How do you feel when you are told you have made a mistake? Bad, sorry, ashamed, guilty, unconfident? I’m guessing that ‘good’ is not a feeling that goes with making a mistake.
How do you feel when you are told you have made a mistake in English (or another language you are learning)? Bad, sorry, ashamed, guilty, unconfident? or good and thankful? I`m guessing at first you feel bad, but later, maybe much later, you feel better and thankful.
Here are some reasons that I won’t correct your mistakes.
- It’s not important. If you say “I went to shopping” instead of “I went shopping”, it’s not really important because a lot of learners make the same mistake, and the meaning is the same.
- It’s just a slip. I know you know this really, but maybe you are tired or nervous. Next time you will get it right.
- I want to know your thoughts not your grammar ability. If you’re telling me your mum is in hospital and very sick, I won’t correct your ability to say this in English. Your mum’s condition and your feelings are more important.
- I want you to communicate. You are learning English to talk to other people, right? So let’s talk.
- It’s really difficult to explain. Does this sound lazy? Let me explain; for example for beginners, it is very hard to explain why something is wrong or what is correct sometimes. For example with future perfect: “By this time next week, I will have been there for four days” is difficult to explain unless you know about present perfect, and can understand the perspective of looking into the future which is already past.
- Your reaction. Do you like being corrected? No one really likes being corrected, especially when they think they are correct, and it does effect your confidence. Students that were happily speaking to me, suddenly stop, get tongue-tied and will hardly speak again if I correct them on the spot.
- I’m saving it for later. Often there isn’t time in the class to go over corrections, so I will send them as feedback in a message later, or raise it in another class.
When I will correct you
- When I don’t understand. Sometimes you might not notice, but I’ll ask a question to clarify your meaning. If you say `I go to shopping` I might ask `When will you go shopping?` and often the correct answer comes back `I went yesterday`. So I know you know went is the past form of go.
- When I know you know. Sometimes you might see me frowning, you’ve made a mistake but I know you know this, so I will signal with my face that there was an error somewhere.
- When you’ve said something rude, bad or impolite, weird or with another meaning than you intend. Sometimes this is a cultural difference, sometimes it’s lack of awareness. Students who say `please give me it` get corrected, because although it’s correct English, it is too blunt for English speakers. Say `Can I have one please` instead.
- When you use non-English words. There are so many foreign words in English, and so many English words in other languages sometimes it’s tempting to use the word in your language but with English pronunciation. Sometimes it works but there are lots of `false friends` where the word is similar but has a different meaning.
So, what do you think? Should a teacher correct every mistake? Do learners need to have every mistake corrected? Let me know below.