Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. I sometimes earn a commission when you click on them, although it doesn't cost you anything. Thank you for clicking!
You know those fill in the blank exercises that you used to do at school? They have a proper name: Cloze test exercises.
If you’re not aware of them, they’re an extremely effective way to both test and improve your Polish vocabulary and grammar skills. Take a sentence, remove one of the words and then try to guess what is missing. It’ll bolster your vocabulary, and help you acquire vital grammar skills and learn synonyms with ease.
Boost your vocabulary
You might feel that trying to guess a missing word will just highlight the gaps in your vocabulary. However, seeing the correct answer in context means that you can easily learn new words by practising with cloze test exercises.
Of course, as I quickly discovered, you’ll need some kind of hint to work out what that missing word is. While you could use Polish dictionary definitions, images or audio, the quickest and most effective way I found was using an English translation. Won’t that mean that you’re constantly translating? Maybe at first. In the same way that your brain knows that 2 x 2 = 4 without calculating it, eventually it will bypass English entirely and will assign meanings straight to Polish words. To find sentences to learn from, I started with a Polish-English phrasebook. After that, I used a Polish grammar book and then real-life examples from the internet.
If you’re concerned about using translations, you could always opt for one of the alternatives, i.e. Polish dictionary definitions, images or audio. Be warned, it makes things much harder. Personally, I couldn’t stick with it and even now I find it much quicker and easier to put English translations instead. It hasn’t affected my ability to think in Polish whatsoever.
Destroy grammar, one word at a time
Polish grammar is a beast. While word order isn’t quite as important as in English, the Polish grammar system involves a lot of word ending changes for a multitude of different reasons. By learning with cloze text exercises, you can learn each one of the cases and conjugations in context without the hassle of trying to memorise each individual rule or conjugation. Just grab a Polish grammar book or a HowToSpeakPolish.com Polish Perfection Pack to get started.
Learn similar words by guessing what could fill in the gap
My brother, who was about 10 years old at the time, once said something profound.
“No two words mean exactly the same thing – if they did, they wouldn’t need two different words.”
He’s right. The words “deep” and “profound” are quite similar, right? However, while you might meet someone with “deep pockets”, you’ll never meet anyone with “profound pockets”. There are different shades of meaning to even the most similar words, so it’s good to learn as many different ways of saying the same thing as you can. Each word will differ in a very subtle way.
One of the benefits of cloze test exercises is that you get to learn synonyms. By thinking about and learning the many options which could fit in the gap, you’ll also learn similar words that can be used to express exactly what you mean.
What has made the biggest impact on your learning?
Before I discovered the benefits of cloze test exercises, I used to just do plain sentence cards. First, I tried translating whole English sentences into Polish. That was way too hard, so I swapped the languages around. Although this was much easier, as my understanding grew I realised that I couldn’t actually say anything. That was when I decided to make a conscious effort to learn how to speak Polish. I changed all of my cards to cloze cards and started chatting with language partners back in September 2015.
If there were three things that have had the biggest impact on my Polish, they would be:
- Speaking with native speakers as often as possible
- Changing to cloze cards
- Practising everyday
I’m not using many cloze cards at the moment, as I’m currently experimenting with a different flashcard format. If it works, I’ll let you know more about it in another post. What has made the biggest impact on your learning? Let me know in a comment below.
Sign up below for my top tipsIf you liked this post, sign up for my FREE five-day email course below.
Sign up today and I'll also send you a free copy of my new book "Ten Top Tips To Instantly Improve Your Polish".