Efficient and effective language learning is one-to-one. If you’ve ever watched children grow up, just imagine how many hours of one-to-one language instruction (by largely unqualified instructors) they’ve had by the time they were four years old. It’s probably thousands of hours of primarily one-on-one conversations. I’m picking four years old because that’s about when human beings typically start to sound fluent. Grammar errors are basically gone. Comprehension is extremely high. The children lack adult-level concepts, but they are completely “fluent.”
Now, that’s not to imply adult language learners will require thousands of hours to reach the level of a four-year-old. Adults have the concepts already. But I do think it takes hundreds of hours of one-on-one conversations, with 100% fluent or native speakers to gain conversational fluidity.
Classrooms are set up, therefore, in a way that is really inefficient for the learner. Most practice is done with other students, who are not fluent. Clearly, for foreign-languages being taught in the US, it’s simply a numbers issue. There are more learners than teachers or fluent speakers.
Strangely, ESL classes taught in the US use the standard-classroom ineffective model. There are probably 300 million people here who speak English fluently. There are probably 30 million people who don’t. Why are ESL classes set up in the inefficient one-to-many format?
I started estimating my language learning “hours” last year. Here’s a video made when I was at about 400 hours of one-on-one conversation with native speakers. It wasn’t necessarily classroom time, but it was conversation. Because of how I’ve learned the language, I’ve had less than ten hours of conversation with other learners.
Today I’d estimate I’m at about 600 hours of conversation.