I’ve been refining my practice with comprehensible input now for a little over a year. It has been quite an interesting journey to see both my students’ growth as well as my own. One of the things that I have started to notice is that through constant input and repetition, we (both my students and I) are moving away from consciously producing the language towards automatically producing it.
Speaking a language is not a cognitive process but rather seems to resonate from somewhere else. I found myself reciting over and over to my students that we are trying to move away from “borrowing learning” towards “owning” it. We all know students try to cram for exams and then can’t remember a lick the next day. It is a mental dump; you move from short term memory to deletion. Information, content – whatever you call it – never is transferred to the long term storage.
With second language acquisition theory, the research shows that it takes mountains of input before even a trickle of output can take place. Why? Repetition. Another analogy: in the gym, it isn’t so much the amount of weight you lift but the reps. Muscles continue firing over and over again and develop muscle memory; myelin is formed. Responses become more efficient; growth is stimulated.
So, the reps are key. Students need the reps with the language and CI provides that. More importantly, it is the automatic response that results from familiarity. Perhaps the reps are programming the subconscious mind? Consciously trying to recall information to communicate results in a stilted conversation. By the time the information is brought online in the mind consciously, a lot of time has elapsed. From a performance perspective, a conversation in this manner is fraught with bad pacing and patience is required from both the listener and the speaker. When language mechanics are automatic, things move a lot more smoothly as if iced on rails. This can only happen with lots of repetition and, perhaps, it resides at the subconscious level. This concept alone has transformed my ideas about teaching.