Spanish Comprehensible Input – How to Use it to Become Fluent

Comprehensible Input

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This is the 2nd part of a 3-part series on the science behind Palteca’s proven methods to learn Spanish. You can read part 1 here, Spanish Minimal Pairs, and why learning to listen is critical. Part 3 is being worked on, and will be published soon.

In the realm of language learning, the concept of comprehensible input (CI) revolutionizes how students acquire new languages. Developed by linguist Stephen Krashen, CI refers to language input that can be understood by learners even though they might not understand every word and structure in it. This methodology is at the heart of innovative Spanish language learning apps like Palteca, where Spanish Comprehensible Input is leveraged to enhance the learning process effectiveness.

What is Comprehensible Input?

Before we define CI, let’s look at The Input Hypothesis 1, which was developed by Stephen Krashen in the 1970s. It’s actually 5 separate, but related ideas. They’re fairly complex, but here’s a very simplified version of them:

  1. Input Hypothesis: Language learners progress when they receive input that is just beyond their current proficiency level, referred to as “i + 1,” where “i” represents their current level and “+1” signifies slightly more advanced language input (basically the idea is you won’t understand material that is too beyond your current level, but you still need a challenge)
  2. Acquisition–Learning Hypothesis: There’s a distinction between language acquisition (an unconscious process through comprehensible input) and language learning (conscious study of grammar rules), with acquisition being more effective.
  3. Monitor Hypothesis: Consciously learned language helps monitor output but doesn’t enhance language usage skills; it’s useful for evaluating language ability, not improving it.
  4. Natural Order Hypothesis: Language acquisition follows a natural, universal sequence unaffected by formal instruction.
  5. Affective Filter Hypothesis: Emotional states impact language acquisition, with negative emotions hindering the ability to learn a language.

Comprehensible Input has become the modern common way to refer to the five hypotheses.

Why Does Spanish Comprehensible Input Work?

The effectiveness of comprehensible input lies in its focus on understanding meaning before structure. When learners are exposed to Spanish that they can mostly understand, learning becomes more natural and less forced, mirroring the way children learn their first language. This approach reduces the anxiety and frustration typically associated with learning new grammar rules and vocabulary by rote.

Moreover, comprehensible input promotes long-term retention of language because it is learned in context. The meaningful connection between the language used and the learners’ experiences or existing knowledge helps solidify this new information in their memory. For users of Palteca, this approach not only makes learning Spanish manageable but also enjoyable.

What Research Supports that Comprehensible Input Works?

The efficacy of Stephen Krashen’s Comprehensible Input Hypothesis is well-supported by subsequent research in the field of second language acquisition. Several studies have validated and expanded upon Krashen’s foundational ideas, demonstrating that comprehensible input is crucial for language learning.

One seminal study by Pica, Young, and Doughty in 19872 explored how interactional adjustments in conversations between native speakers and learners improve comprehension and facilitate language acquisition. This study reinforces Krashen’s theory by showing that making input comprehensible through conversational modifications significantly aids learning.

Further research by Gass and Varonis in 19943 emphasized that input, when paired with interactive dialogue, not only enhances comprehension but also encourages greater language production. This suggests that comprehensible input must be part of a dynamic communicative process to be most effective, thereby extending Krashen’s original hypothesis.

F.M. Hafiz and Ian Tudor’s work, “Extensive Reading and the Development of Language Skills”4, delves into how the practice of extensive reading can be an effective tool for improving language proficiency. Their research underscores the value of engaging with large volumes of easy and enjoyable reading material as a method of receiving comprehensible input.

Hafiz and Tudor argue that extensive reading helps learners to naturally acquire language patterns and vocabulary without the pressure of intensive grammar study or immediate recall demands. By immersing themselves in texts that are just above their current proficiency level, learners can enhance their reading fluency and comprehension over time, which in turn supports overall language development. This aligns with Krashen’s theory by demonstrating that comprehensible input is not only about listening but also significantly involves reading.

These are just a few highlighted studies that collectively illustrate that comprehensible input remains a cornerstone of effective language acquisition strategies. They not only affirm Krashen’s hypothesis but also broaden our understanding of how input should be structured and integrated into language learning environments to maximize learner engagement and success.

What are the Challenges with Spanish Comprehensible Input?

One of the videos of Krashen that we enjoy at Palteca

This sounds amazing, so all I have to do is watch videos, and I’ll be fluent in Spanish. Yes, that is true. However this is a bit of a ‘but’.

Think back as a child, well more like a baby. You probably can’t – but it took us years as children before we were able to have our first output or the first time we spoke. And then years after that before we wrote our first sentences (be it to some degree mechanical skills and not just language skills). We were exposed to tens of thousands hours of non-stop CI before we could begin communicating back.

Dreaming Spanish, which we are huge fans of, estimates at about 500 hours you can begin conversations, but at 1000h is when you’re suppose to have conversations. If you study Spanish for 1 hour a day, then in about 2.7 years you can have your first conversation.

One of the many challenges with this, is in modern society we are very busy. Not to add in the fact that we are an instant gratification society as a whole.

How We Use Spanish Comprehensible Input in Palteca

Before we talk about Spanish Comprehensible Input in Palteca, let’s take a real fast moment on explaining what CI actually is.

Comprehensible input is a theoretical5 framework in linguistics that explains how language acquisition occurs, rather than providing direct implementation strategies. In contrast, a method is a systematic approach that outlines specific teaching techniques and activities for practical application in educational settings.

Okay so now we are ready to talk about Palteca’s methods, of which the theory of Comprehensible Input is very important input (pun intended). However, at the same time, we believe that the majority of people learning Spanish is not going to wait 2.7 years before they have their first conversation. And furthermore, there are merits (occasionally!) to other more traditional learning methods, including skill-based. For an example if you know yo como and tú comes, then you can extrapolate that fairly easily without having to listen to thousands hours of CI.

Now on to the fundamental methods of Palteca’s teaching method:

  1. Repetition is key. The entire Palteca Curriculum is based on repetition. Every single piece of content – whether it’s a video, short story, or an exercise is heavily researched into the best exact positioning. We want to continue to reinforce the most important words and concepts over the following weeks to really cement that idea into your memory, making it easier and easier for future recalls.
  2. Useful, even at the start. As part of that tedious placement research, we want those words to be useful from the start as well. Spending a week just learning all of the colors and months and nothing else doesn’t lead to very useful conversations, unless you want to talk about….colors and months.
  3. Make it entertaining. When something is fun, we want to continue but we also want to do it again. Palteca’s content is meant to be entertaining, funny, but at the same time, accessible to all regardless of age, gender, native language, etc.
  4. Positive reinforcement. Other apps like to use guilt, shame, and other negative emotions. Which if you follow the science around addiction like phone addiction, or social media addictions, you will find a correlation. However, Krashen and others have shown time and time again, that positive reinforcement in lieu of negative is key to become fluent faster.
  5. Do not translate. When we use other languages to acquire new words, we are forgoing the opportunity to build memories/connections to these new words. This unfortunately has a knock-on effect, because the more you translate, the more you have new connections to that Spanish word in the other language, perpetuating the cycle, and making it slower and slower to try to comprehend. This is why all of Palteca’s content is in Spanish, even on Day 1 for total beginners.
  6. Motivation and habit-building are fundamental. Fluency does not happen overnight, just like any other skill. It’s those small, sometimes what seems like micro-advancements on a regular cadence, over the long-term is what truly unlocks fluency.
  7. Use complimentary scientific studies like the Forgotten Curve and Spanish Minimal Pairs. As you probably can tell from this article we are big fans of Krashen, but there are many other linguistics and scientists that have studied very important related concepts, that we can also utilize to make you fluent in Spanish faster than ever.

What does all of this mean for you?

To become fluent in Spanish, you need:

  1. Lots of input, that you mostly understand at your current level. Listen a lot of things, watch a lot of things. The more the better.
  2. If you are trying to consume input that is way behind your level, it does not have the same effect
  3. Output like having conversations in real life, or using the language often pays off as well

Palteca has integrated Krashen’s hypotheses with modern technology and adaptive learning strategies, and in doing so Palteca ensures that language learning aligns with individual needs and contemporary lifestyles. Whether you’re aiming for casual conversation or deep linguistic proficiency, Palteca’s approach reduces the traditional barriers to language learning, making it more accessible and effective. In doing so, Palteca doesn’t just teach Spanish; it creates an immersive learning environment that reflects the natural ways in which we acquire language, optimized for today’s fast-paced world.

Have you downloaded Palteca, the proven way to learn Spanish yet?

References

  1. Teaching and learning English as a second language : trends in research and practice : on TESOL ’77 : selected papers from the eleventh annual convention of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Miami, Florida, April 26-May 1, 1977 | WorldCat.org. (n.d.). https://search.worldcat.org/title/4037133 ↩︎
  2. Pica, T., Young, R., & Doughty, C. (1987). The impact of interaction on comprehension. TESOL Quarterly, 21(4), 737. https://doi.org/10.2307/3586992 ↩︎
  3. Gass, S. M., Mackey, A., & Pica, T. (1998). The role of Input and Interaction in Second Language acquisition Introduction to the special issue. the Modern Language Journal/the Modern Language Journal, 82(3), 299–307. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-4781.1998.tb01206.x ↩︎
  4. Hafiz, F. (1989). Extensive reading and the development of language skills. ELT Journal, 43(1), 4–13. https://doi.org/10.1093/elt/43.1.4 ↩︎
  5. Reddit’s r/asklinguistics is very interesting on Krashen’s theories. This is such a comment on why it is a theory and cannot be a method to learn https://www.reddit.com/r/asklinguistics/comments/pxwss7/is_there_any_evidence_foragainst_comprehensible/her4s11/ ↩︎