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Advantages of Deliberate Practice over Random Practice

You need the right kind of mindset.

What is N+1 and the "Comfort Zone"?

We can use the idea of N+1, where N represents your comfort zone and +1 represents the new things that you're learning.

This can apply to any kind of field, any kind of study that you're doing, any kind of skill that you're learning.

N+1 is intended to push you out of your comfort zone.

So how do we determine what our level is, and how much N we already have?

The N, the comfort zone, is basically when you're practicing new sentences in a foreign language, about 80% to 90% of that will be something that you're able to handle already and 10% to 20% of that will be something new. So that's your comfort zone.

This new material, this +1 part, it really depends on how hard you want to push yourself. Your deliberate practice comes in saying these whole sentences with the additional part in it, so you're actually practicing saying it.

This applies to all kinds of different fields.

You wouldn't normally read a book to study how to do push ups. You wouldn't read a book to study how to do singing. You could read a book after you have already gained the basic skills, which is kind of like the grammar of those skills. The grammar of singing or the grammar of sports and athletics. You can do that after you've got some of those abilities so that you can refine your movements so you can become an even better competitor.

That's where we make the contrast between learning languages: come to the grammar a little bit later.

Deliberate Practice versus Random Practice

Random practice means for example that you go buy a bunch of books, or read them at random, sign up for classes with online tutors, and practice conversational skills. These things might push you out into an N+1 scenario, but it's very easy to plateau. You'll find a lot of things you can already discuss very easily, and you're just going to get stuck there.

What you want to do is push yourself out of that comfort zone and keep pushing along. That's the biggest difference between random practice and deliberate practice.

You're not wasting time.

You're not wasting time when you're doing deliberate practice. Whereas random practice -- you may end up doing it for a few extra years without making a lot of progress.

A lot of people ask me, I'm learning Chinese or Russian or Arabic and I've read everything about the grammar, and I'm still not able to speak. What it really just comes down to is how many reps have you done. How many times have you opened your mouth and said those sentences out loud?

I've fallen into the same trap myself, but that's what it comes down to: how many reps have I done? Not enough! I've only got 10,000 or 20,000 reps and I should be somewhere around 40,000 or 50,000 before I start questioning "why is my ability not there yet?"

So you have to do your reps.

If something doesn't challenge you, it won't change you.


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Michael Campbell

Michael Campbell

Polyglot, phonologist, linguist specialising in Formosan, Proto-Austronesian, Sinitic, Slavic, typology, IPA, and L2. Does Glossika training daily.

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Advantages of Deliberate Practice over Random Practice
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