Comprehensible Input

Language bears a message. Language could sometimes make people angry or cry even at a single glance. But when I was studying English at school, it never moved my mind. The foreign language seemed a cluster of mechanical signals just like mathematical equations, strictly in accordance with monotonous patterns as when “I” is input, “am” will come out automatically.

I believe it is too many grammar drills that brings about this bizarre view. For effective language acquisition, focusing on and understanding the meaning, that is the message of language is a vital part.

According to Krashen’s Input hypothesis, they acquire a second language through input that is slightly beyond the level of their understanding. I don’t fully agree with his theory, but I agree with the idea that comprehensible input bring about language acquisition.

Prerequisites for Comprehensible Input

How do we understand uttered and written messages? In my opinion, some possible cues are:

  1. vocabulary
  2. non-verbal information


Vocabulary bears more meanings than grammar does. See the sentence below.

Where are you come from?

Obviously it doesn’t fall into the correct grammar, but most of us get the meaning. As this example indicates, we can inference messages by means of some of the keywords.

Non-verbal cues

Counterintuitively, non-verbal cues are more eloquent than we assume. The controversial Merahbian’s Rule states we more rely on non-verbal cues than the language.

So, what is a non-verbal cue? Here are samples I came up with:

  • situation
  • body language (not “language” in the original usage)
  • knowledge of contexts or of contents

For language learning, reference with these cues is absolutely OK.

How to find suitable comprehensible input materials

  • books intended for foreign learners / kids’ books
  • blogs
  • the stuff viewed before
  • websites in which you are interested

Simple structures facilitates comprehension

For English learners, I recommend Penguin Readers’ and the likes.


Non-professional bloggers are not likely to use professional terms. Maybe.

Watch again and again

Watch the videos you watched before. You know the plot, which will help you get language more.

I love watching “Chunking Express” from Hong Kong. I understand Mandarin more now than at the first view.

Independent learners

Many learners seem not to have searched the Internet in the target language. Textbooks are not designed for your interest. Search for interesting website that interests you. Don’t wait until someone tells you what to do.

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