When you’re learning a new language, you will make mistakes. Obviously, you make a lot of mistakes when you first start learning, but even advanced learners still make mistakes.
But not all mistakes are important. In fact, some mistakes are helpful.
Read on to find out which mistakes you should be concerned about, and which mistakes you don’t need to worry about.
‘Fossilised’ / Uncorrected mistakes
If you make the same mistake again and again, it becomes like a fossil. It becomes part of your English and it can be quite hard to correct. Sometimes these mistakes happen because you learn (or were taught) something wrong – so you continue to use it.
These mistakes are more important if they cause confusion for the other person. This can happen if you use the wrong tense, for example. “I’m here for two weeks” has a different meaning from “I’ve been here for two weeks”.
The solution? Focus on correcting one mistake at a time. This is a good way to make steady progress in English.
These are important because they make you feel bad. The mistakes happen more with wrong word choice, or the wrong pronunciation. Classic examples in English might be to say “shit” instead of “sheet”; or “bitch” instead of “beach”.
Fortunately, these mistakes are memorable, so you’re likely to pay attention the next time you need to say the word.
Slips of the tongue
We all make these mistakes. We’re thinking of one word, but we say something completely different. Slips of the tongue can be all types of mistakes – grammar, vocabulary or pronunciation mistakes.
These mistakes aren’t important – especially if you correct them immediately – because you won’t normally make them again.
These mistakes are an important part of your learning process. They happen because you’re trying a new word or grammar structure for the first few times. Sometimes you get it right immediately, but sometimes you make a mistake with it. Perhaps you use a new word in the wrong context, or a new verb with the wrong preposition.
This is all fine (as long as you know or someone tells you that it isn’t 100% correct) because it gives you practice. The next time you use it, you’ll probably get it right!
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