Learning languages opens the doors to so many opportunities in life.

Children speak Spanish everywhere

When you can communicate in another language, you can learn from and connect with so many more people. Sometimes, people are intimidated to start learning a new language. This could be for many distinct reasons, but sometimes, it’s because of all the fancy jargon that is often used in language education. Concepts like ‘phonotactics’ or ‘comprehensible input’ might sound super complicated, but in reality, they are just fancy words! Let’s start to break down the jargon barrier by clearly explaining what comprehensible input is, and why it’s an important aspect of language learning.

What is Comprehensible Input?

“Comprehensible input” is just a fancy way of saying that when you’re learning a new language, you need to be able to understand what you’re hearing or reading in order to learn from it. It’s like if someone is talking to you in a language you’ve never heard before in the same way they would speak to someone who is fluent in the language, you won’t learn anything because you can’t understand the language. But if they talk to you in a way that you can mostly understand, even if you don’t know every single word or grammar rule, then you can start to pick up on the meaning of what they’re saying and gradually improve your language skills.

Winter Vocabulary in Spanish

So, in language education, teachers try to present material to learners in a way that is understandable and meaningful to them, so that they can learn and improve their language skills effectively. This might involve using visuals, real-life situations, or simpler language to help learners understand the material. In order to do this effectively, language teachers have to really know their students well. Once they know how much the student can comprehend, they can build off of that and help the student learn more and more.


How Comprehensible Input Helps you Learn a Language

That’s why my teaching style focuses on listening first, then speaking. I begin by getting to know my students and understanding how much input they can comprehend in Spanish. Next, I speak in ways that helps them make connections and begin to gradually understand more and more. Instead of focusing on explicit instruction, I give my students opportunities to listen, observe, and practice using the language in a way that engages them. Just like when we are babies and we learn the language by observing our parents and siblings. This is the natural way to learn language, so it is what I focus on.

I effectively use comprehensible input to help my students learn more in a way that feels natural to them. Worksheets and grammar lessons help too, but I have found that language learners are far more successful when grammar is not the key focus of each lesson. My lessons focus on helping learners develop communicative competencies rather than memorizing grammar rules. When students use the language to communicate and have fun conversations, the learning process is more effective and enjoyable. I keep it fun, engaging, and always target my students’ individual learning styles and current level of proficiency in the language. This way, my students don’t feel lost and they really enjoy making progress in the language.

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