Stage 2: Build Comprehension

Stage 2 is the longest part of the language learning process. You are starting from very basic comprehension and building up to complete comprehension. Your goals will change depending on where you are in Stage 2, so you’ll need to strategically select immersion material that matches your level and your goal.

There are three phases of Stage 2:

Stage 2A: Overcoming the Curve

When you first start immersing, you’ll barely understand the language. All immersion content will be out of reach. There is a big initial learning curve to comprehension. The first step is to narrow down your immersion to a subset of the language, which will help you develop comprehension more quickly.

You can shrink the learning curve further by choosing easier media and using various tools and strategies to make media more comprehensible. We explain how to evaluate and manipulate content difficulty in:

You should use every possible hack or strategy available to you to make your input more comprehensible. An example of hacking comprehension is watching a children’s TV show that you’ve already seen in your native language (NL) and reading accompanying subtitles as you go.

As you progress through Stage 2, your comprehension will go from absolutely nothing to near perfect. We’ve created a model of comprehension to help you understand where you are in the learning process so you can make strategic choices about how to best use your time and energy.

If you are still using NL subtitles in your active immersion, it’s time to give those up. The only way to acquire language is through immersion. In the following two guides, we explain the two types of active immersion and how to use them.

Once you've used the SRS to learn the most common words in the language, it’s time to start studying vocabulary directly from your immersion.

Move on to 2B once you can read an easy TV show with level 3 comprehension as explained in the Levels of Comprehension model.

Stage 2B: Expanding Your Domain

Once you can comprehend easier media, you will start increasing the difficulty of your intensive immersion. In the following guide, we teach you how to gradually increase the difficulty of your immersion materials.

Now that you’re used to the SRS and basic sentence mining, you can tailor your cards to suit your particular strengths and needs. We teach you all the different options for optimizing your SRS study in:

If your NL and TL are related, then it’s probably time to switch to the monolingual dictionary as your primary dictionary. Adopting the monolingual dictionary means adopting the perspective of a native and allows you to start thinking in your TL.

Move on to Stage 2C when you can read a native TV show meant for adults at level 4 comprehension as explained in the Levels of Comprehension model.

Stage 2C: Mastering Comprehension

In Stage 2B, you developed a decent level of comprehension across a wide range of content. To get to near-perfect comprehension, you need to refocus your energy and shrink your first domain to a very narrow subset of the language.

In stage 2C, you will focus your energy on slice-of-life TV until you’ve mastered this domain. The details are covered in the immersion guide:

Before you move on to Stage 3, you can also practice listening to pure audio (meaning no video or subtitles). This will increase your listening comprehension.

Throughout Stage 2, you’ve been building up your reading comprehension ability. Reading novels would be the next logical step, but literature is surprisingly difficult, and not a requirement for speaking. If you want to jump into reading novels anyway, we’ve provided an optional guide.

If your TL is very different from your NL, then shifting to the monolingual dictionary may have been too difficult in Stage 2B. For more difficult languages, we’ve provided a structured guide for how to switch to the monolingual dictionary:

You’re ready to move on to Stage 3 when you can watch a native TV show geared towards adults, without subtitles, and fully understand it.


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