Language learning: Extensive exposure or focused repetition

When learning a language, is it better to cover a lot of ground and achieve an initial exposure to a wide variety of language, or to instead reinforce a smaller area of learning so that the language studied becomes actively usable?

Obviously some mix of these is called for, and yet whilst it seems more sensible to incline towards the latter of these options, finding a kind of middle ground, I think it does depend on your actual goal in learning. If you intend to become fully fluent, then you intend to reinforce all of the material at some point, so maybe it is OK to cover a large amount of topics in a new language even if they are not yet sufficiently reinforced to be part of your active repertoire. After all, you will return to them later, and no impression on the mind is wasted, even if it is unlikely to be accessible/retrievable until reinforced.

I have met learners who insist on repeatedly going over the same vocabulary items and phrases so that they don't forget them, but since they do this they don't venture out and cover further topics, eliminating even the possibility of picking up further language (if you haven't ever encountered a language item, then it is impossible to learn it). This kind of defensive hold-your-ground approach to language learning seems defeatist from the outset.

In actuality, the approach taken will change according to the stage of the journey you are in – that is, 6 months in may call for a different approach from 2 years in, and both approaches are necessary at different times. And yet I think at all stages a more 'adventurous' attitude is a key to success.

Dan
@ NCL Proofreading Services

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