In general, I take a rather methodical approach to language learning. I cannot learn by ear nor can I learn by watching dramas or what not. I need my grammar dictionary, my textbooks and other book resources.
That being said, I rely quite a lot on “instinct / feel” when it comes to understanding new grammar points or concepts.
I’m now using a N2 grammar book that groups similar grammar points together. I would read the explanations and sample sentences thoroughly but if you ask me to verbalise what is the difference between the grammar structures, I would not be able to answer. Yet, when I do the exercises, I would rely on my erm “instinct” and “feel” to pick out the answers and accuracy rate is almost 100%.
I find this a fascinating aspect of language learning. It’s not rote memorisation and even if you can’t explain it, you know it’s right. Try teaching your native tongue to a foreign language learner – would you be able to explain the grammar points? “It’s just like this” would probably be the answer to every question.
While there are people who are perfectly fine with this “instinct” approach, I know many who would want to know exactly how and where to use a particular grammar point and would not accept the “gut feeling” approach. I used to be somewhat like that too. It frustrates me to no end that I cannot pinpoint exactly how to use 이/가/는/은 in Korean and I spent quite a bit of time googling for that “perfect” explanation. I felt the need to know the whole theory / explanation behind those particles and that I would only be able to use them properly after that.
But now, I think the better method is really to read a lot and let the concept subconsciously sink into you. The more you read, the better your “gut feeling” is when it comes to the choice of the particles. It’s also a lot less frustrating. Instead of needing to “perfect” that knowledge at one go, it’ll be better to let things flow and to gain that knowledge through exposure and experience.
I’m not saying that this is the right or only method, but it’s just something that works for me. This is why I don’t do “revision” when it comes to language learning. It doesn’t matter to me if I remember the 30 words I learnt in a day or not. Instead of forcing myself to re-read and revise that set of words, I move on, read more and in the end, I learn more.
Probably not very convincing if you analyse the argument in a logical manner, but I truly believe that language learning is not something that can be explained by pure logical analysis – if you get what I mean.