You have to start speaking a foreign language early on in the learning process in order to improve! Learning from your mistakes is an important piece of the puzzle, so you shouldn’t wait until you’ve mastered the language before you begin to speak it. But how bad is it to make mistakes in a foreign language? The answer is not at all!

Last actualization 17/03/2024



Speaking is a good way to correct your errors…and avoid them in the future

If you’re learning a foreign language, one of your goals is probably to be able to communicate with people! Whether it’s for a trip, professional opportunities, or to be able to talk with friends or loved ones in their native language, communication is always at the core of language learning.

It’s no secret. To start speaking, you just need to go for it! Don’t wait until you’ve mastered reading before you start speaking. Our friend Benny Lewis is a good example: He always starts speaking right away, even if he doesn’t feel comfortable doing so. He’s learned to speak more than 10 languages this way!

If you wait to become fluent in the language before you speak it, you’ll end up psyching yourself out and never speaking! As far as errors and bad habits go, these are easy enough to learn from with repetition and exposure.

As I was learning Spanish, people would sometimes correct me on certain phrases. For example, the other day I said:

“Es difícil de caminar con estos zapatos” -> This is wrong. I should have said “Es difícil caminar con estos zapatos” (without the “de”). For those of you who are learning Spanish and want more information on this particular mistake, please read this page.

In this case, I added this phrase to the MosaLingua application. MosaLingua has a feature that allows users to add their own flashcards to memorize.

I can assure you that, after three or four review sessions, I was no longer making that mistake!

Mistakes happen all the time

It’s unrealistic to want to avoid making mistakes in a foreign language: it’s impossible to master and know everything. Think about your mother tongue! It’s possible to make mistakes when writing, but it’s also possible to be unfamiliar with a particular word or to misuse a phrase…

Mistakes are commonplace when it comes to expressing ourselves, and we hardly pay any attention to them in our own language. We know that our level in our mother tongue will never be called into question by those we’re talking to! The same applies to foreign languages. Making mistakes is part of learning, but it’s also part of everyday life. And that’s okay! It’s how we learn. The best thing to work on is learning to ask for help and correction. Your progress will be all the more meteoric.

Get past the fear of making mistakes in a foreign language

Expressing yourself for the first time in a new language can be frightening for many of us, and understandably so! The first fear is of being judged by others: “What will they think of me?” “They’ll laugh at me if I make mistakes,” “I’ll look stupid,” and a whole host of other questions that prevent us from daring to express ourselves. Don’t worry: these fears are very common and are a sign that you want to do the right thing. But have you ever heard the expression “Done is better than perfect”? It applies to this situation! When your expectations for yourself are too high, chances are you’ll never dare take the plunge. Free yourself from the gaze of others!

There’s even a good chance that the people you talk with will be an excellent learning resource, rather than uncompromising judges. They’ll help you spot your mistakes and correct them. They’re not a jury, and they won’t expect you to deliver flawless speech! And we’re sure that your audience will admire your self-confidence and the fact that you’ve dared to put yourself out there.

Still hesitating? Here are a few tips to overcome your fear:

  • Learn at your own pace, starting with written messages if that reassures you.
  • Find a language partner.
  • Prepare your first conversations with ready-made phrases.
  • Think of a few topics of conversation and prepare your vocabulary in advance.

The important thing is to be understood

Going on a trip to a foreign country with just a handle on the basics of politeness and asking for directions? That’s already better than many tourists! If you can manage to make yourself understood and understand in return, that’s the main thing. Then you’ll improve bit by bit. It doesn’t matter if you misuse grammar or parts of speech at first. Native speakers will often be delighted to see you learning their language.

Make short, simple sentences that you’re sure you’ll be able to formulate and pronounce. You’ll see that by making yourself easily understood, you’ll gain confidence and dare to express yourself more and more (and better and better). Don’t try to form long, complex sentences, as you risk losing yourself and your interlocutors. Prioritize vocabulary and formulas you’ve already mastered.

At MosaLingua, we advocate learning useful vocabulary before anything else. There’s no point in knowing how to conjugate a verb in every tense if you don’t know enough vocabulary to cope with everyday situations. For example, our method is based on the 80/20 rule, better known as Pareto’s law: you’ll use only 20% of your knowledge of a language 80% of the time! Concentrate on the essentials.

Practice your pronunciation

Aside from vocabulary, if there’s one exercise you need to practice first, it’s pronunciation. Good pronunciation does 50% of the work in a conversation! If you make too many pronunciation mistakes in a foreign language, you run the risk of being misunderstood. Sometimes, despite your interlocutor’s best efforts! A simple, well-pronounced sentence is better than a long, incomprehensible speech.

Our advice: practice pronouncing and repeating useful vocabulary out loud. Did you know, for example, that approximately 1,500 well-chosen words are enough to express yourself in a given language? 1,500 words is the equivalent of 3 months’ training with MosaLingua, at a rate of 10 minutes a day. That’s certainly within your reach!

Yes, it’s time to get started! Find a partner to talk to and practice with! And don’t forget to ask for your mistakes to be corrected. You’ll see that you’ll start making rapid progress. Good luck!

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