Dealing With Criticism When Making Mistakes in English

By Robby

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Video Transcript Below:

Hi guys, hello my dear fellow foreign English speakers!

It’s Robby here and welcome back to English Harmony video blog. In today’s video we’re going to discuss something that I’ve touched upon many times before, namely – making mistakes when speaking in English.

And before I actually give you a full account of what happened to me the other day at the college, let me just remind you what the official English Harmony stance in relation to the whole making mistakes thing is.

So the bottom line is the following.

You don’t have to be freaking out over making mistakes. You don’t have to make sure you don’t make a single mistake when speaking because guess what? More often than not, you will end up making more mistakes than before, just because you keep analyzing your speech, so it’s some sort of a reverse psychology.

The more you’re trying to make sure you don’t make any mistakes, the more mistakes you actually end up making. So what you have to do is give your fluency free reign and just take a mental note of any mistakes that you might be making, just to correct yourself at a later stage and learn from your mistakes. That’s the intelligent approach and that’s pretty much the only approach that works, right?

So here’s what happened to me the other day at the college. For those who are not aware, I’m spending my days away at a college because I’m studying currently to become a PC maintenance and networking engineer.

My Experience At The College

So I was walking out with one of the guys for our 15 minute break. You see we get those 15 minute breaks quite often during the day simply because we’re staring at the monitor for the most part and it’s not healthy for your eyes. It’s causing unnecessary strain. So every couple of hours or actually less than that, maybe 90 minutes we get a 15 minute break.

So I was walking out and somehow we got talking about cycling… Oh yeah, here is the reason why we were talking about cycling. The guy had had an accident a few weeks ago and he actually suffered terrible injuries. He fell off the bike and he broke his arm. Well, it wasn’t a break, it was a fracture, so basically he fractured his arm and he suffered terrible bruising on his face and everything and basically it was really bad.

And we got talking about cycling somehow and I asked him the following question: “What’s the longest you’ve ever cycled?” Where I was coming from was “What’s the longest distance?” Because in English you can refer to both time and distance with a word “long”, right? It takes you a long time to do something and it’s a long distance, right?

So I was asking this question “What’s the longest you’ve every cycled?” and what he responded with went something along the following lines: “Let me correct your English” or “I will forgive you for your bad English this time around.” Something along those lines.

So – My English is Really Bad Just Because I Asked The Wrong Question?

I don’t remember the exact words but basically he implied that my English wasn’t up to scratch just because I asked the question the following way “What’s the longest you’ve ever cycled?” And then he went on to tell me that the proper question would be “What’s the furthest you’ve ever cycled?”

And here’s the thing. Yes, I’m not a native English speaker and I will probably never be able to speak just like a native English speaker. I will keep learning and improving my language for the rest of my life but probably till the day I die I won’t be speaking just like a native speaker, knowing all the ins and outs, all the intricacies of the English language, okay?

And I’m okay with that. That’s what the whole English Harmony philosophy is about as a matter of fact, right? You have to be okay with the kind of English level you have at the moment. Obviously you have to aim to improve your language but you don’t have to be beating yourself over all these imperfections that you might be still having when speaking, right?

But it’s just the way he said it “Let me correct your bad English” or something. It kind of insinuated that my English is much worse than it actually is. Obviously, he didn’t mean it that way. I am quite certain of that, right? But I felt that way. Immediately I felt quite bad about my English. Even though I know for a fact that my English is quite fluent, even though I’ve been running this blog for many years, even though I’m actually coaching my own students through the Fluency Star program and all that.

And I know for a fact that you don’t have to be listening to such criticism. Whatever people say, let it just be, just ignore that. But it’s easier said than done, right?

Sometimes You Can’t Help But to Feel Offended…

And sometimes these things just get under your skin, they irritate you. And what happened to me on that particular occasion was I became very conscious of my own speech as it oftentimes happens when you are kind of making sure that you don’t say anything wrong.

And obviously just like I told you in the beginning of this video, the moment you start doing that it has quite the opposite effect on your fluency. You can’t actually speak because you analyze every single word you’re saying.

And yeah, basically this was my experience just because he told me “I will correct your bad English” and I actually took it on board from here on out whenever I’m going to ask someone about what’s the longest distance they’ve covered, I will always use the question “What’s the furthest you’ve cycled?” “What’s the furthest you’ve ever driven?” And I know for a fact that that is the proper way of saying it in English, alright?

But basically I recorded this video just to show you guys how vulnerable we foreigners can sometimes be, okay? And even though I’m a fluency coach and I’ve been running this website and I know all the ins and outs of the mentality of  people like me and my fellow foreign English speakers, it’s still sometimes very tough to deal with all these issues, right?

So I can only imagine what people are going through when they’re actually met with very harsh and severe criticism because in my case it wasn’t really a criticism, the person just said “Let me correct your bad English” and even that hurt me. So I would imagine what you may be going through when someone tells you “listen, your English is really bad and that you should be ashamed of yourself” or something along those lines. That person can’t be possibly imagining how difficult it actually is for a foreigner to learn the English language in the first place and to make such hurtful comments is really bad form.

The Only Thing We Can Change Is – Our Attitude!

But the thing is my friends, we can’t really change the way people treat us. What we can do is change our attitude and that is the only thing we can do. So ignorance is pretty much the only weapon we have in our possession in order to defend ourselves against such criticism, even though sometimes it might not be directed towards us as criticism, we still have to kind of grow thick skin and let it go over our heads, basically ignore it.

And yeah, that’s about it my friends. That’s the message I wanted to convey to you today. And in case you’ve been going through similar experiences recently, please feel free to share them with me and others in the comments section below.

Alright my friends, thanks for watching, I’ll chat to you soon again. Bye-bye!


P.S. Would you like to find out why I’m highlighting some of the text in red? Read this article and you’ll learn why it’s so important to learn idiomatic expressions and how it will help you to improve your spoken English!

P.S.S. Are you serious about your spoken English improvement? Check out my English Harmony System HERE!

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