I have always had a hard time with the first approach. I never feel that I am really deeply connected to the vocabulary when I approach it this way. Using vocabulary that I have learned this way always feels forced.
The second method resonates more deeply with me. It made sense as soon as I started using it, and I feel MUCH more in control of my improvisation as well as more creative.
I have read bits about Noam Chomsky's ideas about linguistics, specifically the ideas of surface structure and deep structure and I feel that these two approaches mirror, in a very general way, Chomsky's model.
The first method is the surface structure; you are learning the sentence and using it verbatim. The second method is the deep structure; you are learning the building blocks of the sentence, understanding the linguistic transformations that take place, and using those rules to create your own sentence.
In my next post, I will post some examples of the two methods.