Do you want to write and speak well in the language you’re learning? This post tells you about three common mistakes English learners make and how to fix them.
“I Am Boring” And Other Common Mistakes English Learners Make
I’ve heard this mistake often from second language English speakers. You’re not “boring” you are just “bored”.
This article is about learning English, or any language. It is not about grammar. It is just about why people keep making the same mistakes.
I will go through three common mistakes that people have with learning a second language and I will try to show you how to overcome them.
People have the wrong mind-set when learning a language. This is because you were first exposed to language learning in school. People see it as a chore or something to get out of the way.
People also think it’s something you can finish. They think they can spend a few years learning a language. and it will just be done and that they can stop.
I’m afraid that it will be forgotten if you don’t spend time on it regularly.
Learning to write and speak a language will take years. For a complicated language like English, it will take many, many years.
If you are over 12-years-old, and you want to speak English like a native, it will take more than five years of practice – if you spend two hours every day learning.
So, make sure it’s something you want. You are going to be spending years of your life watching movies and reading books in English. If you hate this idea, rather do something else.
If you can have fun doing it or even relax and unwind while reading an English book the time will fly by.
Now on to the most common mistakes English learners make.
3 Common Mistakes English Learners Make & How To Fix Them
Mistake 1: English People Will Correct Me
“My grammar perfect,” said every Russian I know.
People think English speakers will correct them when they make a mistake. They won’t. It’s too much work.
I live in a country where most people speak English as a second language for business. I have never corrected anyone’s English nor have I ever heard someone try to correct anyone’s English.
If an English speaker understands you, they will not correct you. They don’t want to embarrass you.
Every sentence a new second language learner says will have a grammar mistake, and a pronunciation mistake, and they will stress the wrong word. Nobody has time to correct them all.
You need to know that English people will not correct you. They will probably speak with simpler words and more slowly if they think you are having a hard time understanding, but they won’t say anything.
So what do you do?
The only thing you can do is learn the right way of saying every possible sentence.
And how do you do this?
You read hundreds of books and watch thousands of TV shows. It doesn’t matter if you have to look up every second word or if you can’t understand what people are saying.
Slowly, over time your brain will sort it out. You will start to hear the words you know. Then you will start to figure the ones you don’t know.
Then, it’s time to speak.
Mistake 2: Learning Phrases From Bad Sources
“I lost my plane!” said the Spanish billionaire.
Learning to speak requires practice. You must practise saying phrases in English to become fluent. But, you should be careful of what you are practising.
You may need to say things in English that you are not sure about, especially if you are in a language class. But, you should always check to see if they are correct.
Learning English for example from another person in your class is a bad idea. You could both be learning mistakes. Learn it the correct way. It’s easier than trying to forget the wrong way.
Unless you can perfectly understand written and spoken English you should try to stick to phrases you know are real.
If you start speaking before you are ready you will say things like “I lost my plane.” instead of “I missed my flight.” And, nobody will understand you.
You should practice saying things that you have heard a native English speaker say or have read in a novel.
Reading a book out loud is a great way of doing this.
But, to work on your pronunciation you should also be listening to a native say the sentence. So, listen to an audiobook and then read the text out loud.
This will help you sound natural and you will learn how to spell the words at the same time.
Choose something you will enjoy reading. If you choose something you would not read in your own language you will really hate reading it in a second language.
Mistake 3: Translating Directly
“Teach me the phone,” said the Japanese pickup artist.
You need to give up on translating ideas directly from your language to English. People think differently in different languages.
For example a Japanese person might say, “Jane’s personality is very kind.” because that is how you would say it in Japanese. But, in English you just say “She’s kind”.
“Teach me the phone” is another example you might say if you were translating directly from Japanese instead of, “Tell me the phone number.”
Different languages use different words to express the similar ideas.
You need to know the right thing to say in English. You can’t just translate from your language and hope it is the same.
English, and every other language, has set phrases that you need to know.
Think of a Chinese immigrant that works in restaurant. They may have been speaking English for decades, but if they are only doing it to serve food, they won’t be fluent.
They will know a few set-phrases for work, but they cannot hold a long conversation with you. They are using English words, but the structure of the phrases is in their native language. That is why it sounds so foreign.
In order to develop a natural way of speaking, you must accept that you can’t directly translate. You need to build an English database in your mind. Fill it with the kind of things English speakers say.
Don’t be creative. There is generally one right way to say things. No English speaker will ever say, “Become my wife, please.” They will always say, “Will you be my wife?”
Once you have built this database, and are certain your English friends are not dumbing down their language around you, you can start to experiment. By the way, you will know your English friends think your English is good when the start to make bad puns around you.
Whatever the reason you want to learn a language, the only way to maintain interest in it is to have fun. We only have so much energy in a day and we want to spend it on things we like.
If you can’t make yourself enjoy learning a language, you will never be good at it.
If you look forward to spending a few hours reading a good book or watching a TV show, and you’re happy to do it in another language, you will succeed.
We hope learning about these common mistakes English learners make, will help you with your English.
Christopher writes and facilitates for Writers Write. Follow him on Twitter: @ChrisLukeDean
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