Thursday, October 27, 2011

Understanding is never enough, part 2

It seems obvious that if we want to master a language and speak it fluently, we'd practice as much as we can, right? Practicing is crucial to feeling comfortable and natural in our new language as we strive to master it, as I mentioned in part 1.

However, while we are often eager to practice outside the classroom with movies, music, and conversation, we're sometimes not too excited about practicing in the classroom. Often, we don't see the need to practice once we've understood the lesson, or we may feel that we're not really learning anything if we're just talking to our classmates.

On the contrary, practicing in the classroom is so important however well we've understood a grammar lesson and with whomever we are doing it. Here are a few reasons why.

1. Understanding is never enough.
I can't stress this too much. Having a grammar point in our head and getting it completely does us no good if we can't use it in conversation. Completing exercises perfectly is great, but we don't learn a new language in order to complete an exercise; we study a language so we can speak it. Practicing will take us closer to that goal.

2. Focusing on what you just learned is important.
Using a grammar lesson soon after we've learned it helps us acquire the lesson and make it a natural part of our language skills. It helps convert the grammar in our heads into language that we can use outside the classroom. It also increases our chances of using it in future conversations.

3. The teacher can check and correct.
When we practice in the classroom after we've just learned something new, the teacher is there to catch mistakes in our sentence structure, wording and pronunciation. In essence, we're getting rid of imperfections in our speech before we use it outside the classroom, and we're trying out the language to see if we can use it correctly and are comfortable doing so.

4. You can test if you've really understood the lesson.
Thinking that we understand something and knowing for sure that we do may not be the same thing. Sometimes, we think that we completely get a lesson because it seems easy; yet when it's time to use it in conversation, we cannot do it or we make mistakes. When we practice a language, we're taking it out for a drive to see if it feels right, and we can ask the teacher if there's anything we're still not sure about.

5. Explaining helps us master the lesson.
When we feel that we're not learning because we're simply talking to our classmates who are in the same level or sometimes lower than we are, remember this: we are first and foremost checking ourselves use the language in order to get the kinks out and be certain that we can use it outside the classroom. However, if a classmate needs help, take advantage of the opportunity to explain the lesson. This only helps with deeper understanding, and you'll be practicing your English.

So there you have it. I'm amazed at how some students don't see the value of putting a grammar or vocabulary lesson into practice in the classroom. If you're one of these students, I hope this two-part small blog post has changed your mind, and I hope you spread the word and encourage your friends and classmates to practice in the classroom.

however well - It doesn't matter how well.
with whomever - it doesn't matter with who(m) 
I can't stress this too much - This is so important. 
get it - understand it 
does us no good - doesn't do us any good
acquire - receive; get
In essence - essentially; basically
get rid of - eliminate 
take it for a drive - check it (to see how well it works) 
first and foremost - the first and most important thing to consider or to remember 
get the kinks out - remove the small mistakes or imperfections 

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