Creating “comprehensible input”–my new goal

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Reevaluating how I studied Farsi last year, I decided I would like to do some things differently.  I want to be sure I’m making progress, and I felt my progress in Farsi waned in the last third of 2012 (at least partially because of a move and job change).  I got a lot of help reading Aaron Myers’s planning tips at the Everyday Language Learner, and watching his videos on his YouTube channel.  His tips for language-learning are some of the best, because he deals with the weaknesses that we all run into–lack of focus, waning motivation, making the most of the little time that we have.  He convinced me that I have to re-plan for 2013 to be sure that I learn as much as I can this year.  Creating my own comprehensible Farsi study materials stands at the crux.

Motivation to re-tool comes because last year I made plans on how to work on Farsi, but I didn’t stick to them.  The plan I set last January did not last more than a month, and I did not come back to resetting my goals.  The plan was good in that it had regular goals and used multiple methods.  However, the ones that interacted more with others, such as making videos in the language or making Persian friends, never happened once.  Yet, I learned a lot of words and read a fair amount–and I met my Farsi-speaking neighbors, at least.  The end of the year didn’t feel right, though, so I wanted to think more deeply about how to make the most progress possible in 2013.

The first step proved to be the hardest: setting a goal and putting it into words.  I struggled all weekend till I could finally say, “My goal is to be able to converse with native Farsi-speakers comfortably in multiple subjects.”  While this is vague, it’s progress.  I found I could work with it.

I broke this further into two parts, as “converse” consists of “speaking” and “understanding.”  For speaking, I would need to be able to say what I need to say, and for understanding, I would need to comprehend the responses.  Speaking requires active vocabulary and decent grammar.  I would need an even bigger passive vocabulary for understanding.

The third part of my goal is “multiple subjects,” and I realized I could be more concrete in this area.  So I took my notebook and I wrote in a subject: “My neighborhood.”  I considered what I wanted to be able to say, and I wrote a short essay in English.  Then I started writing the passage in Farsi, looking up the words I need.  Once I finish, I will make a list of the words I had to look up, which will give me good and useful vocabulary for the “speaking” side.  Then I will type up the passage for, where I can get some feedback.  I may record a video on YouTube. After that, I will ask my Italki/Skype friends if they want to talk about this topic. Then I could gain some more vocabulary for the “understanding” part of the equation.  After I’m sick of talking about my neighborhood, I’ll figure out another subject and repeat the process.

I like this method because it keeps me focused on one topic that I can manage with more competence.  Previously, I was spending time gathering vocabulary from difficult sources, such as newspaper articles and podcasts.  Aaron Myers emphasizes “comprehensible input” and describes how to create your own.  “Comprehensible input” is data at my level in the foreign language that is comprehensible, that is, challenging and not overwhelming.  So I’m working towards creating input that I can understand and gain from–just a little bit over my head.

As I create this comprehensible input I can incorporate my native-speaker friends, which is a new goal of mine.  I have several Skype friends I want to talk to and who want to work with me on Persian and on English.  The great thing is talking to them is not only my means but also my goal!  The more I talk to them, the better I get and the more I succeed.  I will also incorporate consuming more videos and podcasts in Farsi to challenge my passive comprehension continuously.  The focuses topics, though, will occupy most of my focus.

Finally, I hope that this method will work for Somali, as well as Farsi.  The comprehensible input for Somali will be different than the input for Farsi in two ways.  One, the Somali input will be all dialogues for now because I have tons of exposure to native speakers.  Two, good books on Somali are rarer, as well as on-line language-learning resources, so I count on my native speakers for finding vocabulary, conjugating verbs, etc.  Writing all by myself is nearly impossible.

Are you re-tooling your language-learning processes or goals?  Please let me know what you’re planning.  If you are re-tooling your learning goals or methods, be sure to check out Aaron Myers’s “Everyday Language Learning” site.

19 thoughts on “Creating “comprehensible input”–my new goal

  1. Sounds like you’ve got it sorted! I like your essay idea and that of creating your own comprehensible input. I’d be interested to hear how it goes. I’m still working out my plans for the year. It looks like it’s going to be a busy one work-wise, so I don’t think I’ll be planning anything dramatic! Thanks for the link to the Everyday Language Learning site. It looks like an interesting read.


    1. I’m trying to work through a busy work schedule, too. I’m seeing how much can work at work–while making sure I get all my work stuff done, too. So I work on Somali with my Somali friends over lunch. I try to do a little bit of Farsi in the evening–maybe an IM or something during the work day. Let me know how your plans go!


  2. Nc

    how wonderful it is:)im a native Persian(Farsi),so i can help you if u like,on skype or as a pen friend:)anyway i like ur blog,thanks for ur efforts.


  3. nc

    موبایل من فارسی را پشتیبانی نمی کند:)برای همین نوشته ی فارسی شما را نتوانستم بخوانم .حالا با کامپیوتر هستم.ای دی اسکایپ من
    و ایمیل من هم
    اسم من هم انسیه است.بیشتر وقت ها با ای دی جیمیل ان لاین هستم روی موبایل هم.ولی برای آخر هفته ها می تونیم هماهنگ کنیم برای اسکایپ.
    روز خوبی داشته باشید


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  5. Michael

    I know that you place great emphasis on input (listening and reading) in language learning. The links below contain reading materials with tips on many topics and with audio/video:

    You may find the following book by Reader’s Digest useful: Hints & Tips to Make Life Easier Practical Solutions for Everyday Problems. Search for the book on
    There may be other books with similar title published recently. I do not know which book may be the most up-to-date.
    By searching on for “tips to make life easier” you may find some important websites on this topic.

    Let me know what reading materials for daily living you deem very helpful for language learning and practice/use.


  6. Michael

    Input in language learning includes listening to and reading language materials first of all with helpful relevant content for one’s potential practical needs and use. Output includes speaking and writing.
    Extensive reading in English with the help of a good English dictionary on a variety of real life topics is one of the ways to learn English vocabulary. Since there is an enormous amount of reading material in English, a learner of English has to prioritize reading in subjects according to learner’s needs for using English to encompass first the most necessary, relevant and frequently used vocabulary. Day-to-day topics ought to come first in reading.

    Reading materials can be arranged by level of difficulty of vocabulary – for learners at beginning, intermediate and advanced levels.

    Learners can master the most important English vocabulary by reading thematic texts (materials), first of all on everyday topics with helpful content for daily living, for example: practical tips and advice to make everyday life easier and better (practical solutions for everyday problems). Such self-help books on settling everyday matters are available at book stores and on the Internet.

    In addition to thematic informative texts (materials), learners can read thematic dialogues (samples of real life conversations between people), narrative realistic stories, fine literature, newspapers, magazines, Internet materials, books in various subjects, general thematic English dictionaries, etc.

    Good general thematic English dictionaries arrange vocabulary by subject matter (topics) and provide clear word usage explanations and also a few usage sentences for each word meaning, which is especially important. English synonym dictionaries provide usage explanations and usage examples for words with similar meaning. Thematic general English dictionaries combined with English synonym dictionaries are a valuable tool for mastering English vocabulary logically, comprehensively and intensively for real life needs of learners.

    Good public libraries and the Internet have a wide selection of English reading materials.

    It is better for learners to write down unknown vocabulary in whole sentences to remember word meanings easier. It would be a good speaking practice for learners telling the content of the texts that they have read. Learners can write key words and phrases, or main ideas as a plan, or questions on the text that require long answers to make easier for learners to tell the content of the text. I believe it is a good idea to read each logical chunk or paragraph of a text and to narrate each paragraph separately, and then the whole text.


  7. Michael


    In order to have good skills in listening comprehension in English and to speak it fluently, a learner should practise listening to audio and video aids in English (dialogues, thematic texts and narrative stories) with subsequent speaking. It is preferable to have English transcripts of audio and video material. I suggest that learners practise listening comprehension with subsequent speaking on a variety of topics and with materials for all levels on a regular long-term basis in the following sequence:

    1. Listen to each sentence several times. Alongside listening see and read each sentence in the transcript.

    2. Make sure you understand everything clearly in each sentence in terms of pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar.

    3. Without looking into the transcript, try to repeat each sentence (say it aloud) exactly as you have heard it. Being able to repeat a sentence means that a learner has remembered its content.

    4. Listen to that particular conversation or text (story) in short paragraphs or chunks, say each paragraph aloud, and compare to the transcript.

    5. Listen to the whole conversation or story without interruption several times, and try to tell the content of the whole conversation or text (story) you’ve heard. You can write key words and phrases, or main ideas as a plan, or questions on that particular dialogue or text to make easier for you to convey the content in English. It is important to compare what you’ve said to the transcript.

    It is a good idea to record one’s speech on audio aid to compare it with the original audio/video recording.
    I believe that for practising listening comprehension and speaking in English it is a good idea to include various practical topics for potential needs of learners with comprehensive vocabulary on each topic. As you know the content of materials matters a great deal.
    Ready-made thematic dialogues, questions and answers on conversation topics, thematic texts (informative texts and narrative stories), grammatical usage sentences (in the form of dialogues and texts), and sentences with difficult vocabulary on various topics, especially with fixed phrases and idioms can be used in practising listening comprehension in English.
    It’s possible and effective to practise listening comprehension and speaking in English on one’s own this way through self-check using transcripts, books, audio and video aids to provide additional solid practice and to accelerate mastering of English.


      1. Michael

        My suggestions for practicing listening comprehension and speaking are applicable to any language. I guess there are Internet materials for almost all languages. Some materials in English can be translated into the language you learn if you can’t find the content in that language. Through the following links native speakers can correct, help you prepare or get materials for practicing the language you learn:

        You can also find native speakers of the languages you learn through language exchange websites.


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