Language mistakes are a natural part of learning a language.

When students make spoken or written mistakes, it is a sign that learning is happening.

Mistakes also provide essential feedback for teachers as they show if students have grasped the topic or if the teacher should do some revision or reinforcement on the topic in subsequent lessons.

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Types of Mistakes and Reasons

There are different types of mistakes: grammatical (tense, parts of speech, etc.), syntactical (sentence structure), lexical (vocabulary), phonological (sounds), and morphological (word form). Students make mistakes for several reasons. Here are some possibilities:

The word or grammatical pattern is:

  • different from their native language
  • similar to their native language but not exactly the same (L1 Interference)
  • an exception to the rule

Here are other possible reasons:

  • The students do not know the word, so they guess (ignorance)
  • The students do not understand the rule or know it partially (incomplete learning)
  • They overgeneralize the rule they have learned in previous lessons

There are many different ways of correcting students’ mistakes, which will be discussed in other posts. In this article, we want to introduce a collaborative learning technique for correcting language mistakes.

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Correcting Language Mistakes

It is a good idea to have students reflect on the type of mistakes they make. ‘Identifying my own mistakes’ is a learning strategy that is easier to implement at intermediate levels and above.

In order to make this more communicative and interactive, get them to discuss the mistakes in pairs or groups.

For example, in a speaking lesson, the teacher can take notes of the mistakes the students have made while speaking.

At the end of the speaking activity, the teacher can write the list above on the board and the mistakes they made so that they can identify the type of mistake and see why they think they made it. (Is it because they forgot the grammatical rule, they do not know it, or they are confused with a similar meaning of a word?)

This is a great opportunity to reflect on their learning process and remember the correct forms or uses of the language.

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