Practicing Purposefully: Learning the Right Things

By Katie Corbett


I was fascinated recently to learn that in language, we use the same 300 words every day. I have wanted to learn a new language for some time, but memorization and verb forms would get in my way of actually learning to speak the language.


I read “Peak: Secrets from The New Science of Expertise,” by Robert Pool, and learn that practicing purposefully could help me master a new language. I decided to check and see what courses are out there to help me excel.


My objective was to learn to speak confidently, so I looked for a course that focused on speaking the desired language. I found Pimsleur courses, which work by listening to MP3 files. These files contain prompts for repetition and responding to questions. I’ve been fascinated by The Philippines, so decided to take Filipino language lessons. These lessons have me spend 30 minutes each weekday learning those 300 words everyone uses in a conversational style. Here is what I’ve found when trying this method:


  • My brain stays focused, since I’m only needing to spend 30 minutes in deliberate practice.
  • I can do the lessons when and where I want, since I’m not part of a class.
  • I remember things more easily because I’m learning in a conversational style.
  • While the program I’m using cannot critique my pronunciation, I’m getting more comfortable with speaking.
  • I’m enjoying the practice, since there are no vocabulary lists or verb conjugations to memorize.


What is something you have wanted to learn? What are the basic building blocks to that skill? What could you do to acquire that skill more quickly than you might have thought possible?


I’d love to hear what you’re learning and how you’re finding success. Let me know in the comments.


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