According to Antimoon rule 2:
"If you want to post to this forum, you must agree that you will not post: ... Messages in bad English ... If you make a lot of mistakes, you shouldn't be writing in English, because you will only reinforce your mistakes."
Tom has a very good point. Repetition cements ideas into you head. Therefore repitition of mistakes is going to be bad for you. But don't they say "You learn from your mistakes."?
I still think that learners should try speaking English (or whatever language they're learning) without stressing too much about making a mistake here and there. Be aware that you might not be getting it quite right and ask for assistance (remember to ask else you might not get it).
Jim, one of the reasons why humans succeeded as a species is that we don't have to actually DO something to see that it is a mistake.
With the general availability of excellent dictionaries and Google Search, there's no excuse for writing in bad English.
I was able to produce virtually error-free German after learning it for three months (and not very intensively at that).
The trouble is, if you get hung up about having to speak perfectly as soon as you open your mouth, you may not open it at all. Sometimes you know the right things to say but lack of confidence makes it all come out wrong. The very act of speaking gradually erodes this fear. Methinks.
Speaking or writing are two different things. This is a forum where people write and can take the time to proofread what they are writing, although even I make minor mistakes writing, which I try to correct if I notice them.
On the other hand, I don't get annoyed like Tom might when I see poor English written as long as I can still understand it. But Tom has a good point when he says that other people come on here to learn English and if they see it written poorly by other language learners, then it might reinforce their own bad habits.
Tom could say the same thing with a different angle. People should write here posts when they think they can write with a few minor mistakes or no mistakes at all or do proofread with the help of excellent dictionaries and Google search before posting. It would enforce good habits of not making mistakes and at the same time it'd allow other learners to get the accurate and neat input of the language. Saying like never write posts at all when you are not comfortable with the language in my humble opinion is not correct saying.
By the way, I learned how to operate computer all by myself. Just played with it, made mistakes and corrected them and then finally learned them.
Have you ever seen an ant walking on the wall? How does she move on? Slipping again and again but never loses hope and finally reaches to her exact destination. The point is, never lose hope, make mistakes but don't be frustrated, point them out and rectify them. Simple as that.
I never used a dictionary while writing and never serached anything on the net as well. This is just my opinion. Anyhow, different folks have different strokes! I'm not sure where you rate my English.
You are right that speaking helps overcome the fear of speaking. However, it's possible to speak in simple sentences, in order to avoid making mistakes. Once you've absorbed a healthy dose of input, there will be a set of sentences that you can produce with total confidence. Just don't try to overstep the bounds of that set.
As Ryan has already noticed, writing is different from speaking, so our discussion on fear of speaking has little relevance to this forum. There is no need to be afraid of composing a forum message because, unlike speaking, writing allows you to take your time. Gradually learners should learn to write faster. Once you can write English sentences fairly quickly, it's quite easy to start speaking without mistakes.
Learning to speak a language is NOT like learning to operate a computer. Operating a computer is a conscious activity -- speaking is not. When you speak, phrases appear in your head without your being aware of the grammatical manipulations needed to construct a phrase. A special module in your brain takes care of that, just like a special module allows you to walk without performing complex calculations (if you don't believe walking is hard, try to build a humanoid robot and make it walk without tipping over).
If you program your language module incorrectly (by feeding it with incorrect sentences of your own making), it will produce incorrect sentences, and it will take you some effort to reprogram it. That is why I disagree with people who advise learners to speak freely and ignore their mistakes.
In my opinion, they don't advise us to 'ignore' our mistakes. They only courage us to start speaking. Just speak. We will learn from our mistakes.
Which is better? Learning from flawed sentences or learning from correct sentences?
I think the point here is that we learn from our mistakes.