Do you remember when you had your first contact with a foreign language back in school? How was it for you when the teacher told you to go to the blackboard to write some sentences? Have you been confident that you wouldn’t make any mistakes? Have you been able to do everything right all the time? Probably not. Most likely you made lots of mistakes. If you got your homework back, and all you saw were red crosses, and lots of annotations telling you how it’s done right, a bad mark, and your parents yelling at you on top of that, you felt terrible. All you got to hear when making a mistake was, look at your marks, study harder, you can’t go to the party, forget watching TV, and you will stay at home during the next weekend.

Giving up

When people are making many mistakes in a short amount of time, they get discouraged, and eventually they will give up. They are not able to see what they [b]were[/b] good at up to that point. And they also loose sight of what they already were [b]able[/b] to do, to say, to write, or to read. All they are able to see is their mistakes. It also leads them to doubt about their abilities.

“What did i do wrong? I have been studying hours on end, everyday, and it didn’t get me anywhere! Everything is hard, and i can’t read a sentence straight, i don’t understand that grammar point, and i am not able to memorize all the new things i have to learn … I think, that it would be better to quit. I can’t stand that frustration any longer.”

When all they are measuring is their mistakes, being afraid to make them, because it is bad they will never be able to learn anything. It [b]is[/b] hard when you feel you put in a lot of work into learning something, and all that comes off it is failure, and you don’t seem to gain any grounds. But it is by no means a reason to give up.


Try to paint a picture for the first time, and the outcome will be anything but perfect. When you are trying to draw a human, it will be some strokes, looking more like a stick figure than anything else. Nothing that resembles a human, no anatomy, no skin, just strokes. But you don’t want to stop with some stroke figures, you want to become a skilled artist. An artist that is able to draw a beautiful portrait. Because this is the goal you have set for yourself. You want to be a second Leonardo die ser Piero da Vinci, and not someone who can just draw some lines. When it comes to language learning, the goal for most of us is reaching native like fluency. It is the same with everything we want to learn, we want to master it, and we want to become perfect in it in the end.

Making mistakes is good

You may be worried about making any mistakes even as an adult. This is because as a child you were taught that making mistakes leads to punishment. “No going out this weekend, you hear me?!” But no one has ever told you that making mistakes is actually a [b]good[/b] thing. Make as many mistakes as you can, and accept them for what they are, part of the game. No teacher will jump out of the closet to give you a bad mark, and no parent will come to punish you, when you fail to memorize words, or grammar points. And nothing bad will happen, when you are not able to solve a quiz, or an exercise, or your SRS review.

Try to …

  • have fun
  • explore new ways of learning
  • laugh about your mistakes
  • look at how far you already come
  • pat yourself on the back for everything you got right
  • enjoy the process of learning
  • ….

Don’t …

  • try to be perfect you are a human after all
  • over analyze your mistakes
  • stop moving forward because of mistakes
  • try to master everything at once
  • be too hard on yourself
  • let fear get in your way
  • ….

My thoughts

I constantly try to remind myself of what i have written in this article. That making mistakes is ok. Because it happens that i tend to stop and start doing the exercises again and again, instead of just moving on. Sometimes it also frustrates me, not being able to understand much, beyond the scope of the textbook area. I also hate to forget things, or being unable to memorize a large amount of new vocab.

But when i look at what i [b]can[/b] say, or write, or read i notice that my endeavor bears fruit. What has been hard some weeks ago is easy now. And this keeps me moving forward, no matter how many mistakes i made during exercises. For instance i fully understand the following sentence.


I can also read some lines in a 漫画 (まんが) Manga, or some sentences in other books. But there are still many things i can not understand yet. It will take time and effort, but i want to be a winner, and native like fluent. Not someone who gives up!

How are you dealing with mistakes? Let me know!

2 responses to “Mistakes

  1. This is really interesting I’m 22 years old and am just now learning this EXACT same mistakes lesson and I started learning Japanese a few months ago. We have so many things in common and your entries are so entertaining to read! I can’t wait to dive deeper into these entries!!!

  2. Welcome!

    Thanks for the compliments. Glad that you enjoy reading this blog, and I hope you will find something useful. Even a bad role-model, referring innocently to myself, is worth learning from. If only to avoid mistakes. 😉

    Regarding mistakes, just learn to accept them as what they are, and laugh about every single one if you are able to. There will come the point in time when mistakes and failures stop to happen. I sure would love to live long enough to see the day this is going to happen in my Japanese learning adventures. All I can tell you is to hang in there, and you will be rewarded for it, once things start to make sense. 🙂

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