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What is the Intrinsic Value Method?

What is the most effective way to learn a language?

This is a question that many people tried to answer, and there are many different methods to learning as a result. But which one is the best?

We define the most effective language learning method as: ‘the method that achieves the most results in the least amount of time‘.

Do you agree? This might seem obvious, but this definition has important implications. Look at the part ‘in the least amount of time‘.

What if you could combine language learning with activities that you already do in your life? For example, what if you could learn a language while doing sports, your hobby, or having fun with friends? These activities you already do anyway, so if you learn a language while doing them, it doesn’t cost you any extra time! Isn’t that a super effective way to learn?

This is what the ‘Intrinsic Value Method‘ is all about! It means learning a language while doing activities that are valuable to you.

What is intrinsic value?

Intrinsic value means the value an activity has to you, if you leave out the language learning part.

Think of the value that traditional language learning activities have. What value do you get out of it? Usually, the only value you get is ‘increased language ability’. You spend a few hours and improve your language skills in return. These activities have low intrinsic value. Examples of low intrinsic value activities are:

  • A class where the teacher explains grammar (value: increased understanding of grammar)
  • Studying vocabulary at home (value: increased vocabulary)
  • Private teaching where the teacher corrects your mistakes (values: more aware of mistakes)

In contract, what if you could learn language while doing activities that also provide you a lot of value on their own? Would that not be a lot more valuable to you? Examples of activities with high intrinsic value are:

  • Learning a language while playing board games (values: having fun playing the game, learning new games, fun with other people, and improved language level)
  • Learning a language while cooking together (values: learning new recipes, having a tasty dinner, learning new cultures, and improved language level)
  • Learning a language while playing tennis (values: improving tennis skills, improving health, having fun playing the game, and improved language level)

Doesn’t that seem way more attractive? Here is a comparison between traditional language learning and the Intrinsic Value Method:

Traditional Language Learning

  • Sacrifice your time to achieve language ability
  • Learn ‘textbook’ language usage
  • Clear seperation between ‘learning’ and ‘real-life’
  • Often boring, hard, and tedious
  • Less focus on speaking ability

Intrinsic Value Method

  • Spend no extra time on language learning
  • Learn the language as it’s really used
  • Learning happens during ‘real-life’
  • Fun and enjoyable
  • Learn to actually be able to speak

By now you might be thinking: ‘OK, it sounds great, learning a language just by playing board games, cooking, playing tennis, and so on. But is it actually possible to learn a language this way?

Well, the answer is: ‘YES!’, as these situations present you with an opportunity to get ‘comprehensible input’!

Learning through comprehensible input

Comprehensible input means getting input in the target language that you can understand, ideally just a little bit above your current level. Examples of comprehensible input are having a conversation, watching a movie or reading a book, and you (mostly) understand what you read or hear.

We believe that by getting lots of comprehensible input, your brain will naturally pick up patterns, and after a while, the language will just come naturally to you, just like when kids learn to speak!

But what about grammar?

We believe that you don’t need to consciously learn all the grammar rules of the language. In fact, it can
be detrimental to you. By learning all the rules you become more conscious of mistakes and will be more
hesitant to speak. We believe that after a while you will pick up on the grammar rules unconsciously. For
example, if you see ‘the red apple’ and ‘the blue ocean’ a lot, you will after a while naturally learn that
the adjective should be before the noun, instead of the other way around, without explicitly learning
this rule. Think about your own native language. How many grammar rules do you still know? If something is
wrong, it will just feel wrong, without knowing why.

Supported by theory

This idea that you can naturally learn a language by getting comprehensible input is well described! See for example Stephen Krashen, the founder of the theory, describes:

  • Comprehensible input is the essential element in language learning
  • You do not need to consciously learn grammar rules
  • Learning is best in low-anxiety situations that are naturally interesting to students

How to get comprehensible input?

By now I hope you are convinced of two things:

  • Learning a language while doing intrinsically valuable activities is a huge time-saver
  • You can learn a language by getting comprehensible input

But how to combine these two? Should you just go and do activities like board games, cooking and tennis in Dutch and expect to learn the language naturally? The problem is that in real-life, people might speak too fast or in a too difficult way, so you might not understand anything or switch to English. This way you will not learn anything (remember, you have to understand the input for learning to occur).

This is where the Dutch Language Cafe comes in! We have developed a set of tools and techniques that enable you to learn a language by getting comprehensible input in high intrinsic value situations!

Path to fluency

To actually succesfully learn a language while doing fun activities, you need three things:

  1. At least a basic knowledge of the language
  2. The confidence to use it
  3. The skills to control the conversation

  • Have a basic language knowledge
  • Have the confidence and skill to



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