Avoid Making Mistakes
One of the top questions I’m asked regularly in my English communication courses is “How can I avoid making mistakes?”. That’s why I’d like to share my thoughts with you on how you can avoid making common mistakes if you are a learner of English as a second language.
The first step …
… is to accept that you are making mistakes. It is the essential part of learning. I get many shocked looks from my students when I tell them making mistakes is OK. One of my favourite quotes is “I don’t fail, I learn.” So consider each mistake a possibility to learn and improve. Don’t be hard on yourself if you make mistakes. That attitude will result in feeling bad, uncomfortable using English and result in avoiding all English communication, which would be a pity.
The second step …
… is to gain awareness. Ask yourself where are you making mistakes? Is it when you are speaking or when you are writing or both? What kind of mistakes are you making? Pinpointing this is not only extremely helpful, it is essential. You want to find out the reasons you are making mistakes so you cannot only avoid them, but preferably stop making them. So instead of just trying not to make mistakes learn how to identify what is causing you to make them and stop making them in the first place.
It’s all about awareness
Speaking from my own language learning experience, I used to hate it when my teachers only corrected my mistakes but never cared why I was making them. I wanted to identify what I could do to stop making them. Let me give you an example. I grew up learning three languages. Although nobody had the impression I was sometimes confused about which language to use, trust me when I tell you I was confused about a few things more than once. The main confusion occurred when trying to differentiate between English and German, as these languages do have similar words but there are words that have the same pronunciation but are written differently and have a different meaning. In school when learning numbers, I remember a task everybody had to do. It was writing the numbers in a word and not in a figure. Maybe you remember having to do that too. It’s a simple exercise to help you memorise how a word is spelt.
You write the word several times and eventually you have memorised it.
My problem occurred at the number 9 (nine). It sounds just like the German word “no”, which is spelt “nein”. That was the spelling I had used. Unfortunately, my teacher back then didn’t recognise the problem because she didn’t speak any German. To make a long story short, my mom identified the reason behind this mistake and I’ve never made it again. I had made this mistake because I was growing up multilingually. These kinds of mistakes occur because of the influence another language has on you. Most people are not confronted with learning a second language until kindergarten or grade school. Somewhere between the ages of three to eight might be when they have their first contact with a second language. In Germany the first second language taught in the first four years of school is English. The older you are when learning a second language the more influence your native language has.
Here are some examples:
Possibly in the pronunciation …
… e.g. think of the “th” sound some non-native English speakers find difficult to pronounce. In contrast non-native German speakers have problems pronouncing the “ch” correctly in German, because it is pronounced differently.
Possibly in grammar …
… e.g. when speaking about something that happened a few days ago in English we do not use the word “for”. However, in German the word “vor”, which has the same pronunciation is often mistaken for the correct English word “ago”. Native German speakers might say “I had breakfast for three hours” when they actually want to say “I had breakfast three hours ago”
Possibly in vocabulary …
… you can find good examples of what I mean in my post about “False Friends and How to Avoid Them”, just klick the title to read more.
Another aspect to consider is the awareness of people’s cultural background, their expectations and reactions. My students are somewhat shocked when I tell them, which answers native English speaking colleagues or business contacts expect to hear when they ask “How are you?” This question is used as a prolonged hello and is not enquiring about your health. So please keep it short, don’t go into details and ask back to keep the conversation going. If you answer in full detail, chances are your conversation partner might just end the conversation before it actually started.
“What if I don’t realise the mistakes I’m making?”
In that case your best option is to …
… contact an expert, who will identify those mistakes and give you feedback on how to stop making them. Your worst option is to do nothing.
Contact me here for a free 20 minute call. After our call I will tell you what you can do to stop making mistakes and improve your English communication skills.
In a nutshell, follow these steps
- Accept that you will make mistakes along the way and don’t beat yourself up about it.
- Become aware of your mistakes, find out where they come from, understand them and stop making them.
- Schedule a free 20 minute call and I will tell you what you can do to stop making mistakes and improve your English communication skills.
I’m looking forward to our call.