When I was a kid, the vast majority of our lessons were grammar only. I would say all of them! But many things have changed since then, I hope.

Well, Latin was very grammar focused and only translating simplified versions of old texts (bellum gallicum and some roman myths). Very boring and inefficient.

And it’s been 20 years since then so I really don’t know what they are doing today.

In the end I assume it really comes down to the respective teacher, not only in languages but in general. Teaching is more about adopting to the needs of the students then to brute-force a specific learning method. The latter only serves as the framework. That being said I don’t think dealing with grammar is bad per se. Especially if the target language’s grammar differs significantly from your native’s one it can be quiet interesting.

My motivation is when I notice that I made progress. And what works for others might not work for me or vice versa. So there really isn’t much to gain here except maybe some new ideas on how one could possible approach a matter.

In regards to “talent” it appears that it’s indeed used in a more broad sense then I’d assumed. It isn’t all too important in regards to what she said (I am not sure whether she used the word talent at all). I don’t see an easy way for a teacher to judge on whether a student, making faster progress then the majority of the class, does so due to advantages he was born with, having more free time to invest in studying, more discipline or a more efficient learning approach. About 2 years ago I thought I could try to learn Japanese. I wasn’t even able to memorize the alphabets. I switched to Korean which worked way better. 3 months ago I thought I could give Japanese another shot and was able to memorize the majority of the Hiragana and a huge junk of the Katakana in less then a week. Have I become more talented? I doubt so. But what has changed is my approach. How we learn has a much bigger influence on learning efficiency then anything else. The best we can do is trying to improve our methods over time.


Interesting discussion, Davide.
Unfortunately I don’t have time for SLA-related forum discussions at the moment (I have to focus more on IT and my corresponding certificates instead).

That said, here are a few aspects (apart from IQ) that I would discuss in this thread:

  • The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance .
  • Metacognition (reg. learning strategies, etc.).

  • Resilience (mental toughness / grit)

  • Habits (i.e., not relying on volition, emotion, or motivation, which are simply too volatile to be reliable)

  • Cultural capital (Bourdieu + the related concept of “transclasses”).
    Personally, I find this aspect the most interesting right now because it goes beyond an individualistic perspective and incorporates insights from sociology and social psychology (especially how much we’re all influenced by other people around us).

  • Domain-specific experience: The usual SLA stuff that we’ve discussed ad nauseam in LingQ over the last few years.

If I remember correctly, we also had a few discussions about talent, deliberate practice / expert performance, resilience, etc. on LingQ. Unfortunately, it’s sometimes hidden in various forum threads. Maybe Google Search is here more helpful than LingQ’s search function…

OK, I’ve got to keep on learning on Coursera (at least, it’s in English and Spanish. So, it’s a kind of SLA in disguise :slight_smile: ).