I used to hate it when someone pointed out my mistakes in English.
We all experienced it: you say something and then suddenly someone interrupts you and says: ‘it ‘helps’ not ‘help’ or ‘it’s ‘beach’ not ‘bitch’ etc.
You thank them and smile to save face but deep inside you feel awful and ‘wanna go home’.
Or when you go to the board during an English class, speak in front of the whole class and shrink every time a teacher writes something down during your little ‘performance’.
Some teachers don’t even bother to write it down, they just interrupt you and don’t let you continue until you make it right. What a nightmare!
And this is how you:
– lose your train of thought
– feel too embarrassed to continue
– become reluctant to speak up and maybe even thinking of quitting the class or English
The traditional education system in most countries forces kids to avoid mistakes at all costs. Saying nothing is often better than saying something wrong and getting a bad grade.
You don’t want to make mistakes because you don’t want to feel like a loser on those shows who didn’t score.
I’m a product of that sort of education system. No wonder I dreaded mistakes most of my life and only recently I’ve been able to learn that it’s actually possible not to feel miserable when someone gives you proper feedback.
It happened when I worked on my pronunciation with an accent coach.
Here are main factors that helped me to embrace my mistakes and stop feeling embarrassed.
– The teacher was an authority for me, so I trusted his judgment.
– He corrected my mistakes in a kind and even a bit self-deprecating manner using expressions like ‘I used to do it myself all the time’ or ‘it’s a very common mispronunciation for Russian speakers’. So I related to it a lot and I didn’t feel like I was the only one who struggled with certain sounds.
– After months of training and feedback I started catching my pronunciation mistakes and was able to correct myself. At some point I got so excited to find more mistakes (!) that I rewatched some of my old videos in order to find them (and I wasn’t disappointed).
But the most important part was that I began making fewer mistakes and feeling more confident.
Here’s the thing.
There is a famous quote about a child learning to walk that you’ve probably heard:
Understanding that mistakes are inevitable is crucial. But for most of us it’s not enough to make them less painful.
This is where practice and repetition come into play. You can actually become less sensitive to constructive criticism by training yourself to take it on a regular basis.
The more you get it, the less sensitive to it you become. And if you learn from your mistakes you start making less of them and become a more confident English speaker and writer.
Here’s how you can make it happen:
1. Accept the idea that mistakes are the part of the deal and they will make you better
(Tip: Think of some mistakes you’ve made in the past and the lessons they’ve taught you.)
2. Make feedback a regular [not shocking] experience for you:
– Use tests and games
Make passing quizzes and tests a daily habit. See your mistakes, write them down and avoid them later. It could steal only 10 min of your day but it will give you so much more confidence in the long run.
— Join Healthy Communities of English learners
Being surrounded by people who support and encourage you is a crucial element of your success in any sphere, especially in learning languages.
The trick is to find truly helpful non-judgmental communities where you can thrive.The best I know is the In.Fluency Community with 25K+ members. You can always share your video or a post and ask for feedback. It’s free.
If you’re not ready for that big pool of language enthusiasts join our smaller group Let’s Speak English with Confidence with 1.2K members.
— Join Livestreams of English teachers you follow
If you follow some of the English teachers online, from time to time you’ll be able to see their special offers or invitations to join their LIVE training, events or contests.
During these events they offer some feedback during group or 1:1 sessions. It might seem scary to go LIVE with your ‘English hero’ but it’s very liberating and helpful for your English skills.
— Find a coach and ask for a feedback
If you work with a teacher or a coach, ask them to give you feedback on a regular basis.
A good teacher wouldn’t throw all your mistakes at you in order to ruin your confidence but they would tell you about crucial things you need to fix first. Here’s a great video about what things to look for when searching for an English teacher.
Related: Learn more about my Speaking Club
— Give feedback to yourself
You can’t have a teacher during your whole life [unless you’re a millionaire].
At some point you need to learn how to give feedback to yourself. It’s not as hard as it might seem.
If you want to work on pronunciation, you can always record yourself, compare it with the original recording and see if there are any mistakes in your version.
The thing is that it’s much easier for us, humans, to see the speck in another person’s eye than a log in our own. But once you record your voice, you can actually hear yourself as another person and catch some mistakes.
Here’s a helpful video tutorial of a pronunciation coach Hadar Shemesh on how to give yourself feedback on pronunciation.
If you worry about grammar mistakes in your writing or speech you can use grammar checkers. With them you can check your writing or write down a sentence you want to say and check it. The most recommended tools are Grammarly (grammar) and Wordtune (style).
The Bottom Line:
P.S. Another powerful proof that mistakes are okay
I recently binged on the Grammar Girl podcast and to my surprise the first episode I listened started with her thanking some of her listeners for noticing … MISTAKES (!) in the previous episode. Mistakes were tiny and about dialects, still I was amazed how gracefully she put it. There was nothing embarrassing about it.
And she’s the Grammar girl, a worldwide known English language expert with best-selling books about English grammar. If she’s okay with accepting mistakes in the field of her expertise, I think we can be okay with our mistakes as well.
Don’t you think so?
Photo by Lucaxx Freire