Understanding the mistakes…

September 9, 2011 by 5 Comments
Mistakes we understand...

Mistakes we understand...

As a Brit I went to a school full of students scared of speaking in a different language for fear of making a mistake or sounding silly.  Some even said they felt silly “putting on” an accent.  Call me what you will, but I like to have a laugh when learning a language.  Making mistakes is part of the learning process.  It can also be funny.  Speaking in a different accent is something I have always loved to do too.  “Putting on the talk”, as my nan used to say, is just something I enjoy doing, even in English.

It might feel weird in the beginning when you speak in a different accent, but it’s worth a try. It is definitely part of speaking a new language at any rate.  Even the accent doesn’t have to be perfect.  Getting your ideas across and understanding what is said is the name of the game.

There are many ideas about fluency, vocabulary learning, grammar, pronunciation and the like floating around the internet.  Theories on how best to do it pepper countless books on the subject.  Many sell their method as the best, like it’s some sort of guarded secret.  Believe me, it is not rocket science.   I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, a desire to learn and hard work are what’s needed.

Some people feel less comfortable speaking a language because they just don’t talk much in their native language(s).  That fine too.  Not everything is for everyone.  Even those people will need to come out of their comfort zone at some time, if they really want to speak a language.  If that is not your goal to speak, then I will leave you to it.  🙂

You want to speak?  Then speak…

Learn what you can and use it when you get the chance, even if it is just the very basics.  You never know when you might need a language, especially if you travel or live in a place where many tourists visit.  You started speaking in your mother tongue after years and years of practice and getting it wrong.  People corrected you to speak like they speak so you fit into the social group.  It was not the quick learning process, like people bang on about.  I know, I see kids learning to speak around me on a daily basis.  It takes them years of listening to the same things constantly and getting things wrong, being corrected over and over again to speak well.

Steve Kaufman, founder of Lingq talks a lot in his videos about not worrying so much about making mistakes.  He says that the important this is to understand and to be understood.  You see signs in English everywhere around the globe with incorrect English, but the important this is what the sign says, not that it is 100% perfect.  When understanding is a problem, then we may need to revisit a point of grammar, pronunciation or vocabulary to get our message across as it is intended.

Practical tips

* Learn some songs you like and sing along – this helps with vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation.  YouTube is an excellent resource for this.

* Listen to the language as much as you can – try repeating sentences and words back to yourself

* Use the language when you can.  Even if you are a beginner, you can usually find a way to say the basics you know to someone, if you’re exposed to the language.  Always good to build up confidence so these phrases become second nature to you.

* Watch films with subtitles on and change the audio to mix things up a bit.  This is a great resource we have nowadays.  (I just watched “To Kill A Mocking Bird” in English with Polish subtitles).

* Find sentences you like or find useful in books/papers/courses you read/listen to and try saying them over and over again.  Try changing the subject or object of the sentence, adding in adjectives or adverbs to jazz it up a bit too.

The most important thing is to have fun.  If you are going through a period of not feeling like looking at new stuff, give yourself a break and read or listen to something easy.  Revision is also important!

Remembering everything is a challenge, so make it fun and don’t beat yourself up if you forget things or get things wrong.  I have been studying languages my entire life and I live and breathe them.  But guess what?  I make mistakes, forget things and sometimes mispronounce things too…and I don’t care! 🙂

If you sign up for italki and buy a coupon for language lessons through them, you can use the Promo Code below at checkout to get $5 OFF your order! So a $10 coupon costs you just $5! Use Promo Code: RICHARD

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This post was written by Richard


  • Afrikaans learner says:

    I totally agree with everything you said, but specially with this: “The most important thing is to have fun. If you are going through a period of not feeling like looking at new stuff, give yourself a break and read or listen to something easy. ”

    I am from Spain. I began to study Afrikaans some months ago and I have made important progress. However all the teaching material is in English, and learning a language through a foreign language is quite hard and the learning process really slows down. A couple of months after beginning to study Afrikaans I was upset. I felt I wasn´t making any progress and almost gave up, but I decided to take a break and some weeks after I began from scratch again. I felt much better and from that time up to now I have studied every day effectively. I know that there is a long road left and that it will take me, at least, two years to reach a good level, but I don´t mind, I am not in a hurry.

    A good topic to talk about could be “How to learn a minor language”, that is, a language which doesn´t have many resources; maybe a few radio channels and news websites and that´s all. But there is an English saying that I really like. It goes: where there is a will, there is a way…

  • Ron says:

    I like it!

  • Michal Grzeskowiak says:

    Great Richard!
    Thank you for this.
    Wonderful how the conclusions of most language learners are similar.
    Soon I’m planning to run a videoblog about my aproach to languages and I already see that in many elements we totally agree. I want to make it in Polish, English and Spanish at first to reach more people, because as you now there is a tremendous joy in language experience, so that it’s worth sharing with people.
    Hope to see you again and make another video in at least one more language 🙂 My next goal- French 🙂
    Take care and enjoy your days!

  • klara says:

    I like this topic so much thank you so much sir .

  • Nadkumar D PATIL says:

    Thanks i like it. I want to improve my english i’m a vernacular Medium student studying in degree level and i want to speak fluently and effectively because i’ll make lot of mistakes of grammar while speaking and writing.
    Can you help me. Thank you very much.

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