Does Practice Make Perfect?

I say no. I find this cliché to be the cause of incessant frustration and a tragic wasting of years. It’s an old saying that needs a redefining twist in order to be truly on the mark. Take my situation, for example. I find that my body is stupid. It certainly does what a body’s supposed to do when confronted with a repeated physical pattern: its response, over time, becomes automatic and easy to perform. The stupidity lies in the fact that my body has no opinion of its own—and that’s both good and bad.

It’s true that with persistent practice you can train your body to ascend to almost any physical pinnacle, and it can reap great rewards. But, there’s the risk that this type of process will become rote and dull. Mindless practice can suck the life out of you.

I contend that the adage should more constructively read: perfect practice makes perfect.

petter organI play the organ for a living, and I have to discipline my body to reproduce music the way I want music be reproduced. It’s often painful witnessing my body’s underachievement, but, since I’m my body’s musical trainer, the blame falls to me for any musical shortcomings. I have to force my body to execute the suitable music drills, and I must be willing to place myself in front of a keyboard for hours each day, slowly and continuously parroting my ideal concept of music. Then, ever so slowly, I may reap my reward. Every now and then, I’m both amazed and impressed by what my body’s doing.

This same process will make or break my language learning. Parts of my body—like my memory, lungs, and tongue—must rise to the challenge of sentence drills and declensions. Over and over, my tongue must pronounce réfrigérateur or chłodziarka without any cooling off, until those words are duly mastered. Repetition is the mother of skill, because the body is a parrot.

The luxury of using Rosetta Stone is that your computer can withstand listening to your numerous stuttering repetitions. The ever-patient speech recognition function of Rosetta Stone lets you perfect phrases in a way no human teacher would have the stomach to endure. And, best of all, with perfect practice, your body will provide the results you desire.

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