In the beginning I immersed in French and in Korean, and it was good. I experimented with all the popular and unpopular language acquisition methods, I lived, taught, and studied in Korea, I hung out with French people in Cambodia, I interacted with people from all over the world in my many travels, I’ve read plenty of 4chan’s /int boards, and I’m ready to put my head on the chopping block and give you the Good News:
Reading has no place in language acquisition.
Go ahead, get it out; snort, chortle, laugh mockingly and say “this guy’s an idiot,” “he’s promoting illiteracy,” “he’s advocating ignorance!” Nail me to the cross so that you can get back to worshiping your traditional golden idols, for I will not change my message. I have come not to unite, but to divide, and this statement even draws a line in the sand between Ramses and myself, but it matters not- it is The Truth(TM).
Humans spoke languages long before writing systems were invented, and their illiteracy didn’t prevent them from producing fluent, beautiful, lasting language (e.g. Homer’s Iliad & Odyssey). You, the person reading this, were fluent in your L1 before you ever read a word (fluent meaning you had internalized the grammar and sounds of your language so deeply that, despite a child’s lack of vocabulary and worldly knowledge, you required no conscious effort to understand and produce sentences at a native level). An illiterate farmer in Kentucky has a more fluent verbal command of English than a visiting Chinese graduate student majoring in English literature, despite the latter’s immaculate command of the written word. If you talked on the telephone to someone who was born blind and had never read a word, even before they learned braille, you would never question their command of English. On international forums I have read people confessing that, despite their absolutely flawless writtten command English, they sound absolutely incomprehensible when they speak. I have met innumerable hordes of people who rocked the TOPIC exam but speak like they have never heard native English.
The difference between spoken language and written language is the difference between watching Citizen Kane and reading the screenplay; it’s the difference between listening to the 1812 Overture and reading the notes; it’s the difference between doing the no-pants-dance with that hotty in your neighborhood (sweaty, interactive, deeply human) and watching porn (“Ah, I see how sex is accomplished.”). It’s the difference between spending years with a best friend until you know their soul, and cutting up a corpse on an operating table and measuring it’s organs and tabulating all the data about it (is this empirical data really how you get to know a person?).
Not that written language is bad- any idiot could tell you it’s the most important tool ever invented for the dissemination of information, and capable of being used to create great art, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m saying that not only is it entirely independent of language acquisition, its use will actually injure your ability to sing the song of your L2 as the natives do, if you use it before you know the song by heart. It will work against you, and a house divided cannot stand. The message isn’t new, listen to the prophets who have come before.
No matter how hard you try to avoid it, you will learn to associate the wrong notes with the word you are reading. People like to think that a written word is merely its definition, but it’s not- it’s a symbol that represents both a concept and an audible harmony as part of the sentence it’s in, and if you are not already fluent in the song of your language you will project your own incorrect harmony onto that word. Academics like to deconstruct things until they’re merely parts of a meaningless machine, but you must get over this nihilist predisposition, you must walk into their offices, flip their tables, and drive them out with their shitty overpriced textbooks with accompanying study guides; we’re not machines, we’re creative souls who value the harmony of language over the “rules” we’ve been told exist. Forget about meanings, forget about ink on paper, forget everything you stored in your active, analytic brain; a language is a dance, a purely corporal phenomenon, an afternoon romp in the sack; it exists totally in the realm of your animal brain, where books have no place. This is why when you drink half a bottle of wine and watch 추격자 you learn faster than someone studying a textbook. This is why when you lay down, put on your headphones, smoke weed, and listen to Odezenne you learn more than someone in a classroom. Every moment with a vocab list would be better spent with a podcast. Every moment spent with a novel would be better spent with a movie.
You learn with your ears, not your eyes.
You speak with your mouth, not with a pen.
This is the fulfillment of the old laws, the incarnation of our knowledge from ephemeral symbols to harmonious glory.
This is the new testament of language acquisition.