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Correcting mistakes

Dernière mise à jour : 6 mars 2023

Nearly everyone would learn a new language if they could. The opportunities and possibilities learning a language opens up to us is incredible and if we have a friend who speaks our target language, the temptation to ask them to teach it to you it is difficult to ignore.

"Let's speak English, and you have to correct me when I make a mistake" you say, and your motivation is sky high. Your friend however is sighing inside. Why?

Because error correction isn't as straight forward as saying no and giving the right answer.

Direct answers don't magically imprint themselves into our brains, never again to be forgotten. They are dismissed, consigned to oblivion, the error repeated, over and over again.

If every time I heard the answer to a question I was able to remember it, I'd be a master quizzer and win thousands of pounds going on game shows across the country.

But there is also the motivational aspect. When you start your language project, you are full of confidence, convinced you will make steady progress and within a few months you'll be able to converse happily in your target language having learnt it over coffee with your friend. The reality is that their constant corrections are likely to smash your confidence to bits within a week.

So what's the answer? Personally, I believe that allowing students to make mistakes is fine as long as the context and sense of their phrase remains logical. From time to time we can have an error correction session to highlight repeated errors and work on those, but constantly stopping an activity/conversation to point out errors seems counterproductive.

Focus on the positives more than highlighting the negatives, and confidence and motivation should remain high enough to turn enthusiasm into discipline, discipline to a habit and a habit to a way of life. Remember, even native speakers make regular errors in their own language and it doesn't generally affect the listeners comprehension.

You've got this!

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