Does early speaking lead to fossilized mistakes?

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Re: Does early speaking lead to fossilized mistakes?

Postby Cavesa » Tue Apr 18, 2017 6:45 pm

While this whole discussion is pretty interesting, I'm afraid it is getting quite far from the original point.

-a few weeks/months long learning process is not that much, not enough. I trully don't think fossilization is possible within such a timeframe. Repeated mistakes yes, we tend to make mistakes more than once. But not fossils that resist tons of correction both from others and self-correction. It takes time to get so used to a mistake.

-Fossilization clearly needs a different bit of definition, such as the extent of the mistake, and I haven't seen it clearly in the whole thread and quotes. Sure, someone can have a fossilized trouble concerning one word, while another concerns a whole grammar point. What is being drawn into this discussion are the forever intermediate learners, who don't get further than that level for whatever reason. Really, does not learning half the language count as a fossilized mistake? People who despite the immersion program in Canada suck at French, probably because they never really needed to learn it or because of any of the million possible reasons? Those have nothing to do with it. In such cases, a fossilized wrong detail doesn't matter at all.

-What does the comparison of natives and non-natives have to to do with fossilization? This has already been discussed a hundred times.

-I still think the part of the discussion that explored the issue the best happened around reineke's quotes concerning output beyond the student's knowledge. The more I think about it, the more I consider it important. All those beginners looking for exchange partners to just talk. All those teachers valuing the ability to circumvent an unknown bit too much. All the coursebooks chopping grammar into too small bites, without telling the student "hey, this is not the universal rule, be patient".
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Re: Does early speaking lead to fossilized mistakes?

Postby reineke » Tue Apr 18, 2017 6:57 pm

s_allard wrote:We see here that immersion is neither unusual or uniquely Canadian. As the preceding post just pointed out, it's all over the place. And we even have here a product of English immersion in the Netherlands. Some people think that French immersion is elitist and divisive because parents are saying "Why should I pay $34,000 a year to send my child to the Toronto French School when I can get a similar product for free?" The people who claim French immersion is elitist are usually the ones who do not have children in French immersion and are not themselves interested in learning French. French immersion is a fantastic deal.

Canadian, Chinese, Dutch and parents all over the world are not stupid. They know that immersion works. Of course it has its limitations, as has been pointed out here. But does anybody here believe that immersion should be eliminated because it doesn't produce native-like speakers? That we should go back to two hours of French a week and this will produce better results than 5 hours a day? Does Tarvos think that his time in English immersion in the Netherlands was all wasted and did not teach him any English?

People can scream all they want about the evils of French immersion or immersion in general. Tell that to parents who have waited all night to register their children in the public schools or who are paying $34,000 a year for the fancy private school.


La Vie Bilingue: French immersion programs in Canada through the ages

http://www.cbc.ca/radio/checkup/blog/la ... -1.3630105

There's just one problem with French immersion ... well, several, actually

Nothing is cuter than tiny tots speaking French. Their accents are impeccable. Their vocabulary is much larger than mine. I took French for years, and I can barely order lunch. These children are formidable!

The vision was of a bilingual nation, where citizens would be fluent in a second language. It was both inspiring and patriotic – part of a nation-building effort that would bind us together and broaden our horizons. Most Europeans manage to speak at least two languages, so why can't we? On top of that, research seemed to show that speaking a second language has significant cognitive benefits. Bilingualism makes you smarter! Today, the idea of French immersion as a magic smart pill is virtually unquestioned.

Sadly, there's not the slightest shred of evidence that French immersion has accomplished any of its lofty goals. After 40 years of ever-expanding immersion programs, the percentage of Canadians who can speak both official languages has dropped. At two of the Greater Toronto Area's largest school boards, half of French-immersion students bail out by Grade 8. By the time they graduate high school, only 10 per cent achieve proficiency in French (which is not the same as fluency).

The reasons for this miserable success rate are no mystery. Their entire world outside the classroom immerses kids in English. They play in English. They live in English. Everybody they know speaks English. If you want them to be bilingual, you'd better take them to live in France or Quebec – or at least make sure you're married to a French speaker.

The downsides to French immersion, though seldom mentioned, are also real. Kids who struggle with English will also struggle with French – and who needs that? Dual-track schools create separation, not cohesion – immigrant kids (who normally do not enroll) against Canadian-born ones, girls against boys (many of whom drop out). For an unvarnished account from a parent, read what Emma Waverman (who also writes a cooking column for The Globe) had to say in Today's Parent. Among her discoveries: The programs aren't very good. In the early years, they focus on rote memorization of vocabulary lists. Brighter kids are likely to get bored. Not all the teachers are terrific either.

Yet the dream lives on.

https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/opinio ... e30259804/

Should you put your kids in French immersion?

"While on mat leave, she volunteered in Liam’s class once a week, and saw her son and a handful of other children “silently struggle” because they didn’t understand what was going on. “I feel so guilty for putting Liam in French immersion, because I haven’t been able to support him at home,” she says. “The standout kids all have at least one French-speaking parent.”

https://www.todaysparent.com/family/sho ... immersion/

8 things I wish I'd known about French immersion

https://www.todaysparent.com/kids/8-thi ... immersion/

Ontario schools struggle to keep students in French immersion

Parents have waited in lines or placed their hopes on a lottery system to get their child a coveted spot in French immersion. But new data show that exuberance fades as children get older.

Data collected by The Globe and Mail from several big Ontario school boards indicate that about half of the students drop out of the program as they move through their elementary-school years.

For a province where native French speakers are a rounding error, Alberta sure loves immersion classes

http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canad ... on-classes

J. McCullough: Bilingualism is the demand of Canada’s linguistic aristocracy

"I spent a year teaching English in Japan, a nation whose skill at peddling second-language scams has become a bonsai-like art form. Bullet-trains and mailboxes brim with colorful ads for schools boasting revolutionary teaching breakthroughs that will make your English the envy of the entire prefecture. At the for-profit school where I taught, for instance, we offered “pre-natal” classes for students still in the womb (“where am I supposed to speak?” a co-worker wondered).

Despite producing meager output in the long-term, such schools are rarely starved for students since language lessons, much like fad diets, can be crafted to yield deceptively quick initial progress. Starting from scratch, most students can easily memorize a bit of vocabulary, a couple songs, simple Q-and-A scripts, maybe even light conjugation.

Then comes the wall.

After a few months, the learning curve abruptly slams into the abstract and technical. Lessons plunge intro the arbitrary rules of grammar, sentence structure, tone, slang, and convention. The brain becomes bored and hostile towards new knowledge that contradicts its existing architecture of communication; the student, miserable.

Ideally, at this point the pupil blames himself, and continues to throw good money after bad. The sensible just surrender.

All linguists more or less agree that people who are successful at language learning (such as babies) do so because of one critical variable — need... "

http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comme ... ristocracy
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Re: Does early speaking lead to fossilized mistakes?

Postby tarvos » Tue Apr 18, 2017 7:07 pm

s_allard wrote:
tarvos wrote:
Well, hundreds of thousands of Canadian parents disagree. For example, in our nation's capital, Ottawa, the very prestigious French lycée Claudel charges around 14,000 CAD per year for a student in the higher grades. If that's not rich enough, the Toronto French School charges around 34,000 CAD plus an initial registration fee of 7,000 CAD. These schools are open to everyone who can afford it and pass the entrance exam.

On the other hand, next door, as a manner of speaking, are public (state) French immersion schools that provide education in French for free. Parents are not stupid. While many would love to send their children to these prestigious academies, they realize what a bargain French immersion is. That's why they spend all night waiting in line to register their children and that's why the ministries of education can't find enough French immersion teachers.


The same occurs in many schools in Brussels, where many Walloons send their children to Flemish or Dutch-speaking schools in Brussels. This is done to widen their job opportunities later in life as Dutch is often a prerequisite. But still, comparatively much more Flemish people speak French than Walloons do Dutch.

Just because it is in parental demand does not mean that there are large-scale results. In China, almost all children are sent to English schools nowadays after regular school hours, but the level of English there is still abominable.

The fact remains that such immersion is only good if the immersion setting would naturally also require the use of that foreign language, but this situation is often very artificially enforced and thus not desirable. It does lead to good results later in life, because then children are more able to think about what would benefit them themselves (I studied in an immersion environment for years, although my immersion concerned English in the Netherlands).


We see here that immersion is neither unusual or uniquely Canadian. As the preceding post just pointed out, it's all over the place. And we even have here a product of English immersion in the Netherlands. Some people think that French immersion is elitist and divisive because parents are saying "Why should I pay $34,000 a year to send my child to the Toronto French School when I can get a similar product for free?" The people who claim French immersion is elitist are usually the ones who do not have children in French immersion and are not themselves interested in learning French. French immersion is a fantastic deal.

Canadian, Chinese, Dutch and parents all over the world are not stupid. They know that immersion works. Of course it has its limitations, as has been pointed out here. But does anybody here believe that immersion should be eliminated because it doesn't produce native-like speakers? That we should go back to two hours of French a week and this will produce better results than 5 hours a day? Does Tarvos think that his time in English immersion in the Netherlands was all wasted and did not teach him any English?

People can scream all they want about the evils of French immersion or immersion in general. Tell that to parents who have waited all night to register their children in the public schools or who are paying $34,000 a year for the fancy private school.


One: I am a she. It is kind of rude to read over my signature where it explicitly states my pronouns are feminine.

On-topic:

My immersion developed my existing English. I spent three years in Canada as a little girl and I already spoke English when we returned, so all I needed was further encouragement to develop, I never started from zero in the first place. I came in with much more knowledge than any of my classmates.

Not everyone has the financial means to pay for such private schooling. My immersion did cost extra but not that much as it was subsidized by the government (and bilingual schooling is starting to become much more common in the Netherlands). Do you know why it doesn't work in China but it does in the Netherlands?

Because in China, you'll never need English. In the Netherlands you're going to need it all the time so every child and parent is really aware that it is a basic skill here now. (Speaking poor English is considered a mark of lack of education for younger generations).

This is not to say that immersion schools are wasted, just that the resource allocation is terrible and should be structured much better for best results. The best results are achieved in natural immersion settings as Cainntear mentioned, and if we want to see bilingual or at least capable children, this environment should be fostered. When I entered my bilingual education, it was strictly forbidden to speak Dutch in class and some of us actually spoke English outside of class hours (to the bemusement of those not in the programme). There were high standards and every single person who graduated from the programme, and even many of those who didn't, spoke really good English as a result. Not because we were in an immersion situation, but because we were consistently put in situations where our English mattered. And only then will it work.
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Re: Does early speaking lead to fossilized mistakes?

Postby s_allard » Tue Apr 18, 2017 7:38 pm

With the usual barrage of cut-and-paste citations, we have this negative portrait of French immersion in Canada. Let me first point out that there is no negative publicity about children entering the elite private French schools such as Collège Marie-de-France, Collège Stanislas and Collège français in Montreal or the Lycée Claudel in Ottawa, the Lycée français de Toronto or the Toronto French School. Quite the contrary, parents are willing to put out huge amounts of cash to put their children in to the ultimate form of French immersion. And the results are excellent. Good grades, good social connections, high levels of French proficiency, nearly 100% admissions rate to good universities. Doesn't that sound very elitist? Of course it is. That is what expensive private education is about.

Public French immersion is the poor man's version of this. Drop-out rates are high, the graduates are not very proficient in French because of limited use outside the classroom, special ed students and immigrants are discouraged from registering. All of this is true but why are parents clamouring for more French immersion? If French immersion were so bad, why isn't it being shut down? Why is there immersion of some sorts all over Europe? In every major city in the world you can go to elementary and high school entirely in English and probably French. Tarvos here is a product of English immersion in the Netherlands. Was it terrible? Why are English-language universities springing up all over the world?

The answer is pretty simple. What was once reserved for the wealthy, the powerful and the well-connected is now more affordable. It's not as good, of course, but it doesn't cost $34,000 a year. So now there is a choice. Nobody is forced to attend French immersion in Canada. If you want your child exposed to French at an early age and you don't have a lot of money, French immersion is the way to go. If you don't believe being exposed to French early is important and you don't have a lot of money, then the regular program is fine. If you believe being bilingual is a major advantage in today's world and you have a lot of money, then an exclusive all-French school is the way to go. And then of course there are the all-English private schools.

Edit: I apologize for calling Tarvos a he. Mea culpa.
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Re: Does early speaking lead to fossilized mistakes?

Postby s_allard » Tue Apr 18, 2017 8:14 pm

tarvos wrote:...

My immersion developed my existing English. I spent three years in Canada as a little girl and I already spoke English when we returned, so all I needed was further encouragement to develop, I never started from zero in the first place. I came in with much more knowledge than any of my classmates.

Not everyone has the financial means to pay for such private schooling. My immersion did cost extra but not that much as it was subsidized by the government (and bilingual schooling is starting to become much more common in the Netherlands). Do you know why it doesn't work in China but it does in the Netherlands?

Because in China, you'll never need English. In the Netherlands you're going to need it all the time so every child and parent is really aware that it is a basic skill here now. (Speaking poor English is considered a mark of lack of education for younger generations).

This is not to say that immersion schools are wasted, just that the resource allocation is terrible and should be structured much better for best results. The best results are achieved in natural immersion settings as Cainntear mentioned, and if we want to see bilingual or at least capable children, this environment should be fostered. When I entered my bilingual education, it was strictly forbidden to speak Dutch in class and some of us actually spoke English outside of class hours (to the bemusement of those not in the programme). There were high standards and every single person who graduated from the programme, and even many of those who didn't, spoke really good English as a result. Not because we were in an immersion situation, but because we were consistently put in situations where our English mattered. And only then will it work.

Very interesting to learn that tarvos spent three years in Canada (and in English) as a little girl. That looks like a form of immersion and early speaking to me. She spoke English before entering a private English immersion school in the Netherlands. The end results look pretty good to me. Maybe there are some fossilized mistakes that we can discuss later but everything so far speaks in favor of early contact and with a foreign language.

When we look at the situation of English immersion education in China things are different. And the results are different for pretty obvious reasons. Few Chinese young children have the opportunity to spend three years in an English-speaking environment. The opportunities to use English outside the classroom are few. The end results in terms of English proficiency are not very good.

What I would add is that today in Canada we are seeing huge numbers of young Chinese students coming to study in high schools and of course universities in English. Their English quickly becomes excellent. Again, we see a form of immersion.

If we look at French immersion in Canada, the situation is not as bad as in China because French is so present. But still not everybody can start off spending three years living in French as a young child. There are also limitations in the French immersion model because French is often hardly used outside the classroom.

So, what's the alternative? Could we find a way to provide all Canadian students the opportunities that tarvos had? Could we send 350,000 Canadian students to France for year or two? Of course I will point out that French immersion students in Quebec have a much easier time because French is omnipresent.

So, what to the naysayers and doom mongers have to say? Is immersion bad or good? Should we ban immersion because it doesn't work or is harmful? What's the alternative? Two hours a week of French with the best modern pedagogy? Will that produce great results?
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Re: Does early speaking lead to fossilized mistakes?

Postby aaleks » Tue Apr 18, 2017 8:36 pm

s_allard wrote:Very interesting to learn that tarvos spent three years in Canada (and in English) as a little girl. That looks like a form of immersion and early speaking to me. She spoke English before entering a private English immersion school in the Netherlands. The end results look pretty good to me. Maybe there are some fossilized mistakes that we can discuss later but everything so far speaks in favor of early contact and with a foreign language.

The key words here are “as a little girl”, I think.

s_allard wrote:Is immersion bad or good?

It depends...
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Re: Does early speaking lead to fossilized mistakes?

Postby Cainntear » Tue Apr 18, 2017 8:54 pm

s_allard wrote:In a deliberate attempt to prove me wrong - not always an easy task -

I disagree with you, therefore I argue the opposite point to you. There are plenty of people here who disagree with me who don't treat a debate like being the victim of a personal vendetta. They don't like me, but they're willing to discuss.
Cainntear has produced a series of interesting observations (a euphemism for what I really think)

Please, feel free to say what you really think. It's far less rude than these sideways comments.
There is a key misunderstanding here. The goal of French immersion in Canada is not to teach French to young children. The goal is to to provide quality education at an early age using French as the medium of instruction for a certain duration and then switching to English at a later stage.

There are two benefits here. First, there is the introduction to French at an age when the acquisition of phonology and fluency is optimal. Second, there is perceived intellectual stimulation of learning in a foreign language.

I'll not question the second, but I do question the first; it's been proven time and again that kids in early immersion do well in native-language education at a later stage, but it's been shown time and again that there language level in the target language isn't actually great.

It should be pointed out that this is not a new idea.

Whether or not it is a new idea is not relevant -- whether it works is.

I always believed that everybody in the world thought that a foreign language is best learned at an early age.

That is quite a ridiculous thing to believe -- people rarely agree on everything.

Now, the fact is that the idea that language is best learned at an early age is shared by most laypeople, but researchers will tell you that there really is no evidence supporting this.

I may not be working in French linguistics in Canada, but I've sat in on lectures by some of the world's leading figures in early childhood learning where they have gone to great pains to say that government early language education policies are not based on their opinions (and, incidentally, I was involved in a consultation on government early language education policy once, too, but I suppose that's less relevant to early language education than teaching linguistics at university, isn't it?)

Parents are not stupid.

There is a huge difference between ignorance and stupidity. Monolingual parents are ill-equipped to evaluate the benefits and efficacy of language education strategies. This is why we have universities departments full of experts whose job is to study how children learn and what interventions make a genuine difference.

But then again, maybe I shouldn't listen to people who dedicate their lives to study childhood learning. Maybe instead I should base my opinions on one person who teaches French linguistics to well-educated, high achieving young adults...?

Cainntear wrote:The "Canadian model" was relatively successful in Quebec basically because there's a heck of a lot of French spoken in Quebec. No-one has ever replicated that success. And even that success has been challenged


I'm going to be polite and hold my tongue before I get kicked off the forum again. This quote demonstrates a astounding level of ignorance of the history of French immersion and language politics in Canada. The fact is that while the first experiment in French immersion started in a suburb of Montreal, French immersion was far more successful outside Quebec than in Quebec. French immersion has only recently become widespread in Quebec, for reasons that would be too long to explain here.

There is a saying in the language teaching community -- the Canadian model is less effective the further it gets from Quebec.
That is to say that it has been observed that the effects in the rest of Canada were less marked than in Quebec, and that attempts to implement it in the States were less successful again, and that further afield it really has never worked very well at all.

This means two things:
1) The Canadians are pretty good at implementing it, relatively speaking
2) We don't know what the Canadians did right (and they don't either, otherwise they would have explained it to us better)

This is one of those unfortunate things about education -- quite often, the good teachers don't know why they're good teachers.
That leaves us trying to replicate the wrong thing.

But it does produce graduates with a good phonology and fluency, the things that are the most difficult to acquire later in life. Everybody except Cainntear sees this.

Errrr... no. There are plenty of people who have said the same thing, and people who are more qualified than me to say so. Arguing against a widely held academic opinion on the fallacious grounds that it's merely the opinion of one pseudonymous internet nobody is far below the behaviour I would expect of someone in your position.
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Re: Does early speaking lead to fossilized mistakes?

Postby Cainntear » Tue Apr 18, 2017 9:03 pm

aaleks wrote:
s_allard wrote:Very interesting to learn that tarvos spent three years in Canada (and in English) as a little girl. That looks like a form of immersion and early speaking to me. She spoke English before entering a private English immersion school in the Netherlands. The end results look pretty good to me. Maybe there are some fossilized mistakes that we can discuss later but everything so far speaks in favor of early contact and with a foreign language.

The key words here are “as a little girl”, I think.

I personally think the key words are "in Canada". No-one has denied that children thrive in truly immersive situations, where they are surrounded by native speakers. No academics have ever argued against this.

But there are a great many well-respected academics who challenge the idea that attempts at artificial immersion can ever replicate that success. Immersion where the majority of the class aren't natives doesn't lead to anywhere near the same level of success, and while many will proponents of immersion will defend it by simply saying "well of course it's not as good, but it's good enough", but that all comes down to saying that the numerous systemic mistakes are in a category of "acceptable" mistakes, an assertion that I've never seen backed up with data. In the end, it's an ideologically-driven view.
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Re: Does early speaking lead to fossilized mistakes?

Postby tarvos » Tue Apr 18, 2017 9:25 pm

Cainntear wrote:
aaleks wrote:
s_allard wrote:Very interesting to learn that tarvos spent three years in Canada (and in English) as a little girl. That looks like a form of immersion and early speaking to me. She spoke English before entering a private English immersion school in the Netherlands. The end results look pretty good to me. Maybe there are some fossilized mistakes that we can discuss later but everything so far speaks in favor of early contact and with a foreign language.

The key words here are “as a little girl”, I think.

I personally think the key words are "in Canada". No-one has denied that children thrive in truly immersive situations, where they are surrounded by native speakers. No academics have ever argued against this.

But there are a great many well-respected academics who challenge the idea that attempts at artificial immersion can ever replicate that success. Immersion where the majority of the class aren't natives doesn't lead to anywhere near the same level of success, and while many will proponents of immersion will defend it by simply saying "well of course it's not as good, but it's good enough", but that all comes down to saying that the numerous systemic mistakes are in a category of "acceptable" mistakes, an assertion that I've never seen backed up with data. In the end, it's an ideologically-driven view.


I should add that my immersive schooling only happened after five years of regular Dutch education. I didn't directly enter a bilingual programme, nor was my school ever private. There are plenty of public schools offering bilingual programmes nowadays - although when I started in 2000, this was a new phenomenon (and my parents only truly enrolled me in it because I actually spoke English already - they thought it prudent for me to develop a language I was already capable of speaking.)

As for me, I don't think the key element was that I was young when I started, although it probably aided my phonology. I think the key aspect was that I was able to read English at four, which made it easy for me to keep up with my English. This meant I could use native materials (and my parents have always given me the opportunity to be immersed in native materials much like other Canadian children would have been, only with the added caveat that I was living abroad and that we usually spoke Dutch at home).

What my immersion did later on was evolve my academic and cognitive abilities, but I had a basis that the immersion schooling never actually touched - I could pronounce English perfectly because I had already experienced natural immersion often enough, not because school ever taught me how to say things. Neither did they ever have to teach me grammar, although they did - I had an innate grasp of how sentences were supposed to be structured, again because of native immersion years prior. Had we stayed in Canada, I would have probably just gone through the Canadian schooling system - and who knows what would have become of my Dutch at that point.
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Re: Does early speaking lead to fossilized mistakes?

Postby Cavesa » Tue Apr 18, 2017 9:41 pm

Why has this discussion fully turned to Quebec and children?

The level of children in immersion programs is not bound to be good, it very often is not. Yes, monolingual parents are not well equiped to decide about the langauge education of their kids and their most grave error is trusting teachers too much. I could speak a long time about examples. They wrongly assume that a native teacher and a modern looking coursebook are automatically good.

Yes, even children from immersion programs leave it with mistakes hard to unlearn. I am sometimes grateful that the paid immersion classes and bilingual school taught my sister so little, looking at the mess they made in what they were actually trying to teach her. Good comprehension, poor production, wrong or no grammar, no confidence. An awesome result of English immersion at the age of 4-11, with only native teachers. Too sad the rest of her class got the same results, except the kids from mixed families, it is not a fault of one girl.

The only kids leaving with guaranteed good level are those from fully foreign schools (with only Czech taught in Czech, when it comes to the schools located in this country), but those are a tiny minority.

What does all that have to do with usual learners?

My fossilized mistakes were made during the childhood and under the teachers' supervision. Mistakes of other people took roots in other conditions. There are two key questions.

What activities or strategies made us acquire the mistakes so firmly? It looks like the glorified practice from the very beginnings, without getting the necessary tools for the production, may be one of the key factors. It would be great to think of ways to get all the good stuff from the early speaking, while avoiding the trouble.

The even more controversial question is getting rid of those mistakes.

From my experience, correction doesn't suffice. It is usually the same thing as self-correction, the moment of "oh, what I've just said was wrong!" caused by the simple fact the mistake comes automatically while we speak faster than we think.

What I've found efficient was deeper study of the underlying grammar and periodical review of it, as the already corrected memory tends to return to the old rails after some time. For spelling, repeated slow writing of the word helps. And remembering to reread it every time I write it in a text. For pronuncation, repeating after audio. I find this to be the hardest part, but it does help.
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