Doing textbook exercises (“Fill in the particles”, etc)

Most textbooks have a series of exercises to test the student’s knowledge by having them perform substitution work like providing a sample template of a sentence and have it apply to different situations with different particles, verbs, and nouns.


  • It makes the learner think about the rules of the grammar and how to put things together


  • It’s mostly a waste of time. Especially early on, forcing people to put together sentences like pieces of lego or fill in blanks of a template sentence does not help their language skills very much. It’s a common myth.
  • Exercises like this can be very frustrating, especially if the student doesn’t have a good “feeling” for the language yet and is not familiar with how things are supposed to look or sound like. It’s just banging your head against a wall hoping something sticks. It can be very demotivating
  • Some exercises are very confusing or oddly phrased, especially as a self learner without a teacher to help it can lead to misunderstandings and unnecessary confusion

Conclusion: Don’t do grammar exercises. If you like learning grammar from a textbook, there’s nothing wrong with that. Just skip the exercises. If you don’t believe me, listen to what Steve Kaufmann has to say about it. He explains it a thousand times better than I ever could.