Please make mistakes!
When someone asks me what I like of Duolingo I always add to my list of positive qualities: it helps me accept I make mistakes. Because I make them often (and they are not all typos) and therefore I have to accept them as an inevitable part of my learning process. It makes me less afraid when I write and (even more important) when I try to speak the target language with native speakers. Because I make so many mistakes I know perfection is a goal for natives only. Fluency is a height I will never reach. Why wait for that paradise situation that will never come? It is now I can express myself and communicate in a new language, be it not perfectly. So DL helps to reduce the pain for my ego and to abolish a false sense of shame.
But I have to admit, some mistakes - made by me and others - are hilarious. So I once wanted to explain in English the urban structure of Amsterdam, speaking with vigour of the backsides of the city, while I meant the outskirts. So a mother took her toddler to a German gp because she thought her child had hearing problems. In her best German she said her child was doof, which is actual 'benighted'. The doctor must have given her a strange look as she should have said ' taub'.
And if you think that people at the top or in politics don't make awkward mistakes, here are some nice examples:
When a Dutch prime minister said goodbye to the king of England, who had received him in his private rooms in Buckingham Palace, he thanked his majesty for showing him his 'private parts'!
When another prime minister wanted to stress that the Dutchh are good in trade and known as smart entrepreneurs he translated literary and said: we are a country of undertakers..(where are the coffins).
And another minister said in an interview -she served her first term - that she was in her first period!
These were all educated people and the Dutch, after Swedes, are known for their knowledge of English. So who am I or you to think we can be fluent in another language than your mother tongue?
By the way what are your akward and hilarious mistakes?
Let's share them, have a good laugh and keep on learning!
This story isn't about making a particular mistake but about how not worrying about the possibilty frees you to have wide ranging conversations with a very limited vocabulary, a dictionary and a lot of goodwill.
Many years ago my husband and I were on holiday in France, staying in a small cottage with an attic floor which was occupied by the owners. .... One evening there was a terrific thunderstorm and all the electricity failed. The owner came down to our floor and asked if we'd care to join them upstairs as they had plenty of candles etc.
We went upstairs and were given food and drink, all of us sitting round the table. Neither the owner or his wife spoke any English and my husband and I spoke only very basic "school French" but we did have candles and French/English and English/French dictionaries. ...... We spent the whole evening talking interspersed every few words by "moment" or, "just a minute", followed by frantic rifling through pages until we had found the word we needed.
We were there for over 3 hours and covered every topic you could imagine from, the state of tourism in Brittany, to modern politics in both countries and even their experiences of going to school during the war. ..... We laughed and talked so much that after a very short time, we didn't notice the fact that we were using dictionaries. It was one of the most memorable evenings of my life and gave me the confidence to talk to people without caring about whether I looked foolish or not, it was in fact a pivotal evening as far as learning languages goes.
It's amazing what you can achieve with goodwill and a dictionary. :-))
As you say, a wonderful experience and yes, that is exactly what we are aiming for and to my mind shows how much our own inhibitions can hold us back if we let them. :-))
Thanks, yes it was an amazing evening, it happened over 30 years ago but it stays fresh in my mind. :-))
I was trying to describe my favorite cookie once. I said I liked them even better with "huesos" in them (bones). I should have said "nueces" (nuts) instead. All I could remember was that "ues" sound in the middle of the word :)
In a tiny little town in the Auvergne, a farmer's wife offered me some small sausages and said they were all natural. I replied, "Oh, so they're not made with preservatives," and everyone, even the 11-year old girl, nearly fell out of their chairs laughing. As soon as it had flown out of my mouth, I recalled that préservatif means something very different in French. I wouldn't be surprised if they were still laughing about this 10 years later.
In a kebab shop in France (enjoying the local cuisine, like you do!) I ordered extra fries "parce que j'ai une grosse femme", which means "because I have a fat wife", rather than saying "parce que j'ai une grosse faim", the much more normal "because I am really hungry".
In Esperanto I tried to say that I received a letter in the mail but accidentally said I had a letter up my butt.
Making mistakes is part of the learning process...Learning...actually...anything requires practice and mistakes! But I have to disagree with you about the level you believe is achievable.One can become fluent to a language.Maybe not with the perfect accent or the absolutely perfect grammar but one can become quite fluent.Perfection does not exist,not even in native speakers.How many words are there in your native language that you do not know or never heard of? At least in my language....A LOT.The thing with learning languages is learning a little bit more everyday.Looking back and saying.."Yeah,I can understand something more today than what I did yesterday!!" Learning languages is a continuous process which may take your whole lifetime...even when we talk about our native one. Concerning mistakes.It is essential to make them in order to test your proficiency you have to check every little thing you have learned.Checking equals practicing and there is no practical way you assimilate every little thing you read.Read,practice,make mistake,actually realise you did not know that part,remember next time,repeat process...;)
I think in the end we don't differ much in our views. For instance : English has over one milion words, as it so widely spoken.There is no living soul on earth who can know them all. Fluency is in my opinion not the same as being perfect.Nevertheless fluency can be a fearsome goal you think one can never reach. So I do not want to get stressed by the thought I have to be fluent before I can start actually using the language...
Of course not!For example I start actually using the language when I have seen most grammatical parts..nouns,numbers,verbs,tenses,numbers and so on.This stage is different for everyone. There's no use in stressing about fluency..it is something that is built with hours and hours of practice!
My worst blunder was in trying to discipline an 11 year old french boy. I was trying to say "Fabien, franchement, je suis furieux". (I really was mad). I could not get furieux out to save me. At about the fifth attempt, Fabien could not keep the laughter bottled up. Oh well. He got away with it. He's now an adult, and we are Facebook friends.
I once said to my mexican friend that she had beautiful hoyos (holes) instead of ojos (eyes)
The most usual mistakes that European travelers make when going to Latin America is using the word "coger" in Spanish. While it means "to take" in Spain, in most parts of Latin America it means "to have sex". Therefore, they end up saying "Voy a coger el bus", which sounds like they are going to have sex with the bus.
Omar, I gave you a lingot because I have traveled to Latin America a few times and hope I will again. I appreciate the info that might save me from embarassment in that situation. But I'm sure there will be many other possibly embarassing mistakes..
Oh. These stories above are just amazing! My German is very passive because I am just scared to speak to native speakers in real life! I don't want to make a mistake, it is one of my biggest fears :) So how to deal with this anxiety and how to overcome my fear of making mistakes? Have no idea :)
You might mention that you are trying to improve your German, or let them know you would like to be corrected and you need practice. That might break the ice. Also having a sense of humor is what helps me.
Trust me on this: people will understand the meaning and intent much better with a few poorly pronounced words in their own language than they will with a long string of words in a language foreign to them. And when they laugh, you're winning! It's sort of like a handicap in golf - you get lots of points for just trying. You only lose when you get a blank look like you will if you say nothing at all. Or worse, they could think you aloof. Nicht wahr?
I noticed most people are so kind to help you because you make an effort to speak their language (unless they are in a hurry). They mostly feel honoured you take such an interest in their language and culture. The best ones let you finish your sentences and don't interrupt youfor corrections. But they mirror your sentences like a mother does with small children, using the right words and grammar. So you get good feedback and don't feel stupid. It is a good idea to ask people to do so and to tell them you are just a beginner. Try it and you will be amazed... And see mistakes as opportunities to learn more.
I have never met anyone who didn't try to help me if I tried to speak their language, however badly I mangled it. As others have already said, the kindness and patience of people when they know you are trying is wonderful because it is not how well you speak the language but the fact that you have made the effort to try to learn it that is appreciated.
If you think about it, we all have patience with people who pay us the compliment of taking the trouble to learn our language even if their efforts are halting. I think that is particularly true when English speakers make the effort because we are notorious for expecting everyone to speak English and so, it is clear that we respect the people, their language and their culture.
Hold your nose and jump, you will get a very pleasant surprise and a lot of help and remember that you are far from alone in this fear, everyone feels nervous when they first start. :-)))
I have a friend from the Middle East who told a funny and embarassing experience when she was learning English after moving here. A church was helping her family, and there was one woman who apparently was in charge and so visited her fairly often and was very helpful. You can imagine the hurt feelings when word reached the lady that my friend had told quite a few church members that this kind lady "always smells.". Well that must have been an awkward exchange when this lady finally confronted my friend on the cruel comments. What she had been trying to say was "She's always smiling".
I agree with you completely, to learn a language you must be prepared to make mistakes, lots and lots of them. There is a famous saying variously attributed to Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw (So there's at least two mistakes, possibly three if it was someone else entirely) which goes "The man who never made a mistake, never made anything" ........ This is so true and ought to be the motto of language learners everywhere.
I would say that the thing which holds a lot of people back from even trying to learn a new language, is the overwhelming fear of making a mistake and looking foolish. ..... This is doubly true when it comes to speaking, we become tongue tied with embarrassment before we ever open our mouths and overcoming this hurdle is the key to everything.
In my experience, once you forget about getting everything 100% correct and concentrate solely on communicating somehow, you suddenly find yourself having a conversation. yes, it may well be filled with mistakes but I never met anyone who didn't try to help once they realised you were making the effort to learn their language. Likewise, wouldn't any one of us immediately help somoene learning our language.
I have been lucky with my mistakes, they have never (so far, there are bound to be more in the future) been intrinsically embarrassing but they have been funny. .... I was once having a conversation (in Italian) with an Italian friend, a middle aged woman who couldn't drive. It was winter and during the course of the conversation we got onto the subject of heating, including open woodburning fires. .... I was very confused when she told me she had a lorry and we spent some time with me getting more and more confused about why she would have a lorry. Finally, the penny dropped, she was not saying lorry (camion) but chimney (camino) I could have felt really stupid but instead we both fell about laughing about what possible uses a non driver could find for a lorry, and rather than stopping the conversationm this kept it going even longer ....Needless to say, I now know the difference ...... and yet I still manage to mix them up from time to time. :-))