Steve K   Wednesday, August 04, 2004, 01:58 GMT
I appreciate this forum and respect the people behind it. However I just cannot accept the premise that it is not OK to make mistakes in English or any foreign language. Only by making mistakes will you improve.

Yes, input is important. Precisely therefore, one should not expect perfection from learners who have not had enough input. But let them speak nevertheless. Slowly, through enough input, what they used to say wrong, or structures in the new language that seem strange and unnatural, will start to come naturally. Meanwhile keep communicating, keep making mistakes. But learn from your mistakes. Remember what you felt awkward expresssing and look for the right phrases. Write more and have it corrected. But by all means keep communicating, even if you make mistakes.

I am learing Korean, my effort is 90% input, but when I speak I make mistakes. But I am very much motivated by being able to communicate, however imperfectly. I have no doubt that I will improve and stop making these mistakes.
Dulcinea del Toboso   Wednesday, August 04, 2004, 02:17 GMT
As long as the mistakes are corrected and not reinforced, I don't think there's a problem.

Also, the nature of the mistake is important. Correct the major errors first, if any, and let the smaller ones pass for now.
Indi   Wednesday, August 04, 2004, 13:45 GMT
I'm most in favour of speaking even with mistakes.
Speaking is about communication not achieving perfection.
I'm aware of the fact that I make a lot of mistakes. So what!!!
It takes time to learn a language and to be able to express oneself without mistakes.
Should I wait to communicate in a language until I achieve perfection? It make take ages. By that time I can get discouraged to learning the language at all.
Tom   Sunday, August 08, 2004, 22:00 GMT

Please don't write things like "only by making mistakes will you improve". Statements like this are, at best, an example of using language extremely loosely. Learners improve through practice. Practice inevitably leads to mistakes. But that is not enough to say that people improve DUE TO mistakes.

I wonder if you'd agree with the following statements:

1. It's a good idea to practice writing before you practice speaking, because writing gives you more time to build your sentences and does not put you under pressure to say something right now.

2. If you take time to write your sentences correctly, you write more slowly, but in fact you learn faster, because it usually takes more time to build an incorrect sentence, have it corrected, and unlearn it than to build it correctly the first time.
bubu   Monday, August 09, 2004, 00:59 GMT
Hi guys,

I think Steve wants to say that the making of mistakes out of ignorance should be forgiven as in due course the maker learns the correct use.

And Tom argues that mistakes as a result of carelessness or lazyness should not be encouraged.

Have I understood you correctly?
Steve K   Monday, August 09, 2004, 07:23 GMT
I agree with Tom and bubu. I think writing is the best place to have one's mistakes corrected and the best place to work on correct usage. But even in writing one should not be so uptight as to take forever to write a few hundred words. In writing one should keep a statistical record of the kinds of mistakes one is making and then look for phrases in one's reading that contain the correct form of these words and structures and sae them for study. Writing then becomes the quality control part of learning. By the way Tom I sent you the URL and guest password to our system. I do not know if you have had time to look at it.

I do believe that an undue and premature requirement for perfection from a learner who has not had sufficient can destroy the enjoyment and even the motivation of the learner. I feel a great sense of achievement at being able to communicate, however imperfectly, in a new language. This does not mean that I do not want to improve.
Damian   Monday, August 09, 2004, 07:32 GMT


I'm pedantic.....so just a small point of correction, this being about Mistakes and correcting them! ;-)

The noun form from the adjective "lazy" is laziness.

The same goes for similar words:

dozy (like me right now)....dozines
Similar applies for comparatives:



Cheers for now
Budvar   Monday, August 09, 2004, 08:35 GMT
I agree with Steve. Languages are nothing but tools for communication. Trying to get near perfection before using a tool does not make sense at all. Having said that I agree with Krashen's idea of not rushing into producing a language. Once more the paradigma should be how we as kids learn to speak our mother tongues and there is indeed a long period of listening (massive input as Steve calls it) before the baby ventures to pronounce his first tentative words.

My own suggestion should be:

1) Acquisition period through massive input (reading/listening to comprehensible input)

2) Production (with warts and all) to be incorporated to the process: talking and writing. Mistakes are to be expected but the enormous pleasure derived from making yourself understood by a native should more than make for the small risk of perpetuating mistakes.

3) I am not so sure that producing mistakes will reinforce them. As long as you go on getting massive input you will have all your mistakes slowly ironed out. The problem inmigrants face is not that they reinforce their mistakes by sloppy production but that they reach a phase when they decide they have had enough. They can manage in most day to day situations and they do not see the point in bettering their fluency. Thus their language fossilizes at that level because they inconstiously disconnect themselves from the language acquisition process.
Tom   Wednesday, August 11, 2004, 18:03 GMT
"I do believe that an undue and premature requirement for perfection (...) can destroy the enjoyment and even the motivation of the learner."

Perhaps it depends on the learner. Personally, I hate making mistakes, and I hate it when people point out my mistakes. I get much more pleasure from writing slowly and correctly than I would from writing quickly with mistakes. Here's why:

1. I like it when native speakers are surprised at the small number of mistakes that I've made. I think any learner would enjoy that. Even if nobody makes a comment on the correctness of my writing, it feels good to know the sentences I produced are error-free.

2. The process of careful writing involves looking up a lot of things on the Web and in dictionaries, so I get to learn a lot of the language. When I'm learning a foreign language, I'm very much interested in its grammar (how to express things in the language), and careful writing gives me an opportunity to learn about it.

What's more, when writing carefully I learn the things that I want to know the most -- the phrases and structures to express MY OWN THOUGHTS in the foreign language.
Random Chappie   Wednesday, August 11, 2004, 23:35 GMT
Tom asked if we thought it would be better to learn writing before speaking.

My answer:
I don't think so. That's basically the way I learnt French and in the end, my reading and writing skills were far, far ahead of my speaking skills. Now, I can write grammatically-correct French and can read entire novels in French but when I open my mouth to speak the language, I instantly become a stuttering, stumbling wreck.

In short, I think oral practice is very, very important, especially during the early stages of learning a foreign language.
mjd   Wednesday, August 11, 2004, 23:38 GMT
I agree, although learning how to write and read does guarantee that you'll be able to communicate. At times it might include nervousness, stumbling and stuttering, but you should fair better than someone who has no comprehension of the language whatsoever.
Random Chappie   Wednesday, August 11, 2004, 23:43 GMT
Here's my take on mistakes...

In my opinion, it is not a question of whether or not one makes mistakes. Instead, it is a question of whether one THINKS before speaking or writing.

By telling English learners outright "not to make mistakes", Antimoon may somewhat dampen their confidence and daring. "Think before you speak or write" would be much better and milder advice, or at least I believe it would be so.

Well, mistakes should not be *repeated* - certainly.
Random Chappie   Wednesday, August 11, 2004, 23:47 GMT
To mjd:

Oui, oui, monsieur. I certainly agree with you. *Of course* one has to learn to read and write!
Sanja   Sunday, August 15, 2004, 15:24 GMT
I learned English the same way, my writing and reading skills are much better than my speaking skills and I can communicate in English much better in a written form. That's because I can take the time to think about the sentence, whereas when I speak I have to make it right away. Besides, I don't have a very good accent etc. and all those things make it harder to understand.
Denis   Sunday, August 15, 2004, 20:56 GMT

<<What's more, when writing carefully I learn the things that I want to know the most -- the phrases and structures to express MY OWN THOUGHTS in the foreign language. >>

Yes! That's the point. To successfully express my thoughts in a language apart from grammar I need a number of patterns to glue words together correctly. And careful writing is the only way I know to learn how to do that.

Having learnt those patterns I'm ready to start talking.
Not all of them at a time, of course.
Anyway, what's the use of hurrying and speaking carelessly?
To develop a bad habit and then to struggle against it with fortitude?
I'm too lazy for that :)