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?
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.
Schools 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.
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.
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
Native 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.
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…