Lesson 7

How to Handle Mistakes

On Tuesday, I go to school again. One student asks our teacher an interesting question. She says, “I want to practise speaking with people around me but I don’t want to make mistakes. I don’t want to look stupid. Can you help me?”

Our teacher says, “Making mistakes is a very interesting topic. There are a lot of opinions on this topic. I want to show you what I believe is the best to do. I have a lot of experience with this because I also learn new languages. For example, now I am learn Spanish.

When I speak Spanish, I don’t care if I make mistakes or not. The reason why I don’t care about mistakes is simple. When I learnt my native language, I didn’t care about making mistakes. Mistakes weren’t important for me. My main goal when I use any language is to say my ideas. It is all.

I know that when I read a lot, speak and do shadowing, my Spanish will be better and better.

I know that this can look very simple but it is my opinion. This is what I learnt after many years of teaching and learning languages. It works very well for me and many of my students. When I speak, I only concentrate on speaking.

At the moment I know 1500 words in Spanish. It is the level of a two-year-old child.

Two-year-old children make a lot of mistakes when they speak, but they don’t care about their mistakes. They continue using their native language and when they are three years old, they make very few mistakes. And when they are four years old, they usually speak very well. You can do the same.

Now most of you know about 2000 words. So it is absolutely OK to make mistakes time to time. When you continue using English, there will be fewer and fewer mistakes in your speaking.

It is not possible to go to a higher level if you don’t make mistakes. When you practise English, it is OK not to be perfect. Perfection comes with practise. All people who started to learn English, started from the beginning, from the same level, from level zero.

Learning languages is like learning to play a musical instrument. It needs to be trained. When you start your training, it is not perfect at the beginning and you make mistakes. It is normal. Take it as a necessary part of your learning process.

If you don’t go through this period of making mistakes, you can’t get to higher levels. When you continue to use English, the mistakes can step by step go away. If you want to make fewer and fewer mistakes, do a lot of reading and shadowing. When you read, you can read aloud. It can also help you make fewer mistakes.

In real conversations, care only about exchanging ideas. Don’t care about making mistakes. When you speak, you practise changing your ideas to words. You don’t learn grammar or words. You have other activities for it.

Don’t worry. Everybody who learns a foreign language makes mistakes sometimes. Famous people, bosses of big companies or polititians make mistakes too. When you listen to these people on TV, you see that they don’t care about mistakes. They care about what is important and it is saying their ideas. You can do the same. Does it make sense?”

The girl says, “Yes, thank you.”

If you don’t want to make mistakes, do a lot of reading and shadowing.