Don’t be scared of making mistakes

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acorngalaxy
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Don’t be scared of making mistakes

Postby acorngalaxy » Fri Sep 24, 2021 11:08 am

I think this goes without saying, but oftentimes we forget about this.

As non-native speakers, people are bound to make mistakes. I wrote a message to a Italian colleague and one of the sentences said “i compiti che urgevano completare” and I was corrected with “i compiti che urgevano ESSERE completati”.

But guess what? The message was clear, and apart from that mistake the message was clear. I made a mistake, sure. But no big deal right? I wasn’t born and raised in Italy, so I learn from the mistake. And that’s good. I think it’s impossible to learn without throwing yourself out there in real-life situations and making mistakes. The “application” part of learning. The key point is that I was able to communicate my ideas clearly. As someone who works in an international company, many of my colleagues make mistakes when speaking English as well, but as long as the message is clear, all’s good.

Hell, native speakers make mistakes as well. Recently, I had a meeting with some Spanish speakers and one of them wanted to talk about creating web pages. Instead of saying “creando”, he said “creyendo” (believe, think), and later auto-corrected his mistake.

I make mistakes when I’m using English too. Sometimes I mix up “practice” and “practise”.

I know this sounds cheesy and cringey as hell, but just make mistakes and learn. It’s the best form of practice. Until recently, I was scared of making mistakes (and subsequently feeling embarrassed) when I put into practice what I learn, but I am slowly learning to let go of that fear.

What do you think?
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Re: Don’t be scared of making mistakes

Postby luke » Fri Sep 24, 2021 11:44 am

acorngalaxy wrote:Sometimes I mix up “practice” and “practise”.

I am slowly learning to let go of that fear.

What do you think?

I think you're right! Sometimes easier said than done, but it's definitely a better approach.

And isn't the "practice" spelling somewhat dependent on British vs American like some other spellings? Words like "flavor" and "flavour" are like that too. Alternatives that are both technically "correct", but using the uncommon one based on where you live and your audience may lead someone to think you don't know how to spell when you're just more well-rounded. ;)
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acorngalaxy
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Re: Don’t be scared of making mistakes

Postby acorngalaxy » Fri Sep 24, 2021 11:58 am

luke wrote:
acorngalaxy wrote:Sometimes I mix up “practice” and “practise”.

I am slowly learning to let go of that fear.

What do you think?

I think you're right! Sometimes easier said than done, but it's definitely a better approach.

And isn't the "practice" spelling somewhat dependent on British vs American like some other spellings? Words like "flavor" and "flavour" are like that too. Alternatives that are both technically "correct", but using the uncommon one based on where you live and your audience may lead someone to think you don't know how to spell when you're just more well-rounded. ;)


Technically I use British English so yes, there’s a difference.
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Re: Don’t be scared of making mistakes

Postby tungemål » Fri Sep 24, 2021 1:16 pm

Yes, I think it's important to be reminded of this. I'm still afraid of making mistakes.

acorngalaxy wrote:native speakers make mistakes as well...

Yes, this is a good point! Sometimes as learners we imagine that native speakers are perfect. I teach 16-18 year olds in a school, and they make mistakes all the time when they speak. I mean grammatical mistakes, of the kind that you'd correct it they were learners. And they have been immersed in their language for 18 years. We make fewer mistakes (in our native language) as we become older, after having been through an education and having some experience speaking and writing formal language, but I at least am not perfect.
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Re: Don’t be scared of making mistakes

Postby austriabrave » Sat Sep 25, 2021 11:33 am

i am literally very shy speaking english what should i do to improve myself?
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Re: Don’t be scared of making mistakes

Postby Le Baron » Sun Sep 26, 2021 3:21 pm

It's a bit easier to pass over mistakes in written language - unless you're writing in French to the French who think everyone should write like Molière, even though hardly anyone in France does!

But seriously, the act of making mistakes in oral production is more stressful and somewhat more embarrassing if you aren't thick-skinned towards it. Small errors of prepositions or verb conjugations seem more glaring, than making the same mistake in a written message, even though you actually have more time to compose and check. The thing is both are intertwined with regard to your current ability, yet the circumstances - writing or on-the-spot oral production can make you look better or worse accordingly.

People are judged, no matter what anyone says. So it's understandable we would want to try and avoid as many errors as possible. That old thing about educated adults being more fearful of sounding 'uneducated' in a foreign language is real. I've felt it and it's annoying. It's much harder when you have a broader set of things/ideas you normally communicate when you have much less mastery over the means for communicating it. Mistakes are like stings every time they occur. I suppose you just have to roll with them and treat them as learning opportunities. To laugh at yourself and feel less frustrated. It smooths the way.

I recall that I used to always make the mistake of saying 'op de telefoon' instead of 'aan de telefoon' and some people would correct me. It frustrated me because I would just make the mistake again and then be annoyed when the correction came and I hadn't heeded it previously. Then I started saying: 'how do you say it? Say it to me in a sentence...' And then what stuck in my mind was the little conversation about it and then remembering that in the converation we said 'aan de telefoon'. Then the problem disappeared. I always do that now.
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Re: Don’t be scared of making mistakes

Postby luke » Sun Sep 26, 2021 4:12 pm

Le Baron wrote:But seriously, the act of making mistakes in oral production is more stressful and somewhat more embarrassing if you aren't thick-skinned towards it.

People are judged, no matter what anyone says.

Then I started saying: 'how do you say it? Say it to me in a sentence...' And then what stuck in my mind was the little conversation about it and then remembering that in the converation we said 'aan de telefoon'. Then the problem disappeared. I always do that now.

Very good points.

It crossed my mind yesterday to just quit ordering in Spanish to the bilingual order taker. She probably speaks English better than I do. So, avoid the prick in a situation where I'm just putting myself on the spot for a low value target.

But I admire those who roll with the punches better than I can, particularly with strangers.
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Re: Don’t be scared of making mistakes

Postby golyplot » Sun Sep 26, 2021 4:50 pm

The other issue is that there's a big difference between making an occasional minor mistake and being nearly incomprehensible. Not having a mastery of grammar makes communication incredibly painful if you want to say anything more complicated than "I have three apples".
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Re: Don’t be scared of making mistakes

Postby Iversen » Sun Sep 26, 2021 9:01 pm

I rarely communicate with speakers of other languages than Danish - except when I'm on holiday, and because of the pandemy I haven't been outside Denmark for 1½ year. And the 'language café" at the main library in my town - one of the few places where I had a chance of being challenged - has been suspended since December, so for me spoken language has become something that takes place inside my head. But because I continue to write and think I don't think that I have lost much of my ability to speak fluently, albeit with errors (as I normally describe it). I could definitely see myself saying "op the telefoon" in Dutch instead of "aan de telefoon" if I got the chance to use that language again - but that would definitely not stop me from blabbering away.

The two criteria for me to start speaking a language (apart from politeness words and phrases and things like that) is that I want to be able to think coherently in the language AND I want to be able to understand clear speech directed at me (eavesdropping on natives who do smalltalk in their own language is a totally different ballgame). And before that stage I will routinely do some 'on the fly' translations during conversations or while watching TV to test my skills. The result of this strategy is that I feel confident speaking the language of a travel destination or a rare foreign visitor once I have decided that I can pull off the trick - and then I don't let my interlocutors switch to English or some other irrelevant language. And I definitely make errors, but probably not to the extent that I become incomprehensible.

It can happen that I discover that I don't know an indispensable word while I'm still speaking. For instance I once spent the days around new year in Delft in the Netherlands, and because I expected all shops to be closed on January 1 I wanted to have breakfast on that day, but not on the surrounding days. And then I realized that I had forgotten the word for "breakfast" - oops! Until then I had been chatting freely away with the receptionist, but I couldn't keep it up while ransacking my memory. So then I did the only sensible thing: I asked for the Dutch word for "breakfast" ('ontbijt' - a totally unguessable term), and from then on things went smoothly again.

However in this case the problem was limited to one word. If I had had problems constructing sentences in general or massive lexical lacunes I wouldn't have been incommodating the poor man at all with my embarrassing attempts to speak his language.

PS: and French? There I have the advantage of an education that taught me how to be formal - the problem is more to learn how to be informal.
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