It seems counterintuitive to many of us, but the embarrassing errors and mortifying mistakes are just part and parcel of a successful and fruitful voyage across the seas of language learning! Our natural response to the idea of mistakes is to avoid them at all costs. We are trying to spare ourselves awkwardness, and trying to ensure that we do things correctly. While this instinct may be natural, that doesn’t make it the best approach for language learners.

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🛑 Mistakes: One requirement among many

Reading the LanguageConvo blog, you are likely increasingly aware of the many requirements that exist in order for you to call yourself a successful language learner. Examples include patience, diligence, steadfastness, creativity and more. The one we’re talking about today is one of the stranger requirements --- make errors.

What kind of mistakes are we talking about when it comes to language learning?

  • Pronunciation – perhaps accidentally calling your native speaker teacher “fool” instead of “inspiration”
  • Grammar – recounting your fantastic trip to Paris using the future tense…oh well!
  • Vocabulary – confusing the word for “spicy” with the word “mild” and getting an unpleasant surprise in your sandwich
  • Expression – misunderstanding a local idiom and saying it to someone for whom it would be wildly inappropriate to say it to
  • This list could go on…

🤔 What should you do to capitalize on language mistakes?

The first thing to remember is that you have to work hard to turn errors into learning opportunities! This is the all-important starting point to embracing mistakes as both a requirement and a tool of language learning. There are four useful steps you can take to achieve this effect:

1.) Don’t panic – It’s essential that you don’t break down after making a mistake. It’s best to push on to the end of your task, and then reflect on and deal with any mistakes afterward. Any good native speaker teacher knows that and will allow room for you to make errors as you’re speaking. If you know you’ve made an error, take a deep breath and just push onward.

2.) Take notes – When you’re done, ask your teacher about mistakes you made and keep a record of them. Reviewing these notes and retrying those problematic sentences as part of your review will help you in hopefully not repeating them too often in the future.

3.) Repeat problem areas – After some reflection and review, revisit topics where you made those mistakes and try again to say what you wanted to say. This act of reusing the words will help to reinforce them in your mind and help them stick in place for future use.

4.) Finally, look back with positivity – The fourth and final step is developing a positive attitude to failures and mistakes by always looking back on these experiences with positivity and good humor. Tell stories on errors you made, and you may just find it empowering for yourself and inspiring to others who wish to learn a language, too.

😎 Can’t I just endeavor to avoid mistakes altogether?

Interestingly, the sheer amount of work and detail it would take to avoid any kind of error on your language journey would just be counterproductive. Even just trying to avoid major errors is a waste of time. Part of the reason to be positive is that mistakes are signposts that point us toward more efficient success in language learning.

Always remember that language learning is a curve, and a way to progress along the curve more efficiently is to act on and take advantage of the many errors you make along the way. If you can stick it out for the long term, you’ll find more pleasing and lasting results that give you a lifelong skill to enjoy!

🎉 Get started!

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