The Japanese proverb "習うより慣れよ" means "You can learn better by your own experience than by being taught by someone".

Is there an English equivalent of this Japanese proverb?

In English language education in Japan, the default English translation of the Japanese proverb is "Practice makes perfect". I suspect that this translation is wrong, hence this thread.

[Edit] All my Japanese-English dictionaries translate the Japanese proverb into Practice makes perfect.

  • 6
    "Experience is the best teacher" . "Practice makes perfect" means that you get better at doing something the more you practice it. For example, when learning how to play a piece of music.
    – TimR
    Commented Jan 14 at 11:58
  • Thank you, TimR. Is it possible to use "Experience is the best teacher" for how to ride a bicycle?
    – Kaguyahime
    Commented Jan 14 at 16:40
  • 1
    Perhaps experience could teach you that certain bicycle jumps are quite risky, or too risky, as the subtext of the saying is that we learn from our mistakes. But bike riding generally, acquiring balance, is more of a "practice makes perfect" scenario.
    – TimR
    Commented Jan 14 at 17:20
  • 1
    I guess that "Experience is the best teacher" is sometimes used when talking about wisdom gained by experience. What do you think of my guess?
    – Kaguyahime
    Commented Jan 14 at 17:46
  • 1
    Your guess is on the right track. I think the best paraphrase is "Painful mistakes teach us not to make them again"
    – TimR
    Commented Jan 14 at 18:12

1 Answer 1


There isn't a proverb that matches perfectly. But people talk about "Learning by doing" or "Learning on the job". The latter means learning the skills for a particular job while employed

Teachers have traditionally been trained at university, but more recently greater emphasis has been placed on "learning on the job", with programmes for graduates to begin teaching without an education degree.

Learning-by-doing, is a form of active learning, and is about education techniques (in school or a training programme) for giving practical lessons, rather than theoretical ones.

So you could translate this quite directly as "Learning-by-doing (or Learning on the job) is best" or "... is the best way to learn".

I am reminded of a line in the movie How to train your dragon. Snotlout is questioning the point of learning dragonlore: "Snotlout : Why read words when you can just kill the stuff the words tell you stuff about?"

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