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Ridiculously Unavoidable English Errors Made By the Majority of ESL Students

By Daniel, published on 11/04/2019 We Love Prof - AU > Languages > ESOL (English) > The Top Frequent Errors To Avoid In English!

“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” -Albert Einstein

If you are a brave individual who has recently jumped into learning English, you are to be commended! Maybe you have signed up to an English as a Second Language (ESOL) course, a foreign language program for language development, or have joined other English language learners in a classroom setting with a professional English tutor who has accreditation to teach English.

Today there is more second language English speakers than there are first language English speakers. The English language has risen to attain the status of the world’s universal tongue and is used in the business industry, the travel industry, and in social media communities online.

For many students, English language development is an instructional experience that is not just a hobby but rather a way to accept acquire excellent literacy skills to further opportunities such as better employment, the possibility for to attend an international school (if you want to be an international student), and access to enroll at some of the best universities in the world.

Also, students learning English are more likely to access multilingual and multicultural opportunities which prepare students for cross-cultural interaction that is so prevalent in today’s world. 

For teachers, the popularity of English has created an array of teaching English opportunities. It is important to note that many ESL teaching companies and programmes hire professional English tutors who possess training certificates such as the TEFL, TESL, or TESOL. At ESL schools, native English speakers are usually sought after to conduct language instruction classes. However, individuals who have successfully mastered English as a second language may also be considered to teach.

Many believe that learning English is a piece of cake in comparison to other languages. Nevertheless, like all foreign tongues, acquiring the basics of English requires dedication, practice and focus since English contains many inconsistencies.

It is important to state that for whatever reason you are learning English, structured classes are central to your success and language proficiency. 

Nevertheless, when attending your ESOL English language programme focus on correctly learning English to be aware of the typical mistakes that tend to be made by other students who are also studying ESL to avoid discouragement and learn effectively. 

A thorough comprehension of the English language includes speaking skills, listening skills, pronunciation, and reading and writing; by mastering these aspects, students acquire English proficiency. It is important to state that English teaching strategies that focus on increasing your knowledge and avoiding common mistakes take you one step closer to being bilingual.

Whether you are a novice or an experienced English learner, it is critical to remember that second language acquisition cannot be mastered unless you dedicate yourself to a diverse education programme that features a wide variety of successful teaching techniques for non native speakers.

The primary goal of any ESL student should be to do their best and try to avoid mistakes; this continuous development will enrich your language skills and set you a path of success!

A Few Reasons Why Language Students Make Mistakes

not wanting to speak English Many students are shy and afraid to express themselves which results in even more mistakes. (Source: pixabay)

As was previously stated, learning a new language is not without its difficulties. Making mistakes and feeling frustrated at times are all part of the learning process. The following are some of the primary reasons why pupils learning a foreign tongue make errors:

  • Not everyone was born a chatterbox; some are afraid to express themselves since they are nervous and shy individuals. Also, the fear of making mistakes causes students to make more mistakes.
  • For those who have multiple languages under their belt, it is a common issue to mix up various foreign tongues when trying to acquire fluency in English.
  • Who likes grammar? You are not alone if you complete despise English grammar. The irregularities of English grammar and the vast amount of vocabulary are some of the primary causes of mistakes amongst ESL students.
  • Learning how to conjugate verbs was not done effectively in the beginning, and now the student experiences major mistakes when writing.
  • I’m sure you’ve all heard the classic and accurate statement, practice makes perfect; regular practice is essential to avoid mistakes and lack of interest. Many students do not view English language practice as a priority and consequently suffer various errors while speaking, reading, and writing.
  • When learning a new language speaking is one of the hardest parts, and since the English language is irregular, there are many unique ways to pronounce certain words that have no reasonable explanation and memorisation is the only solution; ESL students often suffer many pronunciation mistakes.

The previously mentioned reasons are only a few of the many contributing factors of why ESL students make mistakes. Nevertheless, it is critical to remember that learning a foreign language takes true dedication as you effectively reprogram your brain to communicate in a new way.

The foundation for your success is focus, dedication and determination to the task. Remember learning English can be loads of fun and making mistakes is part of the learning process. By having a humble attitude, you will look back on your mistakes and laugh!

How You Should Feel About Making Mistakes In English

Do you have a friend who is perfect, always does things correctly, and never makes a mistakes? 

The overwhelming majority of individuals will answer no to the previously posed question. Making mistakes is a normal part of life that cannot be avoided. Although we hate and often regret the errors we make, the reality is that through the mistakes that we make we can learn and grow stronger.

Whenever we learn anything new in life from riding a bike to acquiring a foreign tongue, we are likely to make mistakes. Nevertheless, it is not important how many mistakes you make but your attitude to those mistakes.

Remember that making mistakes cannot be changed but your attitude towards them can be adjusted.

A positive attitude is vital when learning a new language and mistakes should be viewed as feedback to tell you to try again. Therefore, instead of feeling discouraged and feeling as if you’ve failed yourself focus on rectifying your error and not letting it happen again.

It is important to state that no one likes a sore loser, consequently, admit your errors, take note of them, learn and try again.

To do well with learning new languages, put your pride aside and have fun with every aspect of the learning experience. With a progressive and mature attitude, you will find yourself wishing for more errors as each one will bring you closer to fluency. Be humble and understand that no one is perfect, so you are going to make some mistakes laugh it off and continue learning.

Let’s take a look at the following common mistakes that ESL learners make about the English language.

Irregular Verbs Mistakes

learning new language concepts Irregular verbs need to be practised and memorised to be remembered and used effectively. (Source: pixabay)

To have, to be, to say, to go, to get, to make, to come, to want… tired of English verbs yet? 

Whether you are learning or have learnt your verbs in at primary or secondary school, college, via tutoring programmes, or a business English course, verbs are the structure of the English language and are essential to comprehension. Also, they are vital in building strong sentences that are a pleasure to read.

Furthermore, it is important to state, that regular verbs in English are much more straightforward than irregular verbs and students often make more mistakes when reviewing the latter.

Grammar, conjugation and vocabulary all come together to make the perfect sentence; therefore, since there are various ingredients needed it can be easy to make an error especially when you consider that there are hundreds of verbs with thousands of conjugations.

Even the most gifted students struggle to remember a grand majority of the verb conjugations. To avoid confusion and help students succeed from the beginning the following are some examples of easy irregular verb mistakes that could be made:

  • Was/Were, Been (To Be),
  • Awake / Awoke / Awoken (To Wake),
  • Become / Became / Become (To Be),
  • Blow / Blew / Blown (To Blow),
  • Breed / Bred / Bred, (To Breed)
  • Cast / Cast / Cast (Cast / Distribute (To Cast).

The main issue with irregular verbs is that they must be learnt one-by-one since no rule can be worked out as is the case with regular verbs; this is off-putting when you find out that there are more than 200 irregular verbs in the English language and, of course, it is time-consuming.

We are all busy people who rarely find the time to sit down and study; however, when studying English, it is essential to have goals especially when considering irregular verbs. For example, why not make it your goal to review three irregular verbs per week? After a year over 150 irregular verbs will be mastered!

In conclusion, since there are so many irregular verbs, it is critical to focus on mastering them before making mistakes in them; everything tells us that irregular verbs are useful to start to practice to avoid making mistakes.

Grammar Mistakes

I know we have all studied grammar for years in primary or secondary school; however, what is grammar?

The proper definition of grammar is how words are put together to form correct sentences. 

English grammar is many ESL students worst nightmare. Nevertheless, grammar is essential and must be carefully studied to speak and write English correctly.

The following are two examples of English grammar that are worthy of consideration:

  1. It’s or Its –
    1. ‘It’s’ with an apostrophe is a contraction of ‘It is’,
    2. Its’ is how you express possession as in, ‘its mine’.
  2. Watch vs Look vs See –
    1. Watch is used to look at something moving.
    2. Look is used to stare at something directly.
    3. See is used to see something that you weren’t looking for but came into your line of vision.

Since English grammar is quite varied, the previously mentioned examples are only some of the most common mistakes ESL learners make when speaking or writing English.

Speaking Mistakes

“If you find yourself saying “But I can’t speak English…” try adding the word “yet.” -Jane Revell & Susan Norman

Correctly speaking English takes time and effort but is possible. Nevertheless, it is essential to state that speaking mistakes can be frustrating and are a great source of discouragement for new ESL learners.

Students must remain positive and remember should know that if you have given the right context, you will still be understood by native speakers. 

It is helpful to listen carefully to native speakers and how they reply to you to get some clues about correct sentence structure, verb tenses, and vocabulary.

The following are some of the most common speaking mistakes experienced by students learning English as a second or third language:

  1. Future tense –
    1. The future tense can only be used to talk about the future. For example, you cannot say I will go shopping yesterday since yesterday is a word used to describe the past.
  2. Loan or borrow –
    1. The word ‘loan’ is used to say that you are temporarily giving something to another individual or public institution.
    2. On the other hand, ‘borrow’ is used to say that you would like to take something temporarily from another person or institute.
  3. Casual or formal English –
    1. Informal English is best saved for friends and family, g. Hey you! How’s it going?
    2. Formal English should be used to show respect and proper etiquette when speaking to someone older than you or in an official setting g. Good evening sir, it is a pleasure to meet you.

Writing Mistakes

While many ESL students do not have the goal of writing best-selling books, effectively writing English is an essential aspect of the learning process that all pupils should focus on to succeed.

Since English is an irregular language with no rhyme or reason at times, writing sentences or short texts at the beginning of language acquisition is not without its many mistakes.

Without further ado, the following are some examples of writing mistakes that new ESL students struggle to grasp:

  1. Academic English or Casual English –
    1. Never use abbreviations in formal or academic writing; abbreviations should be used sparingly in writing texts.
  2. Capitals –
    1. Names, people, places, and sometimes certain things should be capitalised.
    2. The pronoun of I should always be capitalised.
    3. The first letter of your sentence should be capitalised.

The previously mentioned mistakes that ESOL students commonly make are only a few of the ones observed, and since every learner is unique, one person may experience distinct writing mistakes that another learner may not struggle with grasping.

Listening Mistakes

closely listening to others Closely listening to native speakers in person, on TV, in movies, and the radio will help ESL students recognise new words more rapidly. (Source: pixabay)

Many individuals claim that they understand a foreign tongue but cannot speak it without making a complete fool of themselves.

We often think that we speak a language perfectly in our head but when it comes time to speak to a native speaker they don’t understand anything we just said!

While it is true that a foreign language can be understood by listening to music and watching television shows or movies, there are many nuances of the English language that cannot be correctly understood without training from a professional tutor or educator.

For example, the English language has many words that sound the same but have distinct meanings; these are known as homonyms. Since homonyms are varied, they are separated into two different sections: homographs and homophones.

Therefore, to avoid confusion from the start, the following are some of the most commonly made listening mistakes experienced by ESOL newbies that are either homographs or homophones:

  1. Their, there, and they’re –
  1. ‘Their’ is a possessive, referring to something that belongs to them. Ex: That is their couch.
  2. ‘There’ refers to where something is located. Ex: The dog is over there.
  3. ‘They’re’ a contraction of the words ‘they’ with ‘are’ or ‘were’. Ex: They’re younger than him.

2. Hear and here –

  1. ‘Hear’ refers to the sense of hearing, where we use our ears to listen. Ex: I hear the birds singing.
  2. ‘Here’ makes reference to the location of a person, place, or thing. Ex: The bookstore is right here.

3. Two, to, and too –

  1. ‘Two’ is the number 2 spelled out. Ex: I have two cats.
  2. ‘To’ is a preposition as in coming or going to a place. Ex: I went to the cinema yesterday.
  3. ‘Too’ is an adverb that means in addition to, or also. Ex: I want to go to Manchester too.

4. Accept and except –

  1. ‘Accept’ is a verb that means to receive something.
  2. ‘Except’ is a preposition that means something is to be excluded.

While the four previously mentioned examples are only a few of the distinct homonyms that new ESL confuse when listening to English natives speak, there are many more homophones and homographs that make the English language deliciously confusing!

Helpful Tips to Avoid Embarrassing ESOL Mistakes

While learning a new language, it is indispensable to accept helpful tips from qualified educators or native speakers to effectively acquire the fundamentals and avoid getting discouraged from too many mistakes.

Therefore, without further ado, the following are novice mistakes that need to be avoided like the plague when studying English as a second language:

  • Viewing the language learning experience as a task: many students begin to learn English without any significant interest or passion for learning and only as a means to an end. They do not realise that the best way to study English is to regard the learning experience as a thrilling experience to unlock previously unattainable opportunities. By viewing ESL learning as a way to learn more about new cultures and understanding movies, television shows, or famous songs, you, the learner, will become more heavily involved in lessons.
  • Underestimating listening skills: to be able to successfully engage in conversations, understanding what people say is vital. Many learners neglect to focus on essential listening exercises and resort to barely relevant comprehension questions. ESL students must remember that listening must be a daily exercise through podcasts, youtube videos, news broadcasts, TV shows, and the radio.
  • Learning too much vocabulary: did you know that in the majority of languages only a few hundred words are used over and over again to be adequately understood? For example, in the English language, only about 300 words are needed to get by in most situations. Therefore, it is pointless in the beginning to solely focus on learning hundreds of words that will not be remembered because they are not necessary for daily conversation.

The previously mentioned tips are only some of the basic tips required to truly succeed and avoid detrimental mistakes at the beginning of ESL learning.

Whether you are a beginner, intermediate, or advanced in English, the English language is full of little details and eccentricities that must be mastered to progress effectively and acquire proficiency. Accepting the fact that the English language is irregular and mistakes are bound to be made are all part of the learning process; humility and a positive attitude are indispensable.

ESL students need to focus on spending a little time every day mastering the basics of English to avoid mistakes that could hinder their progress. 

In conclusion, it is important to state that learning a new language unlocks the keys to various opportunities and since English is one of the world’s most commonly spoken tongues, it’s a great start!

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