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Mistakes - are they good or bad?

When learning a new language, we are constantly making mistakes, that’s part of the learning process, right? Most people strive to make fewer mistakes, with the goal of becoming more accurate. Mistakes are bad and we must avoid them. Or are they? Can mistakes be good?

I would say yes. Why? If you’re making mistakes, it means you’re trying something new, pushing the boundaries of your linguistic capabilities, outside your comfort zone, and that’s where a huge amount of learning can take place. It’s where we can experiment with language, try to use newly learnt structures and vocabulary in different contexts and situations.

If we make an embarrassing error which results in laughter or surprise from the listeners (or readers), in my experience, this automatically makes the moment and the error more memorable. With reflection and attention to the correction, truly understanding the correction, we are far more likely to avoid making the same mistake again.

This is why at English Boost, we take time at the end of all classes to identify and focus on errors, reflect and encourage self-correction, with the help of peer-correction if necessary and appropriate. We find this always provides a highly productive and useful part of the class, with real learning in an engaging way. And maybe the odd laugh while we’re at it.

So, to sum up, errors can and are a positive thing, and if dealt with in the correct way, can provide a useful, memorable learning experience. Hooray for errors! Read about one of my most embarrassing mistakes while learning Spanish here for a little laugh at my expense.

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