A recurring problem that I experience with students I teach is a reluctance to speak if their grammar isn’t perfect. I have also heard this same complaint from some of my students online.
This problem of grammar perfection is much worse with higher level students. They understand more of the English grammar and how it all works together in a sentence, and they are scared to death to make a grammar mistake.
Listen to me! Speak more and don’t worry about your possible mistakes! Everyone makes grammar mistakes while speaking, even me.
Speaking conversational English is the goal of so many students, and they also want to be fluent in the language. But you simply cannot let the fear of making a little mistake get in the way of your speaking. Conversational English is all about communicating. If you understand my questions and I can understand your responses, then we are communicating. In English!
We Learn From Our Mistakes
Many students don’t wish to speak out loud in class because they are afraid of making a mistake. They don’t want to pronounce a word wrong. But I ask this question…if you don’t try, how will you ever be sure of how to make it better? How do you correct an error if you don’t let someone know how you might say it? I often tell my students that they may know the answer and need a slight adjustment of pronunciation or meaning. But I won’t know how or what they’re thinking if it just stays inside of their head. I have to hear it or see it to possibly help them correct it.
Most of the time, conversation is just basic communicating between people sharing the same language. Your knowledge of grammar doesn’t make you any more qualified to tell me what you just ate for dinner. Will you make a mistake? Maybe. But I will still understand what you are saying to me. And if you feel comfortable with me as your teacher, or your friend, then ask if you made a mistake. Asking for corrections makes your conversation partner feel more at ease to share possible improvements. You must have those converations, as many as possible. Get talking!
Focus on learning how to engage in basic conversation, and then increase the difficulty of the language and the topics to challenge yourself. Once you are more at ease with speaking aloud in English, then slowly pay attention to the grammar to possibly make it smoother and more grammatically correct. Start with the basics and then progress from there, slowly and steadily with plenty of practice.
Remember, written and spoken English are often very different. We will discuss the specifics needed in written English, and academic English, in another blog post very soon.