Hey there, this is Teacher ola podcast episode 17: Fear of Making Mistakes While Speaking English. 6 Best Tactics to Overcome it.
My name’s Ola and I am an online English teacher. I teach through 1:1 lessons.
This podcast is for you if you’re an English learner who wants to speak English with more confidence and get rid of speaking barriers. You’ll boost your vocabulary, brush up your grammar, improve your pronunciation. Go to my website for full transcripts and worksheets to each episode. Happy learning!
I’m happy to have you here today. Thanks for coming. The topic today is important, and I hope after this episode you’ll change your approach to mistakes in learning a language.
Today you’ll hear about making mistakes and my experience with mistakes. Then I’ll tell you about an interesting study on the role of making mistakes in learning. Finally, I’ll share with you my 6 best tactics to help you fall in love with your mistakes. After listening go to teacherola.com/17 for transcript and for the worksheet. Take it further and practice.
Mistakes are a normal part of learning a language. Be it grammar, vocab, stylistic, syntax, you name it. You’ll be inundated with them. Prepare yourself for it. Even if you’ve been learning English for years and you are still paralised with stress when you’re about to speak. That’s ok. Relax. Embrace your fear now, it’s not too late. Believe you me. It’s never too late.
Nobody ever told me that. I had to learn it myself. No teacher in my journey, neither in high school nor during English studies, which by the way we’re supposed to prepare me for teaching others, never ever even mentioned that. Everybody pointed out my mistakes. I thought: I’m faulty. Everyone can learn the language and speak it like a native without mistakes. Now it sounds ridiculous, but I really thought people have the power to achieve it. It’s just me, it’s just something wrong with me. How can I teach others if I keep on making such silly mistakes? Now it sounds ridiculous. Not only ridiculous but also overconfident. How can anyone learn a language without mistakes? What’s more, how can you learn a language completely? It’s like learning the whole internet by heart. It’s impossible, it’s FOREIGN language. Foreign. It’s a language! It’s a living creature, transforming, changing all the time. New words appear in dictionaries every single day, and yet I thought you can learn this massive creature without mistaking once. Well, complete arrogance.
So here I am to tell you this: make mistakes, no shame! Speak English, whenever you can. You are bound to make lots of mistakes, there’s no other way of doing so, hence get used to it.
Some time ago I came across one research on making mistakes while learning a new language. The researchers categorised the participants into two groups. One group represented people who believed intelligence can grow through effort. It was a group of growth-minded people. The other group, fixed-minded individuals, consisted of people who believed that intelligence can’t be changed and mistakes show a lack of ability.
Both groups had to complete a task and during that exercise, researchers monitored their brain activity. It turned out that growth-minded people were learning faster. Researchers detected brain activity related to the awareness and attention to mistakes. In the fixed-minded group, such brain activity wasn’t prominent and they didn’t show as much accuracy in learning as growth-minded individuals.
You may know and understand everything I said so far but still end up paralysed when it comes to speaking. Let’s beat that fear once and for all. Let me share with you 6 best tactics when it comes to overcoming your fear of mistakes.
- Don’t let your ego take over. Being humble is one of crucial qualities when learning a language. Being constantly ready to learn. Whenever you’re in a conversation, and someone points out your mistake, thank him or her. My English isn’t perfect yet, I’m learning like a boss though. I’m not offended, I’m not upset, I’m totally fine with my mistakes. You’ll make a great impression, and your attitude will outshine your mistake. Your ego wants everything right here right now, and success doesn’t happen overnight. Tame your ego, be patient and humble.
- Don’t compare yourself. It’s a tremendous waste of time. There are people around who have been learning longer and faster. People, whose results are different from yours. Do not pay any attention to that. You have no idea what’s behind them. You don’t know their story. You can do one thing. Congratulate them, be happy for them, cheer them on their journey and focus on yourself. Come back to yourself. Concentrate on your journey. Choose your own way of learning, and follow that beautiful path.
- Talk to yourself. Get used to your own voice in a target language. That might be very awkward but stick to it. However weird it may feel at the beginning, it’s a sure way to start speaking confidently with others. The best part is that you can make tons of mistakes, and no one will hear them. Do I speak from my experience? Absolutely yes! I’ve been doing it since high school. I can’t imagine overcoming my fear without this kind of training. I was talking to myself preparing this podcast episode. It works, test it yourself. If you’re not sure how to start, what to speak about check episode 9. It’s all about self-talk. teacherla.com/9.
- Communicate. Don’t focus on how you speak while speaking. Note that mistake you’ve made, and focus on communication. You’ll dive into theory later. Just get your message across. This is your task. If you start analysing grammar during your talking you’ll get stuck. Forget it. It’s the process. Learn theory, jump into a conversation. Repeat. Engage in conversations. Practising your new language in real-world situations plays a crucial part in gaining the confidence to speak it. We learn by doing. If you don’t speak for the fear of making errors, you actually make the biggest mistake. Avoiding speaking is the worst you can do. Get out there and speak! Make mistakes, learn from them and try again.
- Study your mistakes. This one is a biggy. Focus on noticing. Communication is the key, true, but if you don’t learn from your mistakes, you’ll never get rid of them. You need to make an effort to notice your mistakes, and to be happy when you notice them. Some of your mistakes will be obvious for you. You know best when you need to expand your vocabulary, or fix your grammar. Instead of getting upset, search the correct word, pronunciation, collocation, grammatical structure. Take action.
What about the mistakes you don’t even realise you make? Well, you can try recording yourself answering some open questions. The worse case scenario is that you still won’t be able to detect mistakes. What I suggest here is finding a teacher who will guide you and correct your issues, issues which are unnoticeable to you.
Finding the mistakes you make is a critical step. If there’s no teacher around you, listen and pay attention. Listening to native speakers, getting familiar with structures, vocab and grammar they use will help you see the gap between you and them. And it turn, your brain will fill the gap. Focus on pronunciation as well and try to notice how your pronunciation differs from the pronunciation of the native. Don’t force it though. At one point it’ll just click. You can call it ‘magic’, but in fact, it’s learning. Probably you’ll retain an accent, but that’s ok, that’s not an obstacle and actually I think it may even be charming. Don’t fight your accent unless you really want to sound like a native.
- Give yourself time. You are a native speaker of one amazing language, Polish. Please remember that your brain has been trained to recognise and utter Polish sounds. It doesn’t want to give in, and doesn’t want to let you start speaking other, foreign, unfamiliar language without a fight. Give it some time, let it get used to a new system. Do you like changes? Well, on average people just don’t like them and your brain doesn’t like them either. The mistakes will correct themselves eventually with enough exposure, but only when your brain is ready. Expose yourself to English every day.
Making mistakes when learning a language is not only necessary, it is a good sign. If you don’t speak English because you’re afraid of making mistakes you deprive yourself of the only possibility to learn it.
Value your mistakes, they are the lessons. If you perceive your mistakes as your lessons, then, my dear, I’m happy to tell you, you’re a great student. This is what makes all the difference. Your attitude towards mistakes. If they scare you, you’re just an average student. Embrace them, love them, appreciate them. Students with great results learn from their mistakes.
Let me hear your take on that, share your opinion. Are you afraid? Have you made peace with your mistakes yet? I’m curious!
If you think someone you know could benefit from this episode, do tell him or her about it. You can find me on Facebook and Instagram. On Facebook I post minilessons once a week. On Instagram I post twice a day and my posts are aimed at teaching you everyday phrases. It’s Teacherola.podcast.
Next episode is very practical, It’s a vocabulary booster. I’ll show you how to express disagreement. Make sure to subscribe and do not miss it!
We’ll get in touch really soon, thank you for listening and till next time! Happy learning. Bye bye!