I have decided to start learning by heart the first chapter of 星の王子さま which is the Japanese translation of The Little Prince. I explained the benefit of learning by heart in this post and so far, it totally works for me.
What helps me is that The Little Prince is a story I know very well. I had to learn some passages by heart at school because we staged it in the class. Much later, when I studied German, I listen many times to the audiobook read by Ulrich Mühe.
Anyway, by learning sentences by heart, I really feel comfortable with grammar structures I had to think of before.
Let’s take some examples:
なら I know that it is used with the casual form of verbs, but having learned: 再現してみるなら it comes more naturally if I need to use this structure. It’s the difference between knowing how a grammar should be formed and being able to use it correctly without even think of it.
もう動けなくなり to the negative form 動けない is attached the grammar point なる which is formed by replacing the い ending by く. It’s all easy grammar really but if I have had to form this sentence by myself, I think that I would have had to think about it for a few seconds.
ジャングルでの冒険 I would never have thought of putting the で in this sentence. In fact, I was maybe not aware that it is possible to do that…
帽子なんかじゃない Here, I found the use of なんか which is something I often see and want to get more familiar with.
大人たちにも分かるように I often forgot that 分かる is used with に. It is counterintuitive to me.
… 置いときなさい Here is an example of the contractive form of the grammar ～ておく. I really had troubles with that before I knew that とく was the contraction of ておく.
…というわけで It is something that I really hear a lot. In most videos I watch, people will end up saying something like “はい、というわけで”. I will try to use it in my writing exercises, it sounds cool.
いやになる another expressions I knew because it was in my Anki deck, but I hadn’t really appropriated it. Now I think that I have.
Those are only examples taken from the beginning of chapter 1. In fact, I find something interesting in almost every sentence.
I really think that learning by heart can have two major benefits:
- It allows you to transform passive knowledge into active competence. The problem with self-taught languages is that there is often a gap between what we know/recognize, and what we are able to use, learning by heart can help shrink this gap.
- In all language learning experience, there is this moment when you find yourself able to say almost everything you want to say in a more or less correct way. The difficult thing is to not stagnate at this level and to take the next step that will bring you from “being able to communicate” to “being fluent, using colloquial expressions, impressing native speaker, etc”. Taking this last step surely requires a lot of efforts and learning by heart is one of the strategies to get there.