How making English mistakes can be a good thing!

Learner tip – Making mistakes

I know a lot of English learners who are afraid to speak in English because they don’t want to make mistakes. I completely understand that – You don’t want people to have to correct you, you don’t want people to laugh at you. But actually making mistakes when you are speaking English is one of the best ways to learn and improve.

If somebody corrects you, you are much more likely to remember how to say that particularly sentence next time because you will associate it with that moment. Instead of getting embarrassed, ask your listener for more information. I assure you, they will be more than happy to help!

Can they explain the correction in more detail? Is there a more natural way to say that sentence? Can you say it again in 5 minutes and check if it’s correct this time?

If somebody laughs at you, that’s even better!
First of all, remember that they are not laughing to be nasty, some mistakes are just funny. Years ago, I lived in Germany and, in German, the words for cherry (Kirsche) and church (Kirche) sound very similar. I said something like “I’m really enjoying my church icecream.” Of course everyone laughed and I went bright red but I have never forgotten the difference since! And they weren’t being horrible, it’s just a funny mistake so now when I make mistakes in German, I laugh along.

I had a student once who, when asked why he was entering the UK, told officials that he was a ‘terrorist’. Obviously it was a pronunciation mistake and he meant ‘tourist’!

When he made it to the classroom (finally!) and told all of us, we were hysterical with laughter and he was happy to make us laugh. We then spent the whole lesson working on pronunciation. All of my students can say these two words perfectly now!

So my advice is cherish your mistakes, use them to improve and make sure you are ready to laugh along with your listeners because learning a language is supposed to be fun!

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Nicki is a Cambridge qualified, experienced English teacher for foreign learners. She loves helping English learners to learn real English and communicate with confidence!

4 thoughts on “Learner tip – Making mistakes

  1. I cherish my mistakes, because it helps me to learn that I haven’t learnt it yet! I usually laugh my mistakes with other people. I learned to laugh my mistakes. When you learn to laugh your mistakes you embrace them and you dont afraid of making mistakes.
    Thank you Nicki.

  2. This is so true! When I lived in France my housemate made a similar mistake with 2 words that sound almost identical but have VERY different meanings – I won’t say which words as one is quite rude! Everybody laughed so much about it and because of this I’ve never forgotten the correct pronunciation of those words! Mistakes like these really are a great way to learn

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