Learning Like Children

It's widely believed that adults can't learn a second language as well a children. "Adult brains are different," or "the adult's mother tongue interferes" often end the conversation. But if children are better language learners why not do what children do? Until you've tried learning a language by doing the same things as a child, how can you conclude adults can't learn as well?

Learn language through stress and anxiety

How many students do you think would enroll in a program where stress and anxiety were promoted in the classroom? No language school on the planet promotes stressful classrooms but most schools have created that very thing. Why is that?

When you are required to speak a second language, one you don't know well, it's stressful. Add to this all your classmates watching you create a stressful class. Wouldn't it be better if language students spoke only when they felt comfortable? There's research that shows we learn better when we're relaxed - that's why TV ads are so affective.

Of all the language learning methods I've heard and all the classrooms I've visited, the AUA school in Bangkok is the only one that doesn't require it's students to speak or listen to non-native students. In their ALG classes students only listen to a native speaker and are told not to speak the target language until they feel ready.

"ALG (Automatic Language Growth) is an approach to language acquisition that replicates normal, first language development. Based on Stephen Krashen’s Input Hypothesis, the difference in practice between ALG and other natural programs is in the application of the belief that speaking occurs naturally given enough input. Therefore, ALG focuses almost entirely on offering understandable experience. ALG does not focus on speaking, and discourages students from speaking until words occur on their own."

I've become intrigued by this method and have looked for an ALG program in Chiang Mai. I called the AUA school in Bangkok and spoke with David Long, the director of the ALG program. He said there was no ALG program in Chiang Mai but told me of Crosstalk and said he'd come to Chiang Mai for a workshop. Now I've got to find some native Thai speakers interested in splitting the cost to get him here.

(Update March 2011: Since I was unable to find enough people interested in Crosstalk, I've decided to move to Bangkok to attend AUA's ALG Thai classes.)