I was speaking recently with Robby Kukurs of English Harmony.
We talked about many of the problems preventing English learners from speaking better and more natural English.
We talked about one big problem that I’d like to continue talking about today.
One Big Problem for All English Learners
The fear of making mistakes is one of the biggest problems any English learner will have to overcome to speak English better.
For example, does this sound familiar?
You are talking to someone in English. You’re happy you’re able to have a nice conversation. Everything is going great. Then, you say something, but the other person didn’t understand what you said. He says, “Sorry, what was that?” Suddenly, you feel like you can’t speak English and the conversation is doomed. You feel embarrassed, shy, and your confidence is gone.
This happens a lot and is connected with our fear of making mistakes. Most people have been conditioned to think mistakes equal failure.
To speak English better, you’ve got to stop thinking of mistakes as failures. To do that, you need to start managing your mistakes.
Mistakes in English are not failures. Think of them as practical learning opportunities – Tweet This
How to Manage Your Mistakes to Speak Better English (and ‘Study’ Less)
In a recent psychological study, people who try to learn from their mistakes perform better than people who don’t.
When you make a mistake, your brain tells you. It is that, “Oh no!” panic moment. People who believe they can learn from the mistake recover from the mistake easily, and actually improve that mistake faster.
Most people think the best way to improve their English speaking and correct mistakes is to study more. This is totally wrong!
Instead of spending more time in ‘study mode’ you need to increase your ‘practice mode’. When practicing, focus on Mistake Management to learn from your mistakes and improve your speaking.
1. Stop studying
‘Study mode’ is great for adding knowledge to your head, but speaking in real time situations is not like writing or reading when you have a lot of time. You need to practice using the knowledge you have in real time situations even if it is full of mistakes.
So the first step is, stop studying!
2. Find a ‘practice mode’ you enjoy
As great English speakers have discovered, practice is the only way to move all of that knowledge about English into your working memory.
There are many ways to practice speaking. The easiest way is to talk to yourself in English. Did you just read an article online or in a newspaper? Summarize it to yourself in simple English. Pretend you’re discussing it with a friend. Do the same with movies or podcasts.
3. Love your mistakes like they were your favorite teacher
You should understand now how important it is to think of mistakes as learning opportunities. To practice Mistake Management, you just need to keep a record of your mistakes.
This is why you should record everything. Put a recorder in your pocket and talk to yourself in English as you go around the house. If you make a mistake and you know it,don’t stop, just say, “Sorry”, and say it again. The key is to keep speaking without stopping.
Like I said, speaking in real time is using a different part of your brain than the part that stores the things you know about English. Because of this, there will be mistakes you don’t notice until you listen to the recording again.
Go back and listen to your recording. You’ll hate hearing your voice and you might feel stupid when you first start listening to your mistakes. Everyone feels like this! Just remind yourself that you love your mistakes like your favorite teacher!
Advanced Tip: Take notes of your mistakes. Write down the mistakes you heard when listening to the recording of your free talking (keep them in separate columns). This notebook will show you your common mistakes in English.
4. Never let mistakes interrupt your real conversations again
After you get used to hearing your mistakes and seeing how much they teach you, you should discover that you speak more and more freely. Yes, mistakes will still be there, but you will know how to manage them so they don’t interrupt your conversations anymore.
This way of practicing is actually great for two reasons. First, Mistake Management eliminates your fear of making mistakes. This makes you a better English speaker.
Second, by making yourself physically speak English that you’re thinking, you will begin to move more knowledge into your working memory as it becomes practiced by the motor skills needed to speak.
Remember, being afraid of mistakes is normal! This fear stops many people from practicing their speaking, but talking a lot is the only real way to improve your speaking. Start managing your mistakes, and you will start to notice a lot of improvements soon!
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