Does input based language learning work for beginners?
I started Czech at LingQ. I feel that I have made more progress in the last 6 weeks than I made in 3 months when I tried to learn Portuguese using Teach Yourself, and Living Language starter books, way back when LingQ was The Linguist and only offered English. This despite the fact that Portuguese is much closer to Spanish than Czech is to Russian, and despite the fact that I know Spanish much better than I know Russian.
After lots of listening to all the beginner dialogues at TY and disconnected phrases at Living Language, when I visited Portugal for two weeks (my first visit some years ago), I could not understand and could not communicate. This despite the fact that Portuguese and Spanish are almost the same language. Portuguese still felt strange. It was only later, after working on Portuguese at LingQ that on my second visit to Portugual, I started to feel comfortable.
Why? Because at LingQ I am able to tackle interesting content early, and I think that is key. I am able to read newspapers and listen to Radio Praha. I went through the beginner content created by our members as quickly as possible, not worrying about the strangeness of the language. I do go back and study any additional beginner lessons as soon as they are created, but mostly I read and listen to things of interest to me. My vocabulary and familiarity with the language are growing in leaps and bounds.
I can stream, listen and read at the same time, on the computer and in iLingQ. I save the words I need on the first read. Then I review the flash cards for the lesson, or read through checking my yellow words. Then I stream, listening while reading. Then I am ready to listen on my MP3 player away from the computer, and the brain is getting used to the language more and more.
People say they want structure. What kind of structure? I do not mind mixing tenses in beginner texts, difficult words in beginner texts. I do not mind not understanding. I have a small starter book with explanations if I need them. I can check declensions and conjugations in the book or on the Internet. I can ask for explanations on our Forum and get pretty quick response.
Some people like the comfort of going from lesson 1 to lesson 2 etc. I do not find that learning a language is that kind of a linear process. I do not find that lesson 1 contains the building blocks for lesson 2 etc. I find that the whole language is absorbed as an amorphous whole, a liquid jelly, that gradually starts accumulate in ways that we cannot account for.
Having said that, we appreciate any content providers that create notes for lessons. We are very soon going to enable learners to reward content providers who do these kinds of things.
We are also actively seeking to tie up with providers of more traditional learning systems to integrate with LingQ. If you have any suggestions about publishers of language courses that we might approach please let me know.