I’d like to say thanks to “choaphray” for these questions on our youtube channel: “hmm do these classes actually work? how long before i get to understand what they are on about?”
In 1987 I entered the Thai Program and these were my two big questions. They are often asked and so I’d like to address them here.
Q. Do these classes really work?
Before going into more detail, I’d like to answer this first question with a great big YES! These classes have been working very well for me and countless others for the past 24 years. Nature works now for you as it always has – the problem is that your education and understanding about what learning is probably getting in the way.
No one wants to spend money or time on something that doesn’t work. My motivation came from the fact that I knew that traditional classes didn’t work! This is true of over 90% of those who study language. (What it is about people that keeps them from asking whether the traditional language classes work?)
Is our approach any better? I think that there are a couple of things that must be considered. One, are you doing what we say you must do? Secondly, what else are you doing in addition?
Everywhere you look, young children pick up second languages without effort – and without fail. Adults seldom do. We believe that there are natural things at work here. All that ALG is seeking to do is utilize that natural process. So, does nature work? Yes! Will it work for you? That all depends on you. Are you doing things naturally or not?
For starters, just about everything that adults do to ‘learn’ language is unnatural. If you don’t think so, just look around and see how many young children are doing those things.
For more about what we think you should be doing, check out my blog “Automatic Language Growth and ‘Study'”
Q. How long before understanding?
Try this out – pretend that you’re unable to translate for a minute. Watch the video, (don’t worry about what you’re hearing) and see if you can follow what’s going on. Normally, when I ask people to do this they’re amazed. From feeling as if they don’t understand a thing, their understanding of what’s going on increases dramatically.
I think of it like this – there are two options for us as adults. To filter everything we experience through language, or to experience it alongside language. Filtering our experiences through language is the normal, educated, adult practice – and it should be obvious by now that the returns on the investment of time and money are very low. Experiencing life alongside our own language, simply means that we focus on the experience rather than the language, and we gain the whole thing.
Try it – you cannot do both at once. When we focus on what’s happening, language is then free to emerge as your brain connects the experiences, without being trapped inside your own previous culture/language.
Are there drawbacks? Sure. For starters, you’ll need to learn to guess about things that aren’t clear. It’s quite fun once you get used to it. Secondly, you will not have the tools to speak at first. This takes time, because language is hugely complex. If it doesn’t take time, then it’s not natural and you will be limited in your ability to use it.
What are the benefits? Speaking without thinking about it, just like in your native language is one very nice benefit. Also, if you have been exposed to native speakers, your speaking (and thinking to some degree) will be more like theirs.
So… the logical thing that many people think at this point is: Ok – so I will listen to the ALG classes for part of my day, and then study in the adult manner as well! While this may seem logical at one level, we’ve never seen good results from doing this. For a few years, we even offered such a program. Many if not most of our students do this very thing as well. In every case I know of, they all do more poorly for it. In short, study of a language must be held after acquisition, not tandem with it. I think of it as trying to look in two directions at one time.