Why do sports teams train?
Right…to be better on game day.
In training, they don’t just play matches all the time.
Instead, they prepare themselves for the match by doing other types of exercises that simulate elements of match play.
They look at what goes wrong during the game and use that feedback in their training.
They constantly hone their skills in training to play better in the match.
The Back End – And The Front End
In language learning, I call the training the Back End. The Front End is the match.
The Back End is where you do language learning activities aimed at improving your level of fluency. This doesn’t include real-life conversations.
The Front End is where you have real-life conversations, casually watch TV in your target language or read a book.
Conversing (a Front End activity) is extremely important if you’re to become Fluent. But if that’s all you do, you’re not going to learn as fast as you could.
Just as sportsmen can improve by playing games, so can you by conversing in your target language.
But you also need training(Back End activities). This is true at almost any level, but even more so when you’re starting to learn a new language.
Many people think that conversing from the start works.
Because they have a few idiot “conversations” with native speakers and learn a couple of words they don’t seem to forget.
This gives them a high that makes them think the conversing-only method is your best bet if you want to learn a language.
Except that, later on…
They’re left with buckets of fossilized errors that are tough to correct. Their listening skills might be OK, but their speaking skills are often appalling.
It comes down to this:
As long as your learning resources have you speaking your new language in abundance, there’s no need to converse from the start.
In fact, it’s detrimental for the reasons we just talked about.
The Pot Calling the Kettle Black
Much better to slowly start including real-life conversations into your language learning, once you reach the intermediate stage.
The feedback you’ll receive from conversations is pure language learning gold.
Don’t ignore it (as—I’ll admit—I’m often guilty of. ;-))
Then use this information in your Back End work (training) to improve.
- Stuff you heard, but didn’t understand
- Stuff you wanted to say or explain, but couldn’t
- Sounds you wanted to pronounce correctly, but couldn’t
The things that give you trouble should have a prominent place on your language learning todo list.
This is your training and it will help you perform better in the next match (real-life conversation).
It’s all about minimizing wasted time and effort on stuff you’ve already mastered…and instead strengthening your weaknesses. It’s about efficiency.
People always want to learn a new language as fast as they can, but never take a moment to reflect on what they’re doing.
By taking a little time to think about your learning, you actually save a lot of time in the long run.
You’ll have massively better speaking skills than someone who doesn’t do this.