Many students are worried about making mistakes when speaking English. This means that they usually choose not to speak in class or use simple phrases because they are afraid of embarrassing themselves. However, I think mistakes are a good thing as you can learn from them, and the more times you speak out, the more confident you will become.
My students often tell me that they are afraid of making mistakes for two reasons:
"I will look stupid" - No you won't! Everyone in the class is studying and having problems. You might find that the other students have the same problem and you can help each other.
"People won't understand me" - If you don't say anything, no one will understand you. Take a moment to think and then say what you are thinking. If the other person doesn't understand, it doesn't mean your English is bad. Maybe:
- they are not familiar with your accent
- their English isn't so good
- they don't know the expression you used
- and, yes maybe you made a mistake
Either way, by the end of the conversation you need to find a way to show the other person your idea. You might feel uncomfortable if someone doesn’t understand you, but this is a typical situation. Does everyone understand you when you are speaking in your native language?? Of course not!
Let me tell you a secret. Even Native Speakers, Teachers, and Professional Speakers make mistakes. But, they correct themselves or ask others for help.
Read the sentence out loud and see if you can spot my mistake here.
Yesterday, I went to shopping.
Did you get it? If not, ask your friend or a member in English.
Can you see the mistake in this sentence?
Did you get it? If not, look at this page for help.
This is a very common mistake, but with the help of friends, other students and teachers you can find the solution and understand why it is wrong.
Mistakes are the building blocks of accuracy.
To start with you will need the help of a teacher to point out these errors but as you gain more confidence, you will be able to see these errors yourself and self-correct them. This skill is useful for both speaking and writing. For example, when you write an important essay or email, write what you are thinking, without worrying too much about grammar. After you have finished, read the content out loud and then see if it sounds right. This is an excellent way to spot mistakes and improve your writing.
By making mistakes, you can find areas you need to work on. For example, if you always make mistakes using some sounds, then you need to focus on your pronunciation. If you confuse words, then you need to do vocabulary building.
Making mistakes helps the teacher see your problems, and create classes/exercises that let you focus on the skills you need to. If you are silent then it is difficult for the teacher to know your strengths and what problems you have.
Don't be afraid; no one thinks you are stupid
Especially not the teacher! They are there to help you, and in many cases, they are having problems learning your language as well. I am currently learning Thai, and I am always making mistakes with pronunciation, but it doesn’t stop me speaking. I want to communicate in this language, and I want to be understood.
When I make a mistake, I ask “what is a better way to say that?” or ‘Why can’t I say that?” This way I learn what the mistake was and how to communicate better in that situation. I always keep a smile on my face and know that I have solved one problem.
The more you do it, the more confident you will be speaking English
Learning English is difficult and takes lots of practice. Like any skill the more you do, the better. Can you learn to play guitar in one day? Can you do your job perfectly without any training? It is the same with learning English, the more you do it, the better you will be. This is crucial! Join as many classes as possible and try to use new expressions and vocabulary that you have learnt. Even if you use it incorrectly, the teacher will be able to show you examples of how to use it and alternative structures.
You can always ask, “Is it okay to say _________ in this situation”. You will get instant feedback and then know how to use new phrases or words.
You can do it
In class, speak out as much as you can and see how quickly your English improves. You Can Do It!!