The other thing I couldn't keep from thinking about was how helpful it is to be able to hear the language. If you think about your native language, it is so easy to hear what's being said. You don't even have to be fully paying attention! In your native tongue, you don't listen for words. You don't need to have your ears perked up. You can follow what's being said even if your mind wanders a little bit. After 300 hours of the TV method, that's what I'm starting to be able to do. There are those sentences and words that are so familiar to me that I can't miss them so easily. Even when the audio seems a bit muffled, I can understand those sentences that I'm totally familiar with. And I do it without even trying. There's no effort. The familiar words don't even trigger a reaction. I'm so used to them.
What is the order of language learning in a typical classroom course? Perhaps it goes like this: First learn to read the alphabet/writing system of the language. Then associate some words to meanings through vocabulary. Next learn to pronounce those words. Then learn to speak/reproduce some sentences while learning grammar. And finally learn to hear the language. And no doubt, all of this attempted on the first day!
What is the natural order? Hearing comes first! The most important thing is to be able to hear the language as well as you hear your native language. With the ease of hearing comes the ease of attaching meaning to words. The more you can hear, the more you can understand. When I started out on the TV method and I could only understand 1%, that was because I couldn't hear all the words which I had already studied. They were there! But I just couldn't catch them. And what I did catch, I was pulling up translations for, which made me miss out on the rest of the sentence as well as the following sentences.
Second in the natural order is meaning. You're going to find out the meaning of what you hear. The wonderful thing about this order is the fact that you may have been hearing the word for a long time before you learn its meaning. That means you are quite used to that word. When you hear a word you are used to hearing but don't know the meaning of, you don't even react. You are trained not to respond. After you add the meaning, you just relax and understand. You don't get excited, because you've already been hearing that word for quite some time. Your relaxed state of mind allows you to keep listening.
What happens when you study new words? You catch the word and then you react. You're like,
hey there's a word I was just studying!! Now what does it mean? Let me think. Oh yeah, now I remember... it means ______! Whoohoo! I'm really learning now!And all the while you completely miss out on everything else that has been said. The next time you hear the word you do the same thing. You've got yourself trained to react. Maybe you don't hear the word for a while and then it takes you longer to recall it. That means you tried learning a word you weren't ready to learn. If you're cramming vocabulary then you're just getting way ahead of yourself and setting yourself up for a long, slow journey.
The third step of the natural order is speaking. I'll have to write about that when I get there with Chinese. But hopefully by now you can see the aim of my method is to not get bogged down by thinking about the language.