Talking is not practicing

A quote from Stephen Krashen in this video (starting at 6:00 min)

“If you want improve your Spanish, it will not help you to speak Spanish out loud in the car as you drive to work in the morning. It will not help you to go to the bathroom, close the door and speak Spanish to the mirror. I used to think those things help. Now I think they don’t.”

This comes as a surprise to me. Presumably, he must have backup data from research. Anyone has any thought?

This is a very compelling argument for the silent period. Personally I enjoy pronunciation practice from an early point - particularly in a low stress environment. But can’t argue with the logic and “naturalness” of the silent period during early acquisition.

I think it all depends on what you like to do. In fact, how much talking to yourself or reading out loud are you actually going to do? I think it is hard to sustain this kind of activity. Perhaps a little, but ultimately you have to confront the real item, a person to talk to. And when you get that opportunity you can progress quite quickly if you have the preparation and good attitude.

I think that saying phrases to yourself while brushing your teeth (just joking) is of relatively little benefit compared to concentrated listening and reading, and eventually more and more talking to people.

The way Krashen made this statement sounds like his had research to back it up. But I have been hearing successful language learners saying otherwise. Many claim that practising this kind of self-talk and repeating phrases are very helpful.

I remember Jerry Dai, the Chinese immigrant who acquired near-native English accent in 2.5 years, suggested repeating short phrases 4000 times!

I just watched the video. I recommend every one watch it.

“We all acquire languages the same way. We acquire languages when we have comprehensible input in a low anxiety environment.”


I know Jerry and can vouch for his fluency. I think he stressed repetitive listening to the same limited content, like one thousand times. One of my concerns is always who is really going to do this?

First of all - great video.

Jerry Dai isn’t the only one who suggests repeated listening and speaking. Mike Campbell (a.k.a. Glossika) comes to mind (he records hundreds of sample sentences every day for a week or two to exercise the muscles and to get sentence structure), and Olle Kjellin has this chorus method where you’re speaking in unison with the teacher/group/(audio) 50/100 times per sentence to get native-like prosody (I think fellow Swede maxb did a lot of chorusing for a while).

What does Krashen say about accent/pronunciation?

I think the important thing is what we like to do, and what is going to be efficient.

I do not repeat phrases or sentences since I would rather spend my time acquiring words. I feel that when I have the need or opportunity to speak a lot, that will be early enough and I will get enough practice. If I never get the opportunity to speak much, these exercises won’t do much for me.

So I do what I like doing and what I think is efficient in terms of my goals.

I think the difference between the phrase repeaters or shadowers and those who just want to acquire vocab is: the the former see communication in terms of performance and have the goal of being “native-like”, while the latter put the accent on saying something intelligible yet intelligent. I tend to fall in the second camp, especially since I am learning my languages mostly for personal, and not professional reasons, ie I am not going to teach any of my second languages, nor will I be a presenter of any kind.


I’m not sure what Krashen has to say about accent/pronunciation, but I’ll tell you how I would expect the ALG system to work (this partly relates to another forum post that you commented on).

I understand that the course goes for about 2000 hours. For the first 800 hours, students are not asked to or required to speak. During this time, they would be acquiring the language in precisely the way that Krashen demonstrated in his video. I believe you mentioned something about students learning passively for a long time and then never feeling ready or able to speak. For the remaining 1200 hours of the course, students would be speaking, reading and learning how to write (correct me if I’m wrong, anyone). Now, assuming they are paying attention and developing this comprehension, by the time they get past the 800 hour mark, they would have more or less internalised the accent, pronunciation, correct grammar structures and good phrasing (not to mention native-like gesture and body language). Then of course, they would start speaking, while still listening lots.

As I understand it, they would end up with an internal, native-like reference point to which they can refer when they are unsure of how to say or pronounce something. I would expect that they would still need to practice speaking to become very fluent, but they would forever have a natural, native-like foundation on which they can continue improving if they choose to. I think a big difference between what they do over at ALG and what we do (assuming we do similar things) is that they use visual aids to help increase comprehension. Listening to podcasts is a fantastic alternative, but 800 hours of listening on one’s MP3 player (or even listening and reading simultaneously on LingQ) does not equal 800 hours of listening with visual aids and constant native-speaker interactive, albeit passive. As for the TV-method, I think there aren’t enough clues to be able to get enough comprehensible input, and I definitely wouldn’t group the TV-method and ALG as if the approach were the same.

In the end, I’m sure the success of any given individual will depend on the individual him or herself, but it’s a fascinating concept nonetheless (ALG that is). Of course, such a committed and non-accessible course (unless you’re in one of a small number of countries) is not a practical solution for most people, which is why it is so great that we have LingQ :slight_smile:

Thanks for the video. I have lived with many, many, many years with the effects of my particular affective filter. My anxiety levels in French have only fairly recently gone down, but I now know what it is like to forget that I am speaking French: c’est formidable!

Throughout the entire clip I felt like I was watching a pilot of some Pediatric Neurosurgery for Young Parents show. “Lesson 1. Three Easy Ways to Remove Little Jimmy’s Spinal Cord.”

As this recording was made in the 80s, you might well have experienced a certain kind of ennui. You do watch some interesting shows! What would be Lesson 2?
And, by the way, I had an affective filter before it was ever ‘invented’.

2astamoore And why is that?