Have you ever been in a situation where you wanted to express something in your target language but did not do so because you were afraid of making a mistake? In my years of teaching, I have sometimes experienced frustration with students who preferred to limit their experimentation with the language due to fear of making mistakes. Why do I get frustrated as a teacher? Well, because ultimately this fear impedes progress and also because it is vital that my students enjoy experimenting and improvising in the language.
You may remember a time when you have felt embarrassed due to a mistake you have made. I clearly remember one occasion when I was living in Austria and speaking to my new flatmate in German. He thought I was offering him a massage when I really just had a message for him. I can laugh about it now and I will never ever forget the word for message in German! So you see, making mistakes helps you learn. 🙂
Although you may have had a bad experience with learning a language at school where you were constantly judged on your knowledge, learning a language in your adult life should not be seen in this way, but rather as an extremely useful communication tool which could help you move up the career ladder or improve your life in general.
It is true that you can sometimes feel discouraged if you feel that you receive lots of correction. It is important, though, that the mistakes you make are highlighted to you and that you understand the correction. You should also record recurring mistakes in a notebook or in a Word doc and regularly review them. By doing so, you will eliminate them. We always say that regular exposure to the target language plays an important role but receiving valuable feedback and learning from it is just as, if not more, important.
You should record recurring mistakes in a notebook or in a Word doc and regularly review them
And a positive attitude here is the key to success. Why do we say that children learn languages so quickly? Although it may be true that there is a link between age and ability to learn, the key to progressing in a language could also be to “think like a child.” Children play with the language and are willing to make mistakes. They are not self-conscious. An adult is much more likely to say, “I can’t”, rather than, “I haven’t learned that yet”. Let go of your adult inhibitions!
The US political activist, Ralph Nader, once said, “Your best teacher is your last mistake!” Learn from your mistakes and you will make progress!