Learning to speak English? Make mistakes!

Young Chinese Woman Using Digital Tablet Whilst Relaxing On Sofa At Home

I am a perfectionist, meaning, I am someone who doesn’t like to make errors. I appreciate the black-and-white, the right or wrong of a situation. However, committing blunders and mispronunciations when speaking a new language is normal, and provides opportunities for learning.

Yes, you have read this correctly: mistakes will actually help you to improve your English over time.

We learn new languages to communicate with others, so let’s understand the most basic concept of communication:

Message Sent = Message Received

At a recent English conversation group, I overheard two participants discussing the upcoming Canadian Thanksgiving holiday:

Learner 1: ‘How will you spend Thanksgiving?’
Learner 2: ‘I visit Toronto tomorrow.’
Learner 1: ‘You said that wrong, you should have said ‘I will visit Toronto tomorrow.’’
Learner 2: ‘Oh, you’re right. *blushing* Thank-you’

In this conversation, Learner 2 has made a very slight error in their verb tense, and that error was corrected. While this may seem like the best way to learn a grammar rule, the main message has been lost, the conversation has stalled, Learner 2 feel embarrassed and has lost their confidence, and the likelihood that they will commit the same error is actually very high.

Here is another way that scenario could have unfolded:

Learner 1: ‘How will you spend Thanksgiving?’
Learner 2: ‘I visit Toronto tomorrow.’
Learner 1: ‘Oh, you are going to visit Toronto tomorrow! What will you do there?’

This time, the conversation continued through the error, without it affecting the communication process. Learner 1 understands the message being sent. What’s more, Learner 1 corrected the error through ‘modelling,’ allowing both parties to continue their practice without interruption, and maintain their confidence.

If you are learning English, be sure to memorize grammar and vocabulary. But to become a good English speaker and communicator, find ways to practice in an environment where you can make mistakes, communicate without interruption, and test out your ability to send and receive the message. It will make your experience more enjoyable, improve your confidence, and improve your speaking skills in a more effective way.

My Canada Plan provides English practice services via Skype with a native Canadian speaker. We can also help you to find ESL conversation groups and other opportunities to practice speaking in a friendly environment in your new community.

One comment on “Learning to speak English? Make mistakes!

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