Mistakes are absolutely essential in any learning process. As much as it would be awesome to go from newbie to expert in a magical instant, several mistakes are required in order to learn. Niels Bohr once said: “An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field”. What a great, motivating way to look at it! I mean, you are learning, never forget this.
If you are going to take on this language-learning adventure, you have to be willing to make mistakes, lots of mistakes. When learning virtually anything else, most people seem to accept the learning curve. But when it comes to language learning, many people aim for perfection right from the start. Now, mistakes can be very beneficial, but you have to make them your allies rather than your enemies.
Meet Terry Chops. Terry just started a karate class. Of course, he aspires to great things, he wants to get the black belt. But for now, Terry came in mainly to learn something new, to stay fit and meet new people. It’s not like he’s expecting to be able to fight the sensei anytime soon. On the contrary, when he sees the sensei do an impressive spin kick, he’s amazed and feels inspired to learn. Terry keeps coming back to the karate lessons to study the techniques and practice them. Practice! Now that’s a very important word here. No one would expect to properly learn the techniques without practicing them. Terry can watch a thousand fights, know all the techniques perfectly, but until he starts fighting for himself, he will never be able to fight the masters.
Now Terry Chops does make a lot of mistakes, but he fixes them. His body adapts. He gets a little better every day, and always has fun. Being a beginner and making mistakes only feels natural to him because he’s just begun his training. He doesn’t always compare himself to black belts, he enjoys the progression he is making. Do you see where I’m getting at? The black belt is the equivalent of fluency. Terry uses an excellent approach towards learning. He didn’t take these karate lessons just to obtain a black belt or get his butt kicked… But to enjoy the experience and slowly develop a new useful skill (because, you know, you never know when you’ll to face down Jackie Chan).
Language learning is often seen differently, when it shouldn’t be. A lot of people want to be proficient right from the start. They would just love their first conversation to be a fluent one. (Wouldn’t that be great!?) But one thing is certain, no one’s first conversation was ever fluent. Just like no beginner karateka ever fought against a black belt fighter and won. Every time you make a mistake, be happy about it. It is an opportunity to not make that mistake again, which is a step in the right direction. Making mistakes means you are challenging yourself. Challenging yourself means you’re making progress. Follow the example of Terry Chops and make sure you use those mistakes to improve and not to beat yourself up (no pun intended, well maybe a little bit).
Let’s pretend for a minute that learning a language is dumbed down to a very simple equation: “x mistakes = fluency”. The letter x in that equation represents the number of mistakes you will have to make to reach fluency. So if you make 30 mistakes a week, that number goes down by 30. Of course, learning a language doesn’t really work like that. But having this mindset can certainly help you fight the fear of making mistakes. If you’re afraid to make mistakes, it will take longer to reach your goal. The number is unknown here, but trust me the equation is never “fluency = zero mistakes”. Unless, of course, you’re fluent right now.
Now I’m sure you are very excited to make all those mistakes, but don’t log in to your Ouino program and click on wrong answers on purpose. Fake mistakes don’t bring that number down. 😛 Our brain learns and remembers better when something is meaningful to us. Making real mistakes and having the opportunity to correct them is an incredible way to ensure that you are always improving.
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