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Perfect Preparation Prevents Poor Performance Posted by on Dec 5, 2016 in Archived Posts

Nobody’s perfect, but some of us are less not-perfect than others. That’s why it’s best to stay prepared when it comes to language learning – for whatever situation you might have to deal with.

Itchy Feet: Relative Tolerance, Pt II

I had a boss once that I didn’t care much for.

I know, I know, it’s unusual – generally speaking, all bosses are the kindest, most generous and loving people in our lives, right? Ha, ha. Anyway, he was the kind of guy who was right and everyone else was wrong. He knew best because he was so great, and you were just a dumb lowly worker. You had a LOT to learn from him, because of how great and smart and important in the industry he was. He liked to ask trick questions that showed how stupid you were and how he had all the right answers. Just walking into his office you felt this overpowering sense of dread. You weren’t waiting for if, but when he decided you were flying too high and took you down a notch. It was an oppressive place, and needless to say, I got out after just a few weeks. Yes, it was so bad I couldn’t even handle it after about a month, and I got out of there.

But there was one thing he did do right. He taught me something I’ll never forget: PPPPPP. Perfect Preparation Prevents Poor Performance (you’ll noticed there’s an extra P in the acronym – that’s because his version included an expletive).

He was a project manager, so he knew what the costs of poor performance are (and he let us know it on a daily basis). And about that, he was right. When it comes to any endeavor, whether it’s climbing a 14er, raising a child, pitching to clients or learning a new language, the better prepared you are, the less you’re likely to perform poorly.

Now, notice that the acronym is not PPIOPWPP (Perfect Performance Is Only Possible With Perfect Preparation). You do not HAVE to prepare perfectly in order not to perform poorly. You can often times perform wonderfully by improvising and making it up as you go. Certainly when it comes to language learning, there’s a lot of improvisation involved.

But even improv actors, the cleverest improvisors among us, train hard. They prepare, so when it comes time to improvise, they can perform better. You could just make it up as you go – or you can prepare, so you’re better equipped to make better decisions as you go, and have the right tools at hand. You can’t prevent poor performance from ever happening 100%, sure. But you can be ready for it.

You can’t Possibly Prepare Perfectly for every Potential scenario, however. So when it comes to language learning, what Possible Pratfalls should you Prepare for?

We all know this one: you just don’t have the word handy. It’s on the tip of your…whatever that thing in your mouth is called. Preventing this one is easy – always have a dictionary on hand. These days, there are so many apps you don’t even have to look far. Just have one ready to go on your smartphone so you can whip it out if you get stuck in a conversation.

Ah, yes; you’ve been avoiding your grammar, haven’t you? Now you just slur over those articles or endings and hope that nobody notices. Well, if you spend 5 minutes a day drilling grammar or vocab from your favorite app or book, you’ll be kept up to speed, keeping those brain-gears greased with knowledge. You can handle 5 minutes a day, can’t you?

You just DO NOT understand what this person is talking about. Is it the regional accent? Or are you just going deaf? One great way to prepare for this is to listen to radio or talk news in the language. Hear how people speak to each other locally. Even if you don’t understand at first, just put it on during breakfast or when you’re jogging. It will start to sink in, I promise you, and you’ll be amazed how much you understand the next time around.

What other Poor Performance Pratfalls can we avoid with simple Preparation Procedures?

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About the Author: Malachi Rempen

Malachi Rempen is an American filmmaker, author, photographer, and cartoonist. Born in Switzerland, raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, he fled Los Angeles after film school and expatted it in France, Morocco, Italy, and now Berlin, Germany, where he lives with his Italian wife and German cat. "Itchy Feet" is his weekly cartoon chronicle of travel, language learning, and life as an expat.

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