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talking is not practicing

If you break down Mandarin into discrete vocabulary and drill them in front of the mirror every morning, divorced from the context of real communication and understanding, chances are your ability to naturally speak Mandarin will not significantly improve.

Rather, the ability to speak (and write) is the natural result of the having acquired lots of input. Imagine the ability to produce language as the tip of an iceberg: which is just a small perceptible part of a much larger situation: the prior knowledge that has been stored and remains hidden in long-term memory.

Check fact: Many Mandarin teachers who can fluently speak and write Mandarin have the background of having acquired a considerable amount of Mandarin through real communication in their family or community, or from consuming lots of movies or music or reading in Mandarin.

The way that speaking help language acquisition is indirect: by speaking, we can elicit some conversation, and conversation can be an excellent source of comprehensible input that students can acquire. And besides, speaking can also help students feel more like a user of the target language, like a member of the Chinese “community,” for example.


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