How making English mistakes can be a good thing!

Is making English mistakes actually a good thing?

I know a lot of English learners who are afraid to speak because they don’t want to make English 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.

How can making English mistakes improve your English?

Well, 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?

And if somebody laughs at you, that’s even better!
First of all, remember that they are not laughing to be nasty, some language 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 you see, that English mistake actually helped him to improve his pronunciation.

So should you worry about your English mistakes?

Absolutely not! My advice is cherish your English 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!

Have you ever made any funny English mistakes? I’d love to hear them – Let me know in the comments below.

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Published by

TheEnglishEnglishTeacher

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

12 thoughts on “Is making English mistakes actually a good thing?

  1. Thanks for sharing! I am the one that afraid of making mistake when I speak foreign language. Because I study in English department, there are many of my classmates speak English fluently… Sometimes I can’t express myself very well and people can not understand what I mean, so they just skip it or left no responding. I really feel nervous when every time I have to make a presentation on the stage. I don’t know how to improve it. After read this article, I think I will try to change my attitude on speaking English in public….

    1. Ah Florence, there are so many things I want to say about your lovely comment! First of all, even I am nervous about giving a presentation (and my English is perfect 😉 ) so I think people are usually just impressed that you have got up on stage to do that, AND in your second language! When you are speaking to people individually, I’d recommend having a few little phrases up your sleeve. Things like, ‘Does that make sense?’ ‘Sorry, I’ll try to explain more clearly’ ‘Sorry, let me try that sentence again!’ and remember, a smile goes a long way too! People are on your side and they don’t mind if your English isn’t perfect, they just want to communicate with you. I understand though, I hated making mistakes in German so I didn’t speak to my in-laws for a long time. Then I changed my attitude and now I make lots of mistakes I’m sure but I also have lots of fun conversations. I’m so pleased to hear you will try to change your mindset too, hearing that filled me with a warm glow 🙂

  2. Thanks for sharing Nicki. You know ! I hate myself why I don’t have enough bravely speak english to my teacher. I really want to say something with him but I’m afraid to make mistakes. It was embarrassing . 🙁 I don’t want someones laugh to me .

    1. Please take it from me Srey Rath, if anyone laughs at you, it won’t be in a nasty way, it will just be because silly language mistakes can be funny. English people are generally not great at speaking other languages so we are so impressed when someone tries to speak to us in English. And your English teacher will definitely understand! Please give it a try. I like this quote which I can apply to lots of things in life ‘Trying to be perfect leads to failure, but action leads to success’. Does that make sense to you? Thank you so much for your lovely, honest feedback. I’m sure lots of people feel like you do! 🙂

  3. I once said that in my country (Spain) we usually eat ostrich eggs on toast as a starter. before a special meal… but I actually meant quail eggs! big difference

    1. That’s hilarious Marta. It really made me smile to picture a huge egg on toast! Bet you never got those mixed up again 😉 Thanks for sharing your funny story!

  4. I one time told my colleague to check her diarrhoea…. I meant diary of course. It was very embarrassing in this time but I can always now remember the difference!

    1. Haha! That one made me laugh out loud Sophie! But you are right, you will pronounce those words perfectly for the rest of your life 🙂

  5. 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.

  6. 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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