how we acquire language: comprehensible input

In language acquisition, one of most important questions is then, how do we acquire language? The research reveals a simple common-sense answer: We acquire language when we understand what we hear or read.

In other words, we acquire language when we receive language input that is comprehensible for us. Language input that is not (reasonably) comprehensible will not turn into meaningful intake that we can acquire.

For example, if you are a new Chinese learner, then listening and being fully immersed in a native-level Chinese speech, might not be so helpful for acquisition goal. You may get lots and lots of input—a continuous stream of perfectly pronounced Mandarin, but if the Chinese input that are comprehensible for you were too little, you might not know more Chinese than before. Therefore, an immersion program might not be automatically enough or efficient for developing language competence, but comprehensible.

On the other hand, if foreign language input is made comprehensible, then it can actually turn into intake that we can process and work with. There we can subconsciously acquire and store it into our long-term memory. Just like that.

Krashen, Stephen D. (2003). Explorations in Language Acquisition and Use. Portsmouth: Heinemann

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