In this quick post I would like to take a few moments to remind everyone that there are important differences between what goes in (i.e. input), what is understood (i.e. intake), and what is learned (i.e. uptake) while studying a second language.
To begin with, it is important to remember that just because learners are exposed to the target language this does not mean that this language (i.e., input) is going to be attended to and/or processed. For something to go from input to intake it usually needs to be attended to in some way. This usually means that the new structures, words, or phrases need some form of focused attention, and if possible, the chance to use this new language in an authentic way in order to help ensure uptake (i.e., learning) has taken place.
Why am I telling you this (again)?
Well, last week I heard a teacher tell a student that all they needed to do to improve their English was to listen to their favorite English song and eventually they would understand it. Not only did this display the teacher’s misunderstanding of the role of input, it also displayed a lack of understanding of how one learns a language.
Of course songs are a great way to learn new words and phrases etc., but if all you are doing is listening to songs and expecting the lyrics to be understood without focused effort (e.g. looking up the vocabulary in a dictionary) or assistance (e.g. asking someone to help you understand the grammar or vocabulary etc.), then you will probably find it hard to learn a new language.
So, if you are a teacher giving this type of advice – especially to lower-level students - it might be best to provide your students with some tips and guidelines to follow in order to help them develop their language skills in a more effective way (Check out my lecture on Listening For Language Development for more information).
Of course many would argue that advanced-level students do not need as much focused attention to ensure uptake (i.e. learning) occurs, and of course this is probably true because advanced-level students are using their current language skills to facilitate the uptake of new structures or words etc. found in the input without the need for explicit instruction.
Remembering the differences between input (i.e. what goes in), intake (i.e. what is understood), and uptake (i.e. what is learned) can help you uncover language development opportunities to help you help your student in the most effective and efficient way possible.
Thanks for reading.
Keep English Real!