How to speak English Without Mistakes

homer english mistakes

Ethan here, and today I’m going to tell you the secret to speak English without making mistakes!

Are you ready?

The secret is…

Make A LOT of mistakes!

What? This probably sounds pretty counterintuitive and it might not be what you want to hear, but if you want to speak without mistakes, then first you have to make TONS and TONS of mistakes.

If you want to be able to speak without mistakes, it’s not enough to just study more and perfect your grammar. You’re going to have to open your mouth, start making a lot of mistakes, and constantly correct them.

If you’ve ever been scared of speaking and making mistakes, that’s ok, most people are. But we’ve found that this is something that anyone, even the shyest learners, can overcome.

This three-part article is going to identify why most people fear making mistakes, how to overcome that fear, start speaking, and correcting errors so you can speak fluently and confidently.

Do you fear making mistakes in English? Why?

anxious englishI have met SO many English learners who ask me how they can speak without mistakes, perfect, like a native.

If you’re one of these learners, although I don’t believe it is your fault that you have this mentality, it is your responsibility to do something about it.

Dreaming about speaking perfectly, but then doing nothing to overcome your fears and insecurities is just not realistic.

So let’s first discuss why we fear mistakes.

The reason language learners usually fear mistakes is because we’re following the ‘rules’ that other people have made for us.

You have been programmed by schools, classes, and society to fear making mistakes, especially when it comes to speaking a language

What schools taught you was wrong

For various reasons, schools and traditional classes all over the world do a terrible job of teaching languages.

Obviously not all teachers are created equally, and maybe you had a wonderful and supportive English teacher.

School’s usually teach us wrong in general, but one of education’s biggest faults in foreign language teaching is that it does not prepare students to be confident speakers. In fact, it does the opposite, by making you scared of ever making mistakes.

The problem is that languages are taught like every other subject in school: Memorize the rules and then prove you know them on a test. Every time you make a mistake, your grade is lowered.

Does this sound familiar? Instead of rewarding you for your learning, you’re penalized for your mistakes.

This causes you to avoid mistakes, because you don’t want to get a bad grade. This causes you to fear making mistakes when you speak. And then fear causes you to not even try speaking.

But schools aren’t the only culprit for your fear of making mistakes.

Society idolizes talent instead of hard work

Whether in sports, academia, Hollywood, etc., we tend to praise people for being talented, instead of working hard.

This makes it easy to develop a mindset of, “I’m just not a good language learner.” If we victimize ourselves and make excuses, then it is certain that we will never become a good language learner (here is a great video explaining this).

However, even if you think this way now, you can develop a growth mindset and become an amazing English learner, but more on that in Part 3.

Because of this idolization, we often forget how hard famous athletes, musicians, and businessmen worked (and continue to work) to be where they are.

thats-why-i-succeedHow many goals has Messi missed to become one of the world’s best soccer players?

How many times was Picasso told that his art would never be popular?

How many songs did the Beatles write that weren’t hits [popular]?

The photo to the left describes this perfectly, through the words of one of the best basketball players ever, Michael Jordan.

So, the most successful people you can think of have gotten to where they are by making lots, and lots, and lots of mistakes, but never giving up.

Your school lessons, classes, and society might have molded you to fear mistakes, but it’s up to YOU to choose to be successful despite this.

In the next section, we’ll deepen into misconceptions and talk about the dangers of perfectionism.

Misconceptions 

As we’ve just found out, we have a fear of mistakes that has been forced upon us by schools, traditional classes, and society.

Now, let’s discuss a bit more why mistakes are in fact a good thing. 

No one is perfect

When it comes to learning a language, perfectionism is a very bad thing. If you refuse to speak until you can do it perfectly, you’ll be studying forever and will never get fluent.

Many learners have asked me, “How can I speak perfect, like a native?” This is another BIG misconception.

Misconception 1: Natives speak perfectly

Let-Go-of-Perfectionism-and-LiveNative speakers (of any language) do NOT speak perfectly. We don’t even speak like you learned in school. We make incomplete sentences. We bend the rules of grammar. We’re flexible in how we pronounce some words: Cutting some and morphing others. In writing, we sometimes spell things wrong and make grammatical mistakes.

Native does NOT equal Perfect

And guess what, most natives speakers don’t care if you make mistakes, as long as we can understand you. This means that your biggest goal should be to be understood, not to speak perfectly.

Misconception 2: Fluency is speaking without mistakes or accent

What is more important than not making mistakes is being confident in your abilities to speak the language. If you speak competently, but are shy and nervous, you’ll be perceived as an English learner. And perhaps lower than your true level.

However, if you are confident and excited to speak with someone, even if you make mistakes and have an accent, you’ll be perceived as an English speaker! This is true fluency: Speaking confidently and being able to describe whatever you need to in the target language, even when you don’t know some words. Fluency is NOT speaking without ever making a mistake and with perfect pronunciation.

Confidence makes a HUGE difference in your skills as a language learner and speaker, but more on that in the next section.

Misconception 3: If I make mistakes my English is bad

By now, you should realize this one. You can make mistakes and still be a GREAT English speaker.

Don’t let anyone fool you, mistakes are amazing! They are like a map that shows you where you need to make improvements. Mistakes are a crucial part of the process.

Think about it. If you want to be great at anything you have to make mistakes. If you want to juggle, you’ll have to drop some balls. If you want to dance, you’ll have to miss some steps. If you want to play guitar, you’ll have to play some notes wrong.

So why should we expect it to be any different for speaking English?

It’s because we’re so comfortable speaking our native language that we feel silly making mistakes in a new one.

failureSo I challenge you to start thinking of speaking English like anything else you’re good at. Start viewing each mistake as a stepping-stone to fluency.

Remember, the most successful language learners don’t avoid mistakes, but rather they structure it so they learn from them. This does not mean that they don’t get nervous sometimes when they speak, but they lean into that fear because they make their goal of fluency bigger than their nervousness.

Conquer your fears

Now you know exactly why you fear errors and hopefully you are thinking about mistakes differently.

Part II will dig deeper and prepare you to start speaking English, by showing you how to overcome your fear and to (eventually) speak without mistakes!

Do you like these ideas? Then you will love learning with our course, Fluent with Friends. It’s a fun, new way to improve your English listening, vocabulary and pronunciation with one of the best TV series of all time. Want to learn more? Just sign up here (You’ll also get a FREE ebook with common expressions!).

Remember to comment below and let me know what you thought of this article and if you have any questions. I’d love to hear from you!

Don’t stop now…

Read Part 2!

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54 Comments

  1. wesley batista on March 5, 2016 at 1:32 am

    This is a great article, everyone should read it!

    • Ethan on March 7, 2016 at 4:50 pm

      That means so much to me Wesley!!

  2. Nafisa on March 5, 2016 at 12:25 pm

    i’m agree with Wesley batista opinion. it’s a great article . it can change the mind of English learners,especially those who have fear of making mistakes (like me).
    I feel fear of making mistakes in English because people laughs on me …What can I do with this behavior of other……

    • Ethan on March 7, 2016 at 4:46 pm

      Thanks Nafisa! I’ll talk about what to do when people laugh at you in the next part, so look out for that 🙂

  3. Cristina Serafim on March 5, 2016 at 1:01 pm

    Kick-ass article, Ethan! You nailed it big time!!! Yes, Wesley Batista, it’s a must read!

    • Ethan on March 7, 2016 at 4:46 pm

      Thanks Cristina!! It means a lot from you 🙂

  4. faranak on March 5, 2016 at 1:15 pm

    I love the idea of letting go of perfectionism!! :))
    A must read article for every language learner!!

    • Ethan on March 7, 2016 at 4:48 pm

      Thanks Fary!!

  5. ana Paula costa on March 5, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    Wow! One of the best article I’ve ever read. I’m really thinking differently about make errors when I’m speaking with natives or English learners. I don’t care if I make, I want to be fluent with this errors and keep going after my dream!!!
    Big hug Ethan and thank you for this inteligent article!

    • Ethan on March 7, 2016 at 4:49 pm

      Wow Ana, that puts such a smile on my face. That’s exactly why I wrote this, so I’m glad that the message is helping you! Hugs

  6. Joe on March 5, 2016 at 4:32 pm

    He touched a sensitive and real issue. I am very afraid to speak precisely because of errors.

    • Ethan on March 7, 2016 at 4:49 pm

      Thank you Joe! I’m glad it helped. I hope that Part II will be even more actionable for you.

  7. arroh areh on March 6, 2016 at 4:37 am

    Thank you Ethan,Thank you RealLife Global.It’s really useful and helpful

    • Ethan on March 7, 2016 at 4:49 pm

      Thank YOU Arroh!

  8. Joe on March 7, 2016 at 8:49 pm

    Thanks Ethan for their effort to help me. I am still very weak in English. I will continue studying.

  9. Sabrina @ Speak English Live on March 9, 2016 at 1:11 am

    Here’s to making mistakes! As I native English speaker, I know it’s definitely true that even native speakers make mistakes all the time.

    But you’re right, Ethan about how each mistake can be a stepping-stone to fluency. This is an important article for English learners to read.

    • Ethan on March 16, 2016 at 10:06 pm

      Thank you Sabrina! I love hearing that from a fellow English teacher 😀

  10. kaoutar boubker on March 10, 2016 at 3:10 pm

    i read this article, i love it so much .I will try to overcome my fear

    • Ethan on March 16, 2016 at 10:05 pm

      Thanks Kaoutar! i hope this helps you overcome your fear. Definitely check out parts 2 and 3 because there are more tips to help you with this 🙂

  11. Ugo Souza on March 11, 2016 at 6:19 pm

    Hey Ethan. Many things described in this article are related with some fears that I have yet. I sad one time and I say one more time: “Your methods are awesome”. They have increased my perception about learning English.

    Thank you.

    • Ethan on March 16, 2016 at 10:04 pm

      That’s really great to hear Ugo :). I’m glad you’ve been able to learn with our methodology. English learning is never black and white, and opening your perception can be a powerful step towards fluency! Definitely check out part 2 and 3 if you need more advice.

  12. […] This is Part II about not making mistakes in English. If you have not read Part I, I recommend you do that […]

  13. Gaabouri Amine on March 13, 2016 at 6:45 pm

    Really a great article and piece of advice. Thanks Ethan. I read a lot of english but when i speak it, i feel very nervous and afraid to make mistakes and then i stop. I have to get rid of that and do what you said and take it easy.

    • Ethan on March 16, 2016 at 10:02 pm

      I’m glad you think so and that it was helpful. I totally agree with you 🙂 Be sure to read part 2 and 3 if you need more advice on this

      • jigar chauhan on May 10, 2017 at 6:46 am

        how to solve my spelling mistakes.?

  14. priscillah Dd on March 15, 2016 at 12:47 am

    Super good! Like it!

    • Ethan on March 16, 2016 at 10:02 pm

      Thanks 🙂 Glad you enjoyed

  15. Master212 on March 15, 2016 at 4:56 am

    generous essay

    • Ethan on March 16, 2016 at 10:02 pm

      Thank you!

  16. Mario Ch on March 16, 2016 at 1:08 am

    Thanks Ethan, this is my biggest problem, the fear to make mistakes and don’t knowing what to say

    • Ethan on March 16, 2016 at 10:01 pm

      I’m glad it helped! Be sure to read parts 2 and 3 if you’re really serious about improving.

  17. Euston kazembe on March 23, 2016 at 11:52 am

    Wow, I have learnt quite a lot from this article and I have known the resason I have not been fluent. The problem is how we were taught in school. I like this…

  18. Euston kazembe on March 23, 2016 at 12:00 pm

    Wow, I have learnt quite a lot from this article and I have known the resason I have not been fluent. The problem is how we were taught in school. I like this…

    • Ethan on March 26, 2016 at 4:41 pm

      Great Euston! definitely check out part 2. And we’ll have an ebook coming out that builds on this advice and gives you tips and tools to overcome your fears and speak with confidence 🙂

  19. shafiq on March 29, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    I cannot access many of the articles.they always shows ”problem loading page”.what to do?

  20. Leandro Pinheiro on March 30, 2016 at 12:59 pm

    Thank you so much, was a very nice article! Helped me a lot!

    • Ethan on March 31, 2016 at 8:05 am

      Thank you Leandro! I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂

  21. Omar Bensabri on April 14, 2016 at 5:15 pm

    I find it very helpful, full of lightning ideas and encouraging article especially for a guy like me. Thanks a lot Ethan.

    • Ethan on May 3, 2016 at 1:44 pm

      That’s great to hear Omar! Definitely put all of those idea to practice bro 😀

  22. […] I hope you enjoyed this lesson and you learned a lot! Remember that the best way to remember it all is to actually use it, so speak at every opportunity. […]

  23. Vikram singh on May 1, 2016 at 1:21 am

    great article. 🙂

    • Ethan on May 3, 2016 at 1:44 pm

      Thanks Vikram 😀

  24. Min Hyuk Bin on May 10, 2016 at 7:12 am

    Wow, what you have said is exactly what are happening in my country right NOW !!! You helped me to have a whole diffirent perspective about speaking English, thank you sooooo much !!!!!
    P/s: I’m a Vietnamese, by the way

    • Ethan on May 10, 2016 at 10:28 am

      Hey Min, It’s not just in Vietnam, it’s all over the world! People have a very bizarre perspective on making mistakes. I’m really glad that this changed your point of you on the matter. It’s my pleasure

  25. Benedetta on June 9, 2016 at 5:09 pm

    I’m sorry for my late but I found out “RealLife” just three days ago. So I think it’s a great idea and this article is so helpful and useful for a girl like me that fears mistakes while she’s speaking! Thank a lot Ethan, now I’m going to read the second part 🙂

  26. Ivan Ustra Beta on July 10, 2016 at 9:16 pm

    Exceptional

  27. […] How to Speak English Without Mistakes […]

  28. Jerry Smith on August 3, 2016 at 11:50 pm

    No mistakes, only lack of clarity – the task is not to seek to eliminate “mistakes” but how to gain clarity in pronunciation (phonetics), grammar, vocabulary, and nuance. Truthfully, we can understand what people are perhaps trying to say, but the difficulty is how easily we understand them. When we say, “mistakes”, we give the impression that there is a “right” way and a “wrong” way to say things – and that puts a lot of pressure on people! So, they are afraid to try, because they may make “mistakes” and feel embarrassed. Therefore, no mistakes, just developing clarity in using English.

  29. […] Remember that everyone get nervous, it is part of the human condition. Being perfect is NOT the goal (even natives are not perfect), and in fact, studies have shown that having a mindset of needing to be perfect increases anxiety. Your only goal is to improve. How do we improve? By making lots and lots of mistakes! […]

  30. jack danial on August 27, 2016 at 2:50 pm

    I have worked as a teacher of English for mor than 17 years and Always told my students( Young and old) not to fear mistakes. It worked with some but it didn’t with others.
    I do agree with your idea.

    • Ethan on August 28, 2016 at 2:31 pm

      Hey Jack, it’s really great to hear this from another teacher. I think the way that we can make the biggest impact on the world is by helping our students be curious and passionate about learning. Thanks starts with being vulnerable and open to mistakes 🙂 Keep up the great work

  31. […] to speak excellent English right from their home country. It’s pretty amazing, but with the right mindset, an internet connection, and diligent habits they made their way to confident, conversational […]

  32. Javier Marín on May 13, 2017 at 9:54 am

    You’re amazing.

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