An American musician named John Powell once said: “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” We know that mistakes can be such an awkward part of learning anything in life, and it can be especially tricky when it comes to learning a new language. But it’s OK! Even advanced learners make mistakes. The important thing is to address the mistake, embrace it, and then learn from it.
WHY MISTAKES MATTER
Imagine you’re talking to a person and you realize they have spinach in their teeth 😮 That’s so awkward! Right? You’d want to let them know about the spinach without offending or embarrassing them, but also because it’s the right thing to do.
The same idea applies to language. If you make a mistake in front of others, don’t be offended if someone points it out to you. It’s great to have people around you who want to see you improve! Making mistakes can make us feel shy and vulnerable, especially when we’re learning a new language and don’t feel 100% confident speaking it yet. You should use that energy to embrace your mistake, turn it around, and make it a teaching moment. Once you practice and correct it, it’s very likely you will not make the same mistake again!
Here is a great list of super common mistakes that you might be making. Afterwards, check out our video lesson below to hear these mistakes and learn how to correct them!
THE TOP 13 MISTAKES ENGLISH LEARNERS MAKE
NEXT MONDAY: Imagine that you’re making plans with a friend. You agree to meet for coffee, and your friend asks you what day would work for you. “How about on next Monday?” No! That’s incorrect. You can say either “How about next Monday?” or “How about on Monday?,” but you cannot use both!
IN LAST JULY: Similarly to #1, you can only choose one of these! You can say “in July” or “last July,” but you cannot mix both. You can use in when referring to a year, like “in 2003,” and you can use last in “last week,” “last month,” and “last year.”
3. NATIVE AMERICAN ≠ NATIVE SPEAKER: Native Americans are the people who first lived in North America, way before European settlers arrived on this continent. A Native American is not someone whose mother tongue or native language is American English. It’s actually a whole other group of people! The correct term for what you’d like to become, as an awesome English student, is native English speaker 🙂
4. LEGENDS ≠ SUBTITLES: We hope you’ve been practicing your English skills by watching movies in English. It’s such a fun way to learn! However, if you need a visual text guide to help you catch all those words that you might not understand, you should see if the movie has subtitles. Portuguese speakers, especially might ask for the “legends” (legendas in Portuguese), which is incorrect. Instead, a legend is usually a person who is looked up to, or a hero, or an epic story that is passed down through generations.
5. DON’T SKIP WORDS! For example, if you want to ask someone where they’re from, don’t ask: “Where from?” You’re skipping, or leaving out, some important words there! The correct way to ask would be: “Where are you from?” Native English speakers might sound like they’re only saying “where from,” but that’s because we’re emphasizing the stress words, and might be speaking quickly.
S GOD: We love seeing your positive comments on our lessons and videos, and we appreciate these nice words! However, they are NOT correct. The correct way to say this phrase is: “Thank God!” Another way to say this (in perhaps a less religious sense, if you would prefer) would be: “Thank goodness!”
7. TEACHER IS NOT A TITLE! Gabby is a great teacher, and we know how much you enjoy interacting with her! However, when addressing a teacher, you should instead address them by their name. For example: in a more formal situation, you would address a teacher by their last name, i.e. Mr. Smith or Mrs. Smith. In some cases, women might prefer Miss Smith (if they are unmarried), or Ms. Smith, which is a general form of addressing women and which does not reflect their marital status. In a less formal setting, like what we do here at Go Natural English, you could refer to your teacher here as Gabby 🙂
8. MA’AM OR MADAM: This is most commonly used as a sign of respect for much older women, particularly in the South. You should only be using words like ma’am or madam in very formal situations, or with your elders.
9. EXPLAIN THIS TO ME: When you would like to have something explained better, you would not ask: “Explain me this.” That is incorrect! The correct way would be to say: “Explain this to me” or “Explain it to me.”
10. ASK ME: Don’t say “Ask to me” or “Ask to him/her.” We simply say: ask me, ask him/her, ask them, ask Gabby!
11. FUNNY ≠ FUN: Funny is something that makes you laugh or is comical (ha ha ha!). Something fun is something you enjoy doing, that makes you happy, but you’re not necessarily laughing.
12. I HAVEN’T + NOUN: Saying things like “I haven’t the money,” or “I haven’t the time,” are technically correct phrases, but they are antiquated. These are very old ways of saying “I don’t have the money,” or “I don’t have the time.” You might hear the older versions in countries like the U.K., but you will likely never hear them in the U.S. You would, however, see “haven’t” used in front of a verb in the past participle, like: “I haven’t studied today.”
13. CHANGE WORD ORDER FOR QUESTIONS: We’ve been asked: “When you will start the new Go Natural English course?” a few times! That is an incorrect question. The correct way to ask would be: “When will you start the new Go Natural English course?” Subject + verb is the sentence structure you’d use for a statement. You need to invert it when you ask a question like this! (Also, if you like to find out when the next course offerings will be available, please sign up for our emails here!).