Mistakes, mistakes! When learning a language it is impossible to avoid making mistakes once you start speaking this language to real people. And if you are like me and you hate making mistakes then this can be a real barrier to progress. I have noticed that my teacher, who is very sympathetic and encouraging with all my mistakes, doesn’t point out every single one but mostly those that are most important, and also tellingly does not correct my accent. (This is not because my Italian accent is that fantastic I assure you, but because if adult learners of a second language have their accent criticised too much this can be the final straw leading to them giving up completely!) Grammar mistakes are not too personally upsetting though. Using the wrong tense isn’t cause for too much acute embarrassment, whereas having your accent dissected would be rather more demoralising to most people.
However I have started ALMOST to love my mistakes because, if I allow them to be, they are the most incredibly effective way of improving. The key thing is to learn from them. Here’s the rub – Unfortunately this does necessitate more work!!! During my lesson my teacher takes notes for me of sentences or phrases that I have struggled with. She types them into a notepad to which we both have access. Afterwards i try to review these phrases and repeat them until they stick in my head.
as a result i have a load of random sentences in my head such as :
Mio figlio grande non voleva tornare a scuola. (My oldest son didn’t want to go back to school).
My initial mistake with this sentence was to say : Mio figlio grande non ha voluto tornare a scuola. (ie. I used the perfect tense instead of the imperfect). I suppose this conveyed the meaning but just sounded wrong!
Another mistake that I made was more annoying to me because I have made it far too many times. Which means I am not learning from it at all and that is frustrating. Whilst discussing Denmark (la Danimarca) I was attempting to say that our family visited Denmark 5 years ago. I seem to have a total block over expressing that I STAYED somewhere or VISITED a place.
Siamo stati in Danimarca 5 anni fa. ( we visited Denmark 5 years ago)
Non sono mai stata in Germania ( I have never been to Germany)
Do I have any useful advice on learning from your mistakes ? Re-reading Gabriel Wyner’s book Fluent Forever, he suggests making flash cards of the corrected versions of your mistakes and reviewing these flash cards regularly. I write down words or phrases and stick them up in my kitchen where I can’t help seeing them! The key is in the repetition. Obviously this is in conjunction with listening to the language at every opportunity to hear the words and phrases used in context, which helps you realise how unnatural your mistakes sound.
I will leave you with a useful little expression that I have struggled with remembering many times
Non pensavo! (I didn’t realise that!)