Steve White
Learning, doing, and fluency

There are two modes in language: consumption and generation. Most of the time, we're consuming language. Because there's only one of us, and 7.125 billion other people, the chances are that we'll be consuming someone else's language most of the time. The rest of the time we're generating language ourselves. Consuming is a lot easier than generating. That's true of language just as it's true of stories and food and music and other stuff. You learn language by studying the rules and then consuming examples. Then you try generating your own examples based on the rules and vocab you've learned. If you have your own examples checked by a native speaker then you'll be able to catch and correct any mistakes you're making (which will be common at this stage). When you reach the stage where you know the rules and vocab without having to keep stopping and looking them up, then you'll want to move into generating language as much as you can so that you can develop fluency. It doesn't matter whether that's written (like a diary) or spoken (or imagined in your head) at that stage. You won't be making mistakes at that stage so you're simply increasing your fluency and speed-of-recall by actively "doing language" as much as possible. If you're not yet at that fluency-development stage, and still having a lot of problems in grammar, then spending most of your time generating language is probably not a great use of your time, because you'll mostly be working by trial-and-error. And checking it yourself is unlikely to uncover the errors. 

You achieve fluency by training your brain to be fluent. This takes hard work (exercise to stimulate the brain) and sleep (so that your brain can grow and deepen new pathways). The hard work takes the form of immersion and persistence and practice. Look up the difference between "recall" and "recognition" and spend a large proportion of your time actively recalling. Keep your learning curve relatively shallow so that you're always having fun and not getting exhausted/frustrated. That way you'll spend more time practicing. Loss of motivation is the biggest factor in failure, because you don't learn language when you're not doing it.

Mar 14, 2017 5:35 AM
Comments · 3
Thanks for your advices, it is very helpful for me! This is exactly advices what I am looking for. 
March 14, 2017
agreed with <a ng-if="discu.creator_obj.allow_profile" ui-sref="user({id:discu.creator_obj.id})" href="https://www.italki.com/user/3767150" class="" style="background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);">Steve</a>, Loss of motivation is main factor behind failure. But <a ng-if="discu.creator_obj.allow_profile" ui-sref="user({id:discu.creator_obj.id})" href="https://www.italki.com/user/3767150" class="" style="background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);">Steve</a> do you don't think that somehow people should start practicing new language from day 1? We don't need to spend most of the time on this but about 20% 30% of total time we should spend on generating or practicing new language. what is you point of view on this?
March 14, 2017

Yes, Moeen, I agree. We need to practice generating examples of things as we learn them. Here's the key part:

"You learn ... by studying ... and consuming examples... then you try generating your own examples ... have your examples checked by a native speaker."

When you learn a new word or grammar point, there's no value in trying it out over and over again, without having it checked. If you do that, then any mistakes you're making will be multiplied over and over. Sometimes people post Notebook posts to italki that are very long and that contain the same class of errors over and over. That's not a good use of the learner's time and not a good use of the corrector's time (if anyone bothers to correct the post). Start small, just write one example, and get it checked. Only once you can use a word or grammar construct correctly should you move that word or grammar construct over into the "fluency" phase where you use it as much and as often as you can. The elements of language, as you learn them, come through you like an assembly line, moving from unfamiliar through to familiar in a continuous stream. So, yes, I guess there are always some things we're learning while at the same time some things we're fluent with.

March 14, 2017