Hello Exam Seekers,
Have you ever stopped yourself from doing something because you were afraid of making a mistake? Have you ever avoided trying to do something because you were afraid of being judged? Today, I’m talking about something that may have threatened many of you throughout your learning path already: MISTAKES.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the definition of mistake is an action, decision, or judgment that produces an unwanted or unintentional result.
Everyone knows that because we’re all humans, we are fated to making mistakes. Still, they somehow manage to scare us to death. Isn’t that true? How many times have you quit something because you were afraid of making mistakes? How many times have you given an opportunity up because you feared the way it would turn out? I believe that at least one memory will come to mind after these questions.
Well, like you, I have already been way too cautious and avoided doing things because I was used to my comfort zone and didn’t want to take some chances that something wouldn’t be successful. Be it work-related, school-related, language-related, there is always something to set us back, and it is usually the fear of doing something that will not have a positive result and will make things go downhill.
So, since I am a teacher, but also a foreign language learner – besides English, I am also studying Japanese -, I have a couple of things to share with you in terms of language learning and issues that come up along the way. Today I am giving you five tips that can help you ease your path.
1) Don’t be too hard on yourself.
The reason I tell you that is because no one learns a whole language system, its vocabulary, its culture, and its use out of the blue. Each of us has a different time, and it is vital to respect ourselves and our limitations throughout the way. The process of learning a language is not easy and fast. Some stages need to be completed before moving on to the following ones, and some things will only make sense when you reach a determined step. Otherwise, you will merely ignore some aspects that will only be understood later on.
Besides that, most native speakers make mistakes while communicating in their native tongue, so, if you are making yourself understood, why bother? You are already a step ahead by making an effort to learn a foreign language, so there is no need to be so hard on you.
2) Don’t be afraid of making mistakes.
By making mistakes you are trying to use the language you are learning, and when doing so, you are allowed to risk and check what is correct and what still needs to be sharpened. Without trying to speak or write in your target language, you don’t expose yourself enough to access your knowledge and transform your passive knowledge – when you only recognize words and their meaning – into active knowledge – when you produce the words you have already learned.
I have been studying Japanese on and off for a while already. I’ve paid a private teacher, which I had to stop due to the lack of time. This year, however, I decided to stick with Duolingo – which is a great app for learning by yourself – and do it at my own pace. I would say it has been working so far, but it is not always a bed of roses. Just like any other learner, I make many mistakes until I get the structure or vocabulary right, and I have learned a lot from my mistakes already. Maybe, what helps me with Duolingo, is the fact that it is an app, and I don’t feel judged by it – nobody can see, right?
Or maybe I am judged just a little… 😛 But it definitely cheers when I do it right and I finish the lesson!
Better than anyone I get it that sometimes it can be upsetting and demotivating. However, remember to look on the bright side, it was because you tried that you were able to identify what you were doing wrong. In my case, if I hadn’t tried I would keep on making the same mistakes over and over again.
3) Your mistakes don’t define you.
It is not because you made many mistakes when you were beginning to learn a language that you will be considered a terrible learner. Some aspects of the language can be harder for some and easier for others, and that is absolutely normal! There is no need to freak out over a topic just because it seems impossible. Keep on trying, sooner or later you will get the hang of it, and you will make progress at your own pace.
4) Don’t compare yourself to others.
As I mentioned, each of us has different skills and finds different things easy and hard. For that reason, the pace at which you will learn a language may be completely different from your friends or that person who learned over 20 languages throughout life. Some will need to struggle more than others to learn a language, but I believe that everything in life is like this, isn’t it?
Some things are a piece of cake for you while for others it is challenging and vice-versa. The same applies to language. So, there’s no need to worry if someone who started learning a language at around the same time as you are already speaking wonders – according to your viewpoint – while you are still struggling to put sentences together. There are many reasons for this, and comparing yourself to people, you tend not to know the background of and what they have been doing to be on that level will only demotivate you and make it feels even more difficult to learn new things.
Here is a photo of a friend’s latest written French exercise with the teacher’s feedback, and, as you can see, there were many details that she got wrong.
The reason I am showing you all this is that there is no use in comparing my work with hers. Firstly because we are learning two different languages, and even if I was to start learning French, my text would be even redder than hers. 😀
Secondly, what she may not get in that language, it might be something easier for me, while something I don’t get, might be a piece of cake for her. That means that we learn at our own pace, and we learn differently!
5) The more you try, the better.
Since we are young, we tend to see mistakes as something embarrassing, which will give room for mockery and laughter from others towards us. So we somehow are raised with the idea that if we make a mistake, it will be embarrassing and it will hurt us somehow. And I can guarantee you, as a language learner and a language teacher, it won’t.
Many students come to the classroom and don’t say a word, and that is highly damaging to their performance. They get frustrated because they feel their progress is slow and they don’t see how much they are improving. This happens because most of the time they are afraid to say something in class. They fear their classmates’ reactions. That can at times be demotivating for students. So a rule of thumb is to, little by little – because we know how difficult it can be – try to overcome your fear to try. Otherwise, you will not be able to improve, because you did not try. Once you make mistakes, you can be corrected, therefore improve!
All in all, let mistakes challenge you to be better, not to demotivate you. It is one of the keys to language improvement, and I am pretty sure that these tips will be quite useful in case you are struggling with language and the mistakes you end up making at times.
I hope I haven’t made many mistakes while writing this text! 😉 But feel free to point them out in the comment section below. I truly appreciate it when I am corrected, because I tend to reflect on the comments and notes to make my production better and to avoid making the same mistakes – and give room to new ones, lol 😀
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Have a great week,