Comprehensible Input

What is Comprehensible Input in Language Learning & how can you use it to learn a foreign language? In this comprehensive guide, you'll find out!

In language learning (or second language acquisition), we call the things we consume in our target language input. So a TV show, a novel or a standup comedy show could all be input.

Input can be more or less difficult for you to understand, of course. Children's books in your target language might be much easier for you to get than a movie with a lot of slang.

I. What Is Comprehensible Input?

Now what is comprehensible input? Comprehensible input is input at your current level of language ability. If you can comprehend the content you're consuming, it's comprehensible input. It does not matter whether you can understand the content, because you simply know a lot (or all) of the vocabulary, or whether it is also made clear to you through context, gesture, or other cues.

The importance of comprehensible input lies in its role in facilitating acquisition, as it provides the learner with the necessary exposure to the target language in a form that can be understood and processed.

How to get started with Comprehensible Input

There are several ways to incorporate comprehensible input into your language learning routine. One way is to immerse yourself in the target language by watching movies, TV shows, or listening to music in the target language with subtitles in your native language. Another way is to find language exchange partners who can speak with you in the target language and provide you with opportunities to practice and receive feedback on your language use.

Reading graded readers, which are simplified books written in the target language, is also a great way to increase exposure to comprehensible input. Additionally, working with a language tutor can help you identify and work on specific language structures and vocabulary words, while also providing you with a source of comprehensible input.

II. The Role of Input in Language Acquisition

Language acquisition is a complex process that involves understanding and producing language. Input, or the language we are exposed to, plays a crucial role in this process. Here, we will explore the significance of meaningful input in language learning and how comprehensible input fits into the input hypothesis.

Input serves as the raw material for language acquisition. When we are exposed to language, our brains actively process and analyze the linguistic patterns and structures present in the input. This process allows us to internalize and acquire the language subconsciously.

Meaningful input

Meaningful input refers to language that is relevant, interesting, and personally engaging to the learner. It captures the learner's attention and motivates them to engage with the language. Meaningful input provides context, making it easier for learners to understand and remember new words and grammatical structures.

When language learners are exposed to meaningful input, they are more likely to be actively engaged in the learning process. This engagement enhances their comprehension skills, vocabulary acquisition, and overall language development.

The input hypothesis

The input hypothesis, proposed by linguist Stephen Krashen, suggests that language acquisition occurs when learners are exposed to language that is slightly beyond their current level of proficiency but still comprehensible. According to this hypothesis, learners need to understand most of the input they receive in order to acquire language naturally.

Comprehensible input, therefore, is a key component of the input hypothesis. By providing learners with input that is comprehensible, yet challenging enough to promote growth, they can make progress in their language acquisition journey.

III. Creating a Comprehensible Input Environment

To optimize language learning through comprehensible input, it is essential to create an environment that maximizes exposure to the target language. Here are some strategies and resources to help you build a comprehensible input environment.

Tips to create a comprehensible input environment

  1. Immerse yourself in the language: Surround yourself with the target language as much as possible. Change the language settings on your devices, listen to podcasts or radio shows in the target language, and label objects in your surroundings with their corresponding foreign language names.

  2. Language exchanges and conversation partners: Engage in language exchanges with native speakers or find conversation partners who are fluent in the target language. Regular conversations provide valuable opportunities to receive comprehensible input in a natural and interactive manner.

  3. Language learning communities: Join online language learning communities or forums where you can interact with other learners and native speakers. These communities often provide resources, practice exercises, and forums for discussion.

Finding resources within your language level

When seeking comprehensible input, it is important to select resources that align with your current language level. Here are some tips for finding suitable resources:

  1. Graded readers: Graded readers are books or texts that are specifically designed for language learners at different proficiency levels. They typically feature simplified language and controlled vocabulary, making them an excellent source of comprehensible input.

  2. Children's books and movies: Children's books and movies offer engaging stories and simpler language, making them accessible sources of comprehensible input for beginners.

  3. Language learning platforms: Many language learning platforms offer content tailored to different proficiency levels. These platforms often provide a range of materials, such as articles, videos, and exercises, allowing learners to access comprehensible input at their own pace.


Language learning apps and software can be valuable tools for creating a comprehensible input environment. These tools often incorporate features that support language acquisition, such as:

  1. Interactive exercises: Language learning apps typically provide interactive exercises that allow learners to practice their listening, reading, and comprehension skills. These exercises often adapt to the learner's level and provide immediate feedback.

  2. Flashcards and vocabulary builders: Many language learning apps offer flashcards and vocabulary builders that help learners acquire and review new words and phrases. These tools enhance the comprehensibility of input by reinforcing vocabulary knowledge.

  3. Speech recognition and pronunciation practice: Some language learning apps include speech recognition features that enable learners to practice their pronunciation and receive feedback. This functionality promotes comprehension by improving spoken language skills.

By utilizing these tools and resources, language learners can actively engage with comprehensible input and accelerate their language acquisition process.

IV. Making Input More Comprehensible

In addition to creating a comprehensible input environment, there are specific techniques that learners can employ to enhance the comprehensibility of the input they encounter. Here are some strategies for making input more comprehensible:

Explanation of how to use techniques such as simplification, repetition, and visual aids

  1. Simplification: Simplify complex sentences or texts by breaking them down into smaller, more manageable chunks. Use simpler vocabulary and grammatical structures to facilitate comprehension.

  2. Repetition: Repeat key words, phrases, or sentences to reinforce understanding. Repetition helps learners familiarize themselves with language patterns and strengthens their memory of vocabulary and grammar.

  3. Visual aids: Utilize visual aids, such as images, diagrams, or gestures, to support comprehension. Visual cues provide additional context and can clarify meaning, particularly for visual learners.

Tips for understanding new vocabulary

Learning new vocabulary is an integral part of language acquisition. Here are some tips for understanding and acquiring new vocabulary from input:

  1. Context clues: Pay attention to the surrounding words, phrases, or sentences that provide context for unfamiliar vocabulary. Contextual clues can help deduce the meaning of unknown words.

  2. Word families and collocations: Explore word families (related words derived from the same root) and collocations (words that frequently appear together) to deepen your understanding of new vocabulary. Recognizing these patterns enhances the comprehensibility of input.

  3. Use of dictionaries and translation tools: When encountering unfamiliar vocabulary, consult dictionaries or translation tools to obtain accurate definitions and translations. However, be cautious not to rely too heavily on translations, as it is crucial to develop the ability to understand words within their respective language contexts.

Using context

Context is a powerful tool for comprehension. When encountering challenging input, consider the following:

  1. Sentence and paragraph context: Analyze the sentences and paragraphs surrounding the unfamiliar content. Often, the context provides clues to decipher the meaning of unknown words or phrases.

  2. Discourse markers: Pay attention to discourse markers, such as conjunctions or transition words, that guide the flow of the text. These markers indicate relationships between ideas and contribute to overall comprehension.

  3. Inferencing: Make educated guesses or inferences based on the information available in the input. By combining existing knowledge and context, learners can deduce the intended meaning of ambiguous or unfamiliar language.

By implementing these techniques and utilizing context effectively, learners can enhance the comprehensibility of input and accelerate their language learning progress.

V. Conclusion

Comprehensible input plays a pivotal role in language acquisition. By exposing learners to language that is understandable and meaningful, it facilitates the natural acquisition of vocabulary, grammar, and linguistic patterns. In this comprehensive guide, we explored the importance of comprehensible input in language learning and provided strategies for creating a comprehensible input environment. We also discussed techniques for making input more comprehensible, such as simplification, repetition, and the use of visual aids. Understanding new vocabulary and utilizing context effectively were highlighted as crucial skills in enhancing comprehension.

To optimize your language learning journey, strive to create a comprehensible input environment and actively employ techniques that enhance the comprehensibility of input. Remember, the more you engage with comprehensible input, the more progress you will make in your language acquisition. Enjoy the process and embrace the power of comprehensible input in your language learning adventure!

For further learning and resources, consider exploring language learning communities, language exchange platforms, and language learning apps that provide a wealth of materials and support for your language learning endeavors. Happy learning!


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