Is one of your New Year’s resolutions to learn a language or to keep getting better at one? Maybe you tried learning a language in the past and everything was going well until you tried to have a conversation in the target language…with a native language speaker. :-O You may have thought, “Everything coming out of my mouth sounds like garbage!” Trust me, every language learner has had problems along the way. Heck, even native speakers make mistakes with grammar and vocabulary.
I need to mention that there’s a difference between an error and a mistake with language learning. An error means you didn’t use the correct form of the language because you had no prior knowledge of it. A mistake means you did something wrong and you had learned about it previously. In any case, forgive yourself. You can’t know everything, and you can’t remember everything. Remember that it’s all a learning process and to enjoy the journey!
I personally had to deal with overcoming perfectionism with language learning when I started teaching English abroad in Ecuador. I studied Spanish for a few years in college, but I was pretty rusty and had a lot of studying up to do. My host family asked me my age, and I accidentally said I was 16 instead of 26! Can you imagine my embarrassment?! I also used Spanish words that weren’t common in Ecuador, and I got some funny looks every now and then. I conjugated verbs incorrectly, I fumbled over words, and I stammered on pronunciation like a broken doll.
But guess what? I wanted so badly to improve my Spanish. I was determined to study and practice as much as I could in my free time. Do I still have a lot to learn? Of course!
As an ESL teacher, I saw my students struggle with the fact that they made mistakes too while practicing English. What bothered me the most was they were letting that fear impede them from growing and getting better. I would hear multiple apologies on a daily basis, but you don’t need to be sorry because as long as you’re doing your best, then that means something. The students that got better at English didn’t give up. They continued to ask questions and practice with other students.
3 Things to Remember
I’m a bit of a perfectionist myself, as I care about details, but sometimes it’s easy to forget the big picture when you’re learning a new language.
- Making mistakes = You’re trying!
- People correcting you = You’re learning from your mistakes!
- Trying what you learn = You’re getting better with practice!
With all of this, accept that you’re human, not a computer with all the answers. That’s what apps and Google translate is for, and even they make mistakes… If you didn’t grow up speaking the language, why would anyone expect you to speak it 100% fluently? I recommend practicing speaking and listening with a partner/tutor then practice with a group for awhile and then practice with strangers in different situations.
My last piece of advice: laugh it off!
The most important thing is to keep an open-mind, never give up, and accept corrections from others. Believe me, it’s painful and challenging in the beginning. One time I used the word mantequilla (butter) for makeup instead of maquillaje. You know what I did? I laughed so hard, and so did my native Spanish speaking friend. We made a great memory together.
Every language learner I have met has some pretty funny stories to tell about the mistakes they made along the way. Eventually, the number of mistakes diminished with practice, and they became more comfortable with the language. You’re a strong person for making it your goal to learn a language and trying it out. So keep practicing. You got this!
Have you ever made language learning mistakes? Please share in the comments!
Thank you for reading!