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How comprehensible is comprehensible?

December 1, 2019

We know that we can't communicate with someone if we don't understand them, and we know that language acquisition cannot happen if comprehension does not occur... but just how well do we need to understand someone or something in order to communicate? How comprehensible does something have to be in order to be 'comprehensible'?

To find out for yourself, watch me try to talk to Elicia Cárdenas (who is off-camera) about something that happened to me recently!

The impact of text coverage

Text coverage refers to the percent of words in a given piece of discourse, oral or written, that an interpreter understands. If you understand 180 words in a 200-word article, you're looking at 90% text coverage.

When I ask "How comprehensible is comprehensible?", Text Coverage is one of the biggest factors that impacts your level of understanding, but it is not the only factor. Figurative Language and Background Knowledge, for example, also impact your understanding of a given piece of discourse.

As you think back on this video and have the opportunity to sit in on lessons and conversations in languages that you do not yet speak fluently, think about how well you understand the discourse and how it impacts these areas:

  • Communication
  • Your ability to negotiate meaning
  • The feeling of connection
  • Your emotional and mental state
  • Incidental vocabulary learning

Through this experience, I think you'll come to understand why I am so passionate about ensuring comprehension at a deep level!

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