What happens between Stages One and Two in acquisition?

Here’s a schematic outline:
Stage One acquisition of L2: tprs
Stage Two: massive input
Question: what goes between the two stages? At some point, it appears we all agree, a strict tprs format of teaching can be suspended and we move into the flood of input that is a kind of immersion. But at what point do we have enough L2 acquired that we can immerse ourselves?
My own experience is that I can read along the stuff I like to read and I clearly (my my own measure) pick up lots more L2, i.e. acquire. Before that point, having never been taught via tprs, something happens where I pick up material and discover I can read it with 90% or more comprehension. It is likely that if I were quizzed on each and every word in the text, there would be between 10 and 20 % I could not give you a strict L1 equivalency for. Don’t forget, if you can give L1 equivalencies for 80% of a page of text, that leaves, on a page of 100 words, 20 words you either have to get from context or look up or get along without. That’s still a lot of words.
So the measure for me is do I enjoy reading what I’m reading. That must mean I am comprehending. For me, Stage One and a Half, like the train platform for Hogwarts, involves mainly reading but some other study as well (I have a category on my blog, Personal Language Study, where I discuss what I do). Magically, I arrive at the point where I can read the material at Stage Two, i.e. where I am enjoying and therefore comprehending what I am reading.
One way to measure this is to take a frequency list such as http://www.tabney.com/files/latingrammar/1400-essentials.pdf Tolle! Lege! The Fourteen Hundred, which claims to account for 80% of any page of Latin literature and do a self-test. Learners can rate themselves – 70 or 80 or 90 or 100% of the list – and see if they indeed, with a score of 100%, need look up only 20 words out of 100. Then how far beyond that do you need to go before you can comfortably read normal prose? Again, I say “look up”, but we probably can comprehend the text as a whole without knowing each word cold.
BTW, no hurry on any of this stuff. I’m just looking more closely at the acquisition process and at one end of it I am a pretty good test case b/c I can read comfortably in several languages and not so much in several others. What I lack, of course, is the tprs foundation in any of the languages. I am also prone to self-delusion. You can check me on that in Spanish. Maybe that’s my next project: to find people in these other languages who can check me out. I have Tiku for Urdu but no one for the others. My test would be to read a text and then tell my tester in L2 what the content was.
What do you think?
And that’s all comprehension, not output.


  1. There are dual language books. But if you want to read something in Italian and tell me what you think it meant, I’ll do it for you, if Italian is one of your languages. But to get from comprehension to output? Do you want to try your output in Italian, too?

    There seems to be a lot of research contrary to the idea of being able to glean words from just reading in an L2. Lots. I’m reading Vocabulary Myths by Keith Folts, Ann Arbor, 2011. He says on p. 83 that reading makes a good reading-improvement strategy but not a good vocabulary-improvement strategy. Folks says reading can be a conduit for vocabulary growth, especially when done with vocabulary exercises – explicit practice – that actually focused students’ attention on the word. (TPRS would do that by repetition and personalization, but by focusing on the structures and not on vocabulary). And Folts recognizes that collocations are important. Domyou think that TPRS structures the same as what is meant by collocations? Folts also says the more words you know the more words you can learn through reading. I’d better get busy writing simplified materials in Italian. I can’t find much that’s compelling in simple enough Italian. It’s a huge roadblock to using reading with my students.

    1. Wes Groleau says:

      One nice item in Italian that Ifound was
      It’s one of a series, different levels.
      As a beginner, I was able to read it and simultaneously provide an English version over the phone.

  2. Pat Barrett says:

    Yes. Italian is one of my languages. I’m currently reading Carlo Levi’s Cristo si e fermato a Eboli and understanding it. I have an English translation to check if I need to. For i+1 I use various lower level readings like the ALM series. I do have lots of material in Italian but not at that i+1 level.
    I’ll try to find Folts to see what he backs up his claims with. My own reading and my own experience do not support explicit practice. But that’s just me. As far as output is concerned, that is an open area, as far as I know. My own experience is that the more I acquire, the more I can output. But, again, others may vary.
    I do lots of different things in regard to vocabulary improvement, so after a while – a couple of years – I will report here how things have gone.
    Regarding collocations, it seems to me that tprs structures would include all that. I check with my friend re Spanish – is it por or para? – and in Italian, it’ll be interesting to see how I do with da and di.
    I agree with Folts that the more words you know the more you can glean through reading.
    Thanks for your observations.

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