In this article we will speak about the importance of doing practice exercises throughout the learning process.
Why do practice exercises?
An essential part of learning a language is practising.
What do we mean by practice? We mean the traditional practice exercises you find in course books, workbooks, and nowadays also on websites. You do these in writing or orally, preferably both. And it is important that you always check if your solutions are correct or not. If you have made mistakes in an exercise, it is important to write down the correct version, and come back to the same exercise(s) again later. If you have an English teacher, they will give you more complex tasks as well, which they then correct.
And why is practice so important?
Believe it or not, this is how the new grammatical constructions and the new words get learned. And then this knowledge can be consolidated and kept active by some more practice. So practising is something you have to do on a regular basis. Because repetition truly is the mother of all knowledge. Repetitio mater est studiorum (Lat.). The things that we do not practise will become passive knowledge and in time fade away altogether. This, however, takes time! So even if something, a language we once learned, has become passive, we can activate it again.
Is chatting enough to improve my English?
Why isn’t it enough to just chat and speak in the target language? Because this will not bring you to the next level. Unless you live in an environment where the target language is used and you are forced to use it 24/7, and get feedback from its speakers.
If that is not the case, you will not improve much by only chatting. Why? Because speaking is an active skill. So, quite logically, while speaking we use those constructions and words that we actively know. We use the same, simple structures, the very same words – what else could we do? This is what is active in our brains. We just keep reproducing them. We even reproduce our mistakes if our partner doesn’t give us feedback. While chatting, we cannot use the knowledge we don’t have or only have passively. Just by chatting, the constructions we don’t know will not magically appear in our brains!
So how are practice exercises better?
When we do practice exercises, we are faced with structures we might not know or not use. And by doing those exercises, this new structure becomes known and it gradually becomes active knowledge in our brains. And then, when we chat again with our friends, we can use that structure as well, consolidating it even further.