Making mistakes

I am happy to receive comments and this morning there are three, two from Pako and one from Blinger. Blinger recognizes the need to make mistakes in learning a language. Blinger points out that language learning can be like playing the piano. Blinger points out that we need to challenge ourselves with more and more difficult pieces on the piano so that we can gradually raise our level. Language learning is like that says Blinger, and Blinger is right.

Pako claims that we have to avoid mistakes when learning languages, He feels that language learning is different from learning the piano.

In my view, language learning has a lot of similarity with playing the piano. First of all, if you do not enjoy playing the piano, you will probably not do well. If you can play pieces that you like yo will learn faster than by playing pieces yo do not like. Both require repetitive practice. In both cases, most of the work needs to be done by the learner on his or her own. The improvement, in both, is gradual. And in both cases,most learners are best to avoid theory.

Yet language learning is also different.One difference is the large quantity of new vocabulary, words and phrases, that has to be learned. The only way to learn new vocabulary is to constantly read and listen to new content. Yet to retain the words and phrases and to get a feel of the language you need to repetitively read and listen to things you have already covered before, especially in the early stages.

As you acquire new words and phrases, you need to use them. “Use them or lose them” is an apt phrase for language learning. When you speak you will use these newly learned words and phrases. When speaking your concentration should be on communicating. It is like playing a game, you just want to win. You will make mistakes, but if you communicated you won.

But after the conversation or game, you can review how it went. You can identify things you need to work on. Which concepts could you not express effectively? Which words were missing? Then you go and practice these.

When you write, you have a better chance to capture your mistakes. In writing the goal is not just to communicate, but also to use the language clearly, logically, effectively, accurately and naturally. What we call the “clean” principle in The Linguist. When writing, all mistakes should be corrected. When speaking you should not worry about your mistakes at all. When writing you should expect to see some things corrected so you can learn from them.

This concept of avoiding mistakes that Pako expounds, simply goes against all the experience I have had in learning nine languages. If I had been afraid of making mistakes, or even concerned about making mistakes, I would not have learned. Language learning has to be about communicating. It is not about perfection but about constant improvement.

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