The Learnables® was developed in 1976 after years of language research by Professor Harris Winitz of the University of Missouri-Kansas City. A machine was used in the early 1970s to project pictures, using a slide projector coordinated with a tape recorder. The student saw four pictures of which one was the correct picture. The Learnables® abandoned this approach in 1976 because it was found that when four pictures were presented with one audio presentation students made many guessing errors. Students could not recall which of the four pictures was associated with the correct audio-presented sentence. Research results indicated that a single picture presentation almost entirely reduced errors, as no guessing was involved in the procedure. When Rosetta Stone developed their language programs, they selected the four-picture approach as their presentation system. At the time Rosetta Stone began their development of their language courses in the early 1990s, they contacted Dr. Harris Winitz, and explained that they were going to use a computer presentation format. The owner of Rosetta Stone, Allen Stoltzfus was familiar with The Learnables® and also the book: “The Comprehension Approach to Foreign Language Instruction” edited by Dr. Harris Winitz and published by Newbury House in 1981.
Although both language courses present pictures coordinated with text and audio, the linguistic sequences are very different. The Learnables® does not use digital sound recognition to teach pronunciation because correct language pronunciation can only be learned after students acquire a fairly good understanding of a new language. A student can waste much time trying to imitate words from another language before the student has a basic understanding of the language. Instead the student’s time should be spent on learning to understand the language prior to practicing pronunciation.
Additionally, asking students to converse when they initially begin the study of a foreign language will delay and often prevent the learning of the language for two reasons: (1) Students need at least 5,000 words and an understanding of basic expressions before they can talk at an elementary level. The average English speaker uses over 100,000 words on an everyday basis to express thoughts and ideas, and to know how to address individuals, how to agree and disagree, and how to use language for personal, social and formal situations. (2) Students soon become depressed when they find that they are unable to converse in a second language when forced to speak before they have acquired a sufficient understanding of a language. Successful foreign language students are those who concentrate on understanding the foreign language. The Learnables® approach teaches the student to think in the foreign language. Should you have questions about our courses, please do not hesitate to write to us or call us.
Harris Winitz, Ph.D. Professor Emeritus
President, International Linguistics Corporation
International Linguistics Corporation produces an extensive set of materials to acquire the foreign language, especially in Spanish, French, German, and English. It is not a beginning program that teaches a limited number of phrases. It is a full course of study. When purchasing language programs, we recommend that you examine the product to determine whether it is a beginning program or a full course of study.
International Linguistics uses a large number of illustrations to enable the learner to think directly from picture to foreign language. Some language programs mix English and foreign words in the same sentence, preventing thinking in the foreign language. Translation decreases the ability to think in the foreign language, whereas the use of pictures increases the ability to think in the foreign language.
International Linguistics employs native speakers of foreign languages so that you hear only authentic pronunciation. Some programs may not use native speakers. It is recommended that you inquire whether all the speakers are native speakers before you purchase a language program.
The language programs developed by International Linguistics are appropriate for children and adults. Children as young as seven years of age and college adults find that they can learn under the same system of instruction. Some of the reasons why the material is appropriate for adults and children are explained below.
It is generally believed that children acquire foreign languages more quickly than adults. There is a sufficient number of investigations to indicate that adults when given an immersion experience acquire a foreign language faster than children. However, the majority of adults after the age of puberty may have an accent whereas most young children do not have an accent.
Several theories have been proposed to account for the fact that individuals who have acquired the second language before the age of about 12–14 years do not speak with an accent. The theories cite differences among adults and children in the growth and function of the brain. It has also been proposed that there is a difference between the language experience of children and adults.
Children who acquire a second language at a young age usually have considerable experience in listening to utterances in the foreign language. In addition to having considerable more listening experience than adults, children, as they are learning a second language, are not placed into a position in which they must talk. As they are acquiring the second language they do little talking. They mostly listen. This period of time, usually six months to one year, is called the silent period. During the silent period, children listen carefully to the meaning of the sentences and to how words are pronounced. When they begin to talk, they have largely mastered the basic fundamentals of the language.
Adults often take a conversation class because it is believed that conversational practice enables an individual to acquire a foreign language. However, conversational practice is only useful after an excellent understanding of the foreign language has been acquired.
Conversational classes will not enable you to acquire a foreign language because the language you hear is from other students who make many mistakes in pronunciation and speak sentences incorrectly. It is much better to hear a native speaker speak, then, you will hear the correct pronunciation and correct use of sentences. For this reason audio recording, self-study classes can be more valuable than classroom instruction. With audio recordings you hear the sentences said over and over. Most important, if you understand about 90% that is said on the recordings, as you move through the material, you are learning to understand and think in the foreign language.
Listening comprehension first, speaking second has provided a model for the language lessons developed by International Linguistics Corporation. It is similar to the way you learned your native language. You listened, absorbed the meaning, and later talked. Talking requires a considerable amount of understanding. Before you can talk, you must understand a large number of words and expressions. By listening and understanding you will acquire a second language.
Some commercial foreign language companies sell yearly subscriptions for use on an iPad.
Should you not finish the lessons in the year or wish to have other persons in your family use the language course in the years ahead, you will need to repurchase the subscription. If the commercial company sells downloads for the iPad, the language course will only be available on that iPad. It will not be available on any other computer. The Learnables are discs, so that they can be used in any computer and they are available for use for many years for everyone in your family.