“For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”
-Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics
“Learning is an active process. We learn by doing. Only knowledge that is used sticks in the/your mind.”
Do you remember the first time that you did something that you now do all the time, without even thinking about it? Do you remember the first time you rode a bike or drove a car? The first time you used a particular app or program? The first time you twirled spaghetti around a fork? Did you notice how the concentration of your first time turned into natural, automatic behavior after you repeated it enough? That’s how skills development works.
It might seem obvious, but we typically learn skills so that we can do things. Someone learns to drive a car, so that they can drive a car and go places. Someone learns to use a new app or program to help them create, organize or communicate. Development of a skill or ability is the objective. Learning is the route to achieving it.
Having someone explain or demonstrate how to do something is an important part of the learning process. But developing the ability to do something for ourselves is a whole different thing. It involves practice. We develop skills “by doing”.
So, actually driving a car is a crucial part of learning to drive. Cooking is part of learning to cook. Practicing the actual activity has to be integrated into the learning process. If you ever go to a new dentist, hopefully your dentist’s education has not just been explanation and demonstration, but also a lot of practice. This is also true for surgeons, builders, hairdressers…
Language learning is also a skills development process.
We don’t learn another language to just “know” it. We usually learn other languages to communicate with other people. Sure, it’s necessary to develop knowledge of the language to do this, but this is not the end product, it is not the skill itself.
The end product is typically the ability to speak and communicate. But turning knowledge of a language into the ability to speak and communicate doesn’t happen by magic. It takes structured practice, and lots of it. With practice, things that were once hard to recognize and produce become natural and automatic. Speaking and communicating need to be integrated into the language learning process. They are both the objective and the means to achieving the objective.
I believe that language learning is about skills development. It’s about developing knowledge and the ability to put that knowledge into practice in real world professional and social settings. This is the basic principle that Fluent is based on. At Fluent, we want to help English learners become English speakers.