I’m not going to pretend that making mistakes isn’t ever a huge deal, because it can be.
💵 On the one hand, when you speak unnatural English, make grammar mistakes and sound off, it may, for example, be more challenging for you to find a job where you’re fairly paid in an English-speaking country. Like it or not, that’s the reality of it.
Also, if the way you speak is really hard to understand, people’s instinct will be to avoid talking to you. Not consciously, it's just that no one wants to feel awkward and/or make another person feel bad. So we tend to stay away from people that put us in this situation.
🧘🏼 On the other hand, most of the time you don’t need to stress out because of a word you pronounced wrong or the verb you put in the wrong tense. That's not the end of the world. Someone didn't get it? If it's important, try to rephrase it.
If speaking at an advanced level is not required by your work, you’re good.
The point I'm trying to make is that everyone has different goals and priorities. My student that's trying to get a top position in his company wants to sound as close to a native speaker as possible, and that's understandable. At the same time, my other student who has moved to the US and continues to speak Spanish at work doesn't really need the same level of proficiency - she needs to get around and be understood, not stress out about every mistake, most of which don't reeeaaally matter that much.
📍So there’s a time and a place to focus on your mistakes, and the default shouldn’t be “always”. No one (with half a brain 🧠) will judge you for making mistakes in most cases!
👩🏻🏫 In my online 1-1 lessons, there are times when I correct my student's mistakes immediately, when I focus on my student’s ability to produce the language we learned accurately, and times when I delay error correction to be able to focus on fluency. With some students I generally correct them less and prioritize other aspects of learning, while with others it matters a whole lot more, so we dedicate more time to error correction.
Feel like mistakes rob you of confidence? Regardless of whether mistakes matter a huge lot to you or not as much, keep in mind that, as Russ Harris, the brilliant author of "The Confidence Gap: From Fear to Freedom" put it, "the actions of confidence come first, the feelings of confidence come later." In other words, your confidence is based on practice and experience. This means you need to practice regularly to slowly improve and gain confidence. Mistakes are only part of the bigger puzzle.
Also, just keep in mind that making no mistakes shouldn't be the focus of your efforts. Keep slowly but steadily improving different weaker areas of your English, and overtime you'll make fewer and fewer mistakes. It's a cliché, but mistakes help us improve. Studies have shown that people that have an easier time reacting to and learning from their mistakes improve faster. Do put in the work, do have a plan to improve and implement its steps, but make sure you see mistakes for what they are — a learning opportunity and a sign that there’s space for improvement.
There’s a lot of nuance; these are my general thoughts on the subject. I guess the main point is that it DEPENDS. You're welcome. :D
Hope you can find the right English teacher to help you improve efficiently and in an enjoyable way. If you want to sign up for my online 1-1 lessons, message me: https://linktr.ee/aaawesomeenglish
Tina is a professional English Teacher with a Cambridge education and 10+ years of teaching English to adults in-person and online.
She wants you and English learners like you to develop a solid understanding of what you need to do to start speaking better English faster (and not fall for English-in-a-month scams).