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What to Do When You Make a Mistake in Your New Language

When you first start out learning a new language you will probably worry about making mistakes. It is only natural to want to avoid looking like an idiot by saying something excruciatingly foolish. The bad news is that you are going to be making a lot of mistakes and that some of them may be excruciating indeed. The good news is that you can learn a lot from them if you know what to do after making one.

Don’t Get Angry

I have always found that getting angry after making a mistake is about the worst thing I can do. This is because reacting like this makes you lose your cool and will probably lead to more mistakes. During times like these you need to stay calm and realise that no one in the history of the world has ever learned a second language without making a lot of mistakes. This isn’t easy to do when you have just ordered a leather pizza or asked someone where you can get your hair fried or made some other silly blunder. Having said that, it is best to try and laugh it off rather than stew over it for too long.

Think About the Mistake

While we need to treat mistakes in a light hearted way we don’t want to just dismiss them out of hand. By thinking about what you have just said you will have more chance of learning from it. Sometimes there will be a logical reason for what you just said. For example, there are a lot of false friends in many languages. These are words which sounds similar to a word in English but mean something completely different. You certainly wouldn’t be the first person to fall into these traps. If it makes you feel any better I can confirm that I have used just about every false friend in Spanish at various times, from carpet/carpeta to actual/actual through to sentence/sentencia. By thinking about why you made the mistake you will probably realise that there is a logical reason for it. This will make you feel better and will also help you in the future.

Don’t Do It Again

Ok, onto the trickiest part now. You won’t do it again, will you? Actually, you probably will on some words. There are certain words in every language which seem really difficult to get right. A smart move here is to come up with some sort of mnemonic in which you associate the troublesome word with an image. This seems a bit silly when you first do it but you might be surprised at the positive results it gives. If all else fails then just go through the points we have covered again and see if it sticks in your head this time. Over time you will find that your number of errors reduces gradually if you keep working on them.

We all make mistakes when learning a language but reacting well to yours will help you in the long run. Don’t get disheartened or angry with yourself. What is the most embarrassing thing you have said in your second language?