How to make mistakes

At any point in language learning, we have what I would call a “gut meter” based on patterns or word usages we’ve seen before and how often.

This “gut meter” is what allows us to avoid mistakes based on “feel” without having to consult hundreds of grammar rules and linguistic jargon. It is also constantly evolving. For example, a native English speaker looked at me like I was crazy when I pronounced “forehead” as “fore-id” simply because it was unfamiliar.

So if you feel like you’re stuck at a certain stage eg, 私は元気です, etc., I would say it might be a good time to experiment. Even 15 years in, I like to get out of my comfort zone and try to use words and patterns that I’m not too sure are correct. Being on the internet all the time is probably not a good influence either. LOL

The important thing to realize is that language is evolutionary so you don’t want to make up random nonsense out of thin air (unless I guess poetry?). So I try to base things on other stuff I’ve seen before but also get creative and have some fun with it. So it’s really important to keep that input flowing. Even in our native language, writing and speaking styles can change based on what we read and hear. Especially for language learners, input is essential for seeing and getting accustomed to a large number of new concepts and vocabulary to enrich a nascent repertoire (see what I did there?).

The last perhaps most important part is to get feedback so that you can keep your “gut meter” calibrated. You don’t want to get used to your own mistakes and weird grammar and start thinking that saying “私は” every time is normal. Basically a sanity check with the rest of the world is always a must.

  1. Get more input
  2. Experiment with input
  3. Get corrections

I’d like to say I’m some sort of Japanese Master and I never make mistakes but of course, only a delusional and arrogant fool would claim mastery of any language (unless you have a Nobel prize in literature, I guess).

We all make mistakes and in this case, it’s not a bad thing at all. So if you see me make a mistake, shoot me a comment cause I definitely ain’t embarrassed about them (just don’t bring up that パンツ vs pants episode…)


7 thoughts on “How to make mistakes

  1. “Basically a sanity check with the rest of world is always a must.”
    You forgot the “the” (the rest of THE world). Thanks for the vote of confidence!

  2. Hello, my name is Peter.
    I am currently doing a begginer japanese course and I looked through your grammar guide. I think it’s really good and enjoyable and I wanted to ask you, if I could use it as a guide for teaching (not even sure, if you have to ask for that….)?

  3. I find it easy and fun to learn 漢字 and Grammar but my problem is, I don’t revamp what I learned. After I “learn” something, I repeat it a few times and never revamp it ever again. And slowly in time I start forgetting it. So why don’t I simply go and just revamp than? Because I get bored thanks to my stupid emotions! Almost all of the time, I stop in the middle of my revamping! Because of this I accidentally mixed the いる and the たい forms up! I wish I could do something about it…

  4. Hi there!
    Have you still learned Japanese? I’m from Japan and learning English.
    When I was searching something on the internet to study,I found this blog.
    You’re so studious learning Japanese so I’m moved so much.
    I’m just studying English but not good at it but let’s do our best and enjoy together!:)

    kana from Kumamoto

  5. Hi~First, thank you sooooooo much for all the great work, I really don’t know what else a person can give back to the community (what community?language-learning in general). I really enjoyed your grammar guide and blog, I am myself a teacher, I am teaching English in China, and learning Japanese (BTW, tell you guys, it feels so good to break down a language by your own, just like breaking down a criminal through a long-night hard-sitting interrogation, I mean, I enjoy learning language just like how much I enjoy witnessing justice to be done).

    In my class my students (most of them are adults) are scared to make any mistakes (partly due to face-saving, I guess), but sometimes I think their mistakes (not grammatically wrong, just not the idea they initially wanted to express) are really fun to look into, like”My friend is cheap”(this in some cases, might be so true), and “I brush my hair with my dog”(just picture it, how cute!).

    I think people are afraid of making mistakes, because the way we “brand” mistake is harsh, we don’t want to get in line with it, but truly, to master another language is like to master another comprehension system, you will deepen your understanding towards everything (or maybe just me?), and of course, you will see mistakes in another light. I try my best not to say “it’s wrong” in class, I will say “maybe this is a better way to put it” instead, and I know maybe in a certain scenario, they are probably right; on the other hand(where is the first hand?), it is also good to rethink/question the so-called right way of saying something, like(from the top of my head)“ women come in all sizes and shapes”(this sentence gives me zero emotional attachment on the word WOMEN, but I am fine with it, I don’t want to protest about it), another one, “you can’t really go wrong with it” (I mean really?! People can go really really wrong about anything, if you follow the weird news column! OR the president of…) which is just inspiring, at this point, I think I lost my train of thought, let’s wrap it up, I said that on your Youtube channel before, and I will say it again, you’re amazing. Thank you so much, and have a nice day~

    A letter from Russia with LOVE, haha, kidding, China~

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