Learning a Language Means Making Mistakes

Making mistakes when speaking or writing a new language is not the same as making certain other kinds of mistakes, at least to me. Making mistakes when learning a language is not only necessary, it is a good sign. If you are not making mistakes you are not trying hard enough to use the language.

Give Your Brain Time

If you are trying to master English, or any other new language, there are certain things that you are not going to remember, or get right, until your brain is ready. All you can do is to continue to use the language as much as possible, to read, to listen and to speak and write. Eventually that elusive word, or that difficult phrase, will start to become natural.

Why You Should Make Mistakes When Learning a Language

Each time you make a mistake, in writing or speaking, or are aware that you didn’t use the language as well as you would have liked, is an opportunity to improve. It means you are noticing aspects of the language.

You don’t have to get everything right, but you need to focus on noticing how the language works. You might get something right one time and get it wrong the next time. That is all good. You now may start noticing these things when you listen and read. As long as you are trying to notice the language and not allowing yourself to get upset over mistakes, you will improve. The mistakes will correct themselves eventually with enough exposure, but only when your brain is ready.

So just keep enjoying learning a language and remember these points:

1) You should not be afraid to speak for fear of making mistakes.

Your main goal has to be to communicate. You should communicate whenever you have the opportunity, without fear. But you have to build up your ability to communicate, and just communicating, by itself, will not do that. You need to make an effort to notice your mistakes, and to be happy when you notice them.

2) If you only communicate in the language without putting an effort into improving, you will not improve.

Focus on noticing, noticing when you use the language, and then noticing again when you listen and read. This will you train your brain develop better language habits.

3) You need to continue to focus on input even while speaking and writing.

Why You Should Make Mistakes When Learning a LanguageYou need to deliberately save new words and phrases. You need to be conscious of which words and concepts you were unable to express when you spoke, and go back to your input to look for them. Input should be 75% of your time spent learning a language, as we say at LingQ. Some immigrants to Canada seem to think that if they only get a job in an English speaking environment they will achieve English fluency. This is not true. Those people never achieve their English language potential.

4) You should work on pronunciation, deliberately and consistently but without worrying unduly.

When listening, you should every so often focus on pronunciation and try to notice how your pronunciation differs from the pronunciation of the native. But don’t force it. Don’t become self-conscious about your pronunciation. The more you listen and notice native pronunciation, the clearer yours will become. The key thing is to communicate. Most speakers of foreign languages retain an accent, and that is not an obstacle to communication and may even be charming.

Try to do as much as possible on your own, and that means noticing your own mistakes. This is the approach we use at LingQ and it is efficient and cost effective.

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4 comments on “Learning a Language Means Making Mistakes


Hi! My name is Dilorom .I have just read your article and I liked your ideas.you mentioned .We can never avoid making mistakes in the process of learning and everybody has a tendency to make mistakes in even simple ones. Basically, while learning languages we come across some difficulties related to grammar , word orders ,or pronunciation . I agree with your opinions and you stated that “ If you are not making mistakes ,it means you are not trying hard enough to use the language” you are right. I think making mistakes is a key for success. Because the more people make mistakes in their study the more strive not to make them again. Contrary to ,they will get experience and keep in mind forever. But, in some cases, making mistakes do not give good results because people may lose their interest to learn something and have fear to be laughed or criticized by others. In my opinion , making mistakes lead us to achievements not failure. Thanks for your useful opinions.


Hello,Dear Mr kaufmann
I have watched many of your vodcasts and lectures;all are insightful and mind_blowing indeed.
Meant to ask you to do a favour for language learners out there and publish a or many youtube updates,talking about famous podcasters in languages you know and mention their sites as a means of facilitating the path for all.
For instance,Teacherluke.co.uk


Practicing your pronunciation is vital in any language learning process. There are a few only chatrooms where you can talk with random strangers, don’t know if you can find chat rooms for every language out there, but you can at least try making friends from that specific culture and language and practice your verbal skills over skype.

I personally prefer language learning apps with chatbot speech modules which can help your practice your pronunciations without being afraid or ashamed.

Michele Panizzi

Mr Kaufmann , you are right , but if I could avoid ding mistakes it woul be
better , isn t it? How i possible to avoid falling into the trap of the
performance? I mean , the difference between the know grammar rules
and I actually make sentences when I am in the stree and I have to make sentences , where I cannot have the possibility to check that every
sentence fits to to the grammar rules : I don t have the time to check it.

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