"Of course you should try to avoid mistakes, but you can't just avoid speaking English until you learn to speak it perfectly, because you can't learn to speak it perfectly right away."
You can speak almost perfectly (less than one mistake in 5 sentences). The path is simple: Learn to write -- first slowly and carefully, then more and more quickly. Avoid mistakes when speaking. If you don't know how to say something, look it up; if you can't look it up, don't say it.
You will quickly learn to speak in simple, correct English that way.
But you can't speak it "almost perfectly" if you just started learning the language. You can't avoid all the mistakes, it is normal to make a lot of them in the beginning. I agree with Tiffany. Well, it all depends on a person I guess, but I can tell you something from my own experience. I learnt English in school for 10 years and always had the best grades, but when I finished school my English was still terrible and I still made a LOT of mistakes. Then I started using Internet and chatting with native speakers and my English improved so much in just one year. So one year of practice was much better than 10 years of theory. I believe you need to use the language in everyday speech in order to learn it well.
I would say you shouldn't speak at all if you just started learning the language (or you should say only very simple phrases occasionally).
However, your example shows that you can get away with making mistakes if you "drown them out" with lots of input (in your case, the Internet and listening to native speakers).
I'm interested in what you mean by "a lot of mistakes". Did you make one mistake in every sentence? One mistake in 3 sentences?
Well I didn't count, LOL but my grammar was pretty bad and I used some pretty weird sentences. When you're in school, you can learn all the rules and everything they ask you, just to get a good grade and then you pretty much forget it or can't really use it in real life. I always had excellent grades on the tests, but speaking English in everyday life was still a problem to me. So when I started using English in everyday speech and had a lot of conversations with the native speakers, I started leaning how the language works and how to make correct sentences. Then I could compare that with all the things I was taught in school and noticed that even native speakers make mistakes, but different kind of mistakes, not the ones that foreigners usually make. All that helped me improve my English a lot. I know I still make some mistakes and my English is still not perfect, but when I read old things I wrote in English when I was younger, I can see how much I have improved since then.
I've had similar experiences to Sanja with my Italian. I always got top grades in my Italian class (not to brag, but I had THE top grade) and it still didn't mean a thing. Route memorization wasn't working for me. I'd forget after two weeks and my Italian was still horrendous. But what I would do is speak as much as I could to my Italian TA and my fiance and try to get a grip of the correct grammar including the everyday slang (or common phrases. Not sure of the right word).
After I went to Italy, I began to understand some Italian concepts with the language not present in English. All this I had to do through speaking and listening. I would insist that everyone should correct me when they realized I made a mistake. However, I had to make the mistake a few times to know it really was a mistake and remember to use the right phrase instead. I don't think I could have learned without making the mistake first. Maybe Sanja and I just learn "the hard way" but this is what works for me.
I forgot to add: it was only through everyday usage that I improved. I had to speak or risk forgetting it all. I am trying to keep it even now, but it's hard here in the states with little or no one to speak to.
If the day in which I never make a mistake dawns, however trivial, I will celebrate in style. I will have to think exactly how to do that. Any ideas?
"As she frequently remarked when she made any such mistake, it would be all the same a hundred years hence".
(Chas.Dickens 'Nicholas Nickleby').
"Mistakes are a fact of life. It is the response to error that counts".
"To lose one parent, Mr Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness".
(Lady Bracknell from Wilde's 'Importance of Being Earnest').
Hardly relevant, but still....
>"Mistakes are a fact of life. It is the response to error that counts"
Nikki Giovanni personally responds to errors by writing god-awful "poetry". Your technique may vary.
When children acquire their native language, they DO make a lot of mistakes. They can't produce well-formed sentences. "Comed," "goed" are forms that may be used by children because they think that all verbs are regular. So, isn't it similar with learning a foreign language?
And what is more important, corectness or communication?
I've heard small children say things like "maked", "setted", "breaked", and "putted"; but I've never heard that from a foreigner.
Foreigners don't do the same mystakes they used to with their native language.
Their native language is the 1ST language, thee approach is totally different. Childrens learn it with their parents not at school, with only a primitive mental representation without any knowledge of writing.
When you learn a 2nd language, you have been at school and they teached you how to write, the alphabet..., it's mentally different because you accessed many tools you did not have when you were a baby.
1 st lannguage is about "affect", the 2nd language is more "scientific"
I was just trying to say that both acquiring ad learning a language involves making mistakes. Children use irregular verbs as if they were regular. Learners of foreign languages will probably rely on their native language (or other languages), and this must result in errors. We make mistakes even in our mother tongues.
So, children are in a 'better' situation than learners of foreign languages. They hear sentences that are more or less correct, they hear the language all the time, they are before the age of five (or before puberty)-and still they make mistakes. Aren't then mistakes even more natural for non-native speakers?
As a matter of fact, I like making mistakes occasionally, because I "enjoy" being corrected by native speakers. Sometimes that may provide more valuable feedback than worrying about what is correct, and not trying to speak at all. And I do think that in a foreign language you are simply bound to make mistakes, because there is a differently "coded" way of thinking behind its utterances, which does take time to master. This is true even if you "feed" yourself on correct input all the time. :-)
Ok. I have some questions to ask:
Would you please elaborate about your English classes that you attended in those 10 years? What kinds of excercises did you solve? How much did you speak in class discussions with your class mates? I'm very much interested in your personal experience of learning the language!
On what basis of theorem did you figure out that it was okay to make a mistake in three sentences not four?
Personally, I have no qualms about following your approach. You make much more sense when you say that feeding your mind with lots of inputs is the way to go to master the language and I can clearly see a difference where you are coming from! When I started learning English, let's say, a couple of years ago, I couldn't write/understand a word then. Now after reading some English stuff on the net and listening to English songs and watching English channels for a while, I can clearly understand what your main point is. But when I can write over here so why not I can speak in public. That's my main worry for the time being! Somone has written on the forum that speaking is just a little more than writing. All you have to do is to say loudly what you write. So I guess I have to calm myself first and should not care about what other people are thinking about me. I also try to speak as slow as I can because I notice that the more I try to speak fast, the more I feel nervous. Hence, the net result is I speak gibberish sentences! I try to speak fast cause people are staring at me for my reply/answer!