Monday’s Study Corner with Lisa: How can I stop making mistakes when I speak?

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NEW! Lisa’s weekly tips provide answers to the most common student questions.

THIS WEEK – How can I stop making mistakes when I speak?

In the past, my students have often said to me, “I know the correct grammar but when I speak I always forget to use it. How can I become a more accurate speaker?”

The answer, in my experience, is simple. Don’t expect everything to be perfect immediately. You wouldn’t need to go to school if it was. Instead, just like any other difficult task, break it down into small steps. Don’t try to self correct everything you say; choose just one mistake that you often make and promise yourself to self-correct every time you make it. This way, you will completely erase one mistake at a time and soon be able to speak much more accurately.

For example you know that you make the following three mistakes:

  1. Prepositions
    You always say “depends of” instead of “depends on”
  2. Word order with Adverbs
    You  keep saying “I go always” instead of “I always go”
  3. Pronunciation of –ed endings
    You pronounce two syllables “talk-/id/” instead of one syllable “talk/t”

Decide first that you are going to focus on prepositions. Ask all your friends, your homestay family and your teacher to correct you every time you make a preposition mistake. Most importantly correct yourself every time you make a preposition mistake. You must do this EVERY TIME. If you do, you will soon find that being corrected and correcting yourself is so annoying that you start correcting yourself BEFORE you make the mistake. And then, after a week or so, you won’t even need to self-correct; you will automatically use the right preposition.

Then, and only then you can move onto number 2 – Word order with Adverbs. Do exactly the same thing. Be ruthless and disciplined. Correct yourself EVERY TIME and soon you will naturally start to use adverbs correctly. Now you’re ready to go onto number 3.

Anything worth learning takes time and dedication. If you were learning to cook you would start with one recipe (for example for pastry) and then go onto another (for example for bread). You can’t perfect everything at once. It’s the same with English.

So to summarise this week’s Tip – Self-correct your mistakes one at a time and step-by-step to improve the accuracy of your spoken English.

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