What is Comprehensible Input? How do we Use It?
Comprehensible Input has been proven to be one of the most effective methods and forms of learning a new language. What is it? According to “Teaching English”, “Comprehensible input is language input that can be understood by listeners despite them not understanding all the words and structures in it. It is described as one level above that of the learners if it can only just be understood.” (Teaching English)
What Do Teachers Do?
Here is an example shared: “The teacher selects a reading text for upper-intermediate level learners that is from a higher level coursebook. Based on what the teacher knows about the learners, the teacher believes that this will give them ‘comprehensible input’ to help them acquire more language.” (Teaching English)
For starters, the most important thing the World of Learning Institute’s instructors do is get to know their learners. At the start of every school year, they take the opportunity to talk about personal goals and ambitions for learning a new language. Some instructors use a variety of informal assessments to identify proficiency levels. Other instructors provide a pre-test or diagnostic assessment to evaluate proficiency levels. Understanding where the learner is allows the instructor to identify language and resources (input) that are appropriate for the learner. These strategies reduce frustration, helping to target instruction. Is the language is too difficult? Or, can we reduce boredom if the language is too easy?
“Trying to understand language slightly above their level encourages learners to use natural learning strategies such as guessing words from context and inferring meaning. As the example suggests, a teacher needs to know the level of the learners very well in order to select comprehensible input, and in a large class of mixed ability, different learners will need different texts.” (Teaching English)
Why is Comprehensible Input Important?
Take a look at this image that demonstrates the importance of meaningful communication in the target language. Meaningful not only means at a learner’s level, but it also means relevant and of interest to the learner. The way this communication and input is provided to learners is important for acquisition.
“Comprehensible input needs to be compelling, and repeated– in different contexts, at different times, in interesting ways. It’s difficult to pin down the exact recipe, and we can’t control when or what the students will acquire. We can only control the input we give.” (Spanish Mama)
There are a variety of ways to provide input and communication in order to expect communication in the target language back. “Communicative ability also develops in only one way: through engaging in communication. That is, people learn to communicate by engaging in acts of expressing and interpreting meaning in many varied contexts. Communicative ability cannot be “drilled.” It cannot be practiced in the traditional sense of practice. Communicative ability develops because we find ourselves in communicative contexts.” (ACTFL Page 25)
In the Virtual Classroom
At the World of Learning Institute, our instructors are incredibly mindful on the importance of input and using the target language in communication. Virtual live sessions are the greatest opportunity for comprehensible input because the instructor can communicate in the target language to the learner at their level. Learners are exposed to real-time language and have the opportunity to practice their communication output with peers and an instructor. Instant feedback is provided and communication is being developed. During virtual live sessions, instructors design a variety of activities that do not drill vocabulary and grammar but use them in context.
Some of the unique activities that are done by our instructors to develop language acquisition with Comprehensible Input include, but are not limited to MovieTalks, listening to music, reading novels or short stories, accessing nonfiction articles through authentic newspapers, listening to native speakers, etc. The target language is being heard at least 90% of the time. Learners are being exposed to whole, interesting, and complete language. The grammar is not singly identified and becomes part of the subconscious.
It is amazing to see the output of communication that can come from learners in a short amount of language exposure. Using Comprehensible Input and unique learning experiences, as done by the World of Learning Instructors, learners increase their proficiency levels of language acquisition that they can use in the future.
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