Skip Ribbon Commands Skip to main content
The Natural Approach to
Learning a New Language

The Natural Approach was developed by Dr. Tracy D. Terrell, professor of linguistics at UC Irvine and UC San Diego (late UC San Diego) and Dr. Stephen Krashen, professor emeritus of linguistics and education at USC. The Natural Approach to language learning is designed to develop basic communication skills, not make you an expert in grammar. Adult beginning language learners, just like children, go through different stages of competence in the new language.
  • Comprehension
  • Early Production
  • Emergent Language

In Natural Approach foreign language classes, students are allowed to progress naturally from one stage to the next.

Stage 1 Comprehension
When children acquire their first language(s) they spend thousands of hours just listening before anyone expects them to say a word. And when children do start to produce they make lots of errors, they use "baby talk," and parents are thrilled. Although adults usually want to talk much sooner, listening comprehension is still the base upon which language learning rests; we learn how to speak, because we understand what is being said.
In a Natural Approach class, you will learn
  • to recognize the meaning of words used in context.
  • to guess at the meaning of utterances without knowing all of the words or the grammar.

And I will
  • try to create a comfortable classroom environment so that you will be willing to guess at meaning.
  • limit my correction of your speech to utterances that are incomprehensible.
Stage 2 Early Production
At this point the learner's speech will contain many errors. Forcing production only increases errors and forces the learner to translate from his/her native language. Children take 9 to 15 months to reach this stage, adolescents may delay speech from one to six months and adults from hours to weeks. At this stage in language development you will be able to produce
yes/no answers to questions.
one-word answers to questions.
lists of words.
two word strings and short phrases.
Stage 3 Emmergent Language
Given continued exposure to meaningful language, language where the focus is on the content and not the grammar, the learner's speech will gradually improve in both range (vocabulary) and accuracy (grammar). Each learner needs differing amounts of exposure to language in order to acquire the new lingusitic system, so do all of the assigned work and don't compare yourself to others. As you progress, you will begin to produce
three-word phrases.
longer phrases.
complete sentences where appropriate (remember that native speech in any language is made up of many incomplete sentences: "Yeah", "Great!", "OK", "in a minute", "maybe").
You will
participate in dialogues with classmates.
discuss topics.
narrate a series of events.
In my Natural Approach Spanish class you will engage in the following types of activities
Total Physical response (responding physically to commands given by the instructor).
Pointing to an item or picture.
Saying a one or two words together.
Combining three or more words together to produce short phrases.
Particpating in short dialogs.
Interviewing classmates.
Reading charts and graphs.
Reading short paragraphs.
Playing games.
Telling stories.
Listening to music.
Watching video clips.
Exploring the Internet.
Writing about your experiences.
Learning a language takes a lifetime. Don’t wait until you think you are perfect to start listening, talking, reading and writing. That day may never come. Instead, use the Spanish you have now to enjoy the language, music, food, and culture of the Spanish speaking world.
Enjoy the journey!
© 2014 Irvine Valley College