Before I finish where my last post left off, there is an interesting debate about Input vs output. That is should one learn by inputs, which are things like listening to podcasts or watching TV in the target language, or do you learn by output, which are finding opportunities to speak and write in your target language.
Its kinda misleading debate since everyone wants both. Obviously one doesnt plan on listening only and never speaking, nor do you expect to get very far if you cant understand what people say back to you after you say something.
What the debate is really about is using one method more than the other as a jumping off point, which will in turn brings the other skill along for the ride. I think its a pointless debate. I’m not the only one.
Spanish is not the first language I have ever tried to learn. I was succesfully able to learn Thai to fluency while serving a mission for my church. My experience showed to me that input and output are connected, but seperate at the same time.
How could they be connected and yet be seperate.
First of all let me digress for a moment and talk about my studies as a jazz musician. In highschool, I was the bass player for out Jazz band. If anyone has any experience with a jazz band they will know that the Bass is part of the rythm section and helps keep the rythm as well as the foundation of the chords for the rest of the band. The Bassist does this by playing primarily steady notes, with a few exceptions here and there, in the notes that is most helpful in maintaining the foundation of the Chords.
This is not done by writing out each and every note for the bassist, but giving the chord changes and allowing the bassist to choose the right notes as he goes along.
I wanted to be a great jazz player then so I started taking lessons from a jazz bass player around where I lived. He had me do two exercises. One was that he would make me play scales for hours. Major scales, minor scales, blues scales. I had to know them so well that when he asked me to play them I needed to be able to produce two octaves of scales in every chord.
The second exercise, which was the one I personally liked more, was to just play with a recorded rythm section over and over again for hours. I would make up my bass line as I went and sometimes it sucked and sometimes it was awesome. I first noticed that as my scales improved so did my ability to make bass lines, but after awhile I noticed that my making bass lines was helping me with my scales as well.
So you are probably guessing what my litte digression was about now. First of all, producing scales and playing bass lines are two seperate skills, but they ended up being two sides of the same coin. Input and output are the same thing.
While I was on my mission in Thailand I would notice that my Input skill would seem to sagnate and my output would start to blossom and then the other way around. Input and output pull eachother. There is no wonder that if you over emphasised one, somehow the other skill came along for the ride. They are inseperably connected.
The real question is, what have you lost by not allowing nature to just happen and develop both?
What I recomend is do it naturally. Replace what you normally do with your target language and you will notice that your personality may emphasize one over the other a bit, but it will be much closer to 60/40 one than the other if you are completely honest with yourself.
Ok so what am I doing. In the last post I pretty much gave you my courses for output practice. The only exception would be Rossetta stone. That is definately input.
Along with that I downloaded the Muzzy DVD series. Soon I will be going through the Destinos series. This is free to view online. I also have created a Anki database. Anki is a Spaced repetition software(SRS for short) program that is like flash cards on steroids. In it I have created a database of all the conversational phrases from a Rocket spansih newsletter series I used to get. I have a forward and reverse database to practice both input and output with that.
Some life changes I have made are that I changed my facebook, Ipod, and computer to be in Spanish. I also now go to webpages useing Google translate to translate them into spanish. Interestingly enough, I also now practice translating my kids tv shows. I am watching them with them anyway, might as well make it a spanish learning activity.
Anyway those are my thoughts. on the input/output thoughts and what I am doing to learn spanish.