(1) Making Mistakes – Some Anecdotes

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May 12, 2019 01:32
A few days ago I read an entry by a Lang-8 friend saying that when a group of people practice speaking a certain foreign language to each other, they are in effect teaching each other mistakes. Reading this line, I chuckled to myself, as I also had this thought.

I’ve rarely studied English from Chinese English teachers since graduating from college. There are two main reasons. One reason is that by that time, I was able to search online for what I wanted to read in English. The other reason is that hanging out on Lang-8 allows me to know quite a few language partners, some of whom are native English speakers with high levels of Mandarin skills. As a result, when I participate in English corners (English-speaking practice sessions where members are mostly Chinese) and when I look at English grammar/guide books by Chinese English experts, I notice many funny things.

At the English corners, I found that the participants are basically teaching each other mistakes. For example, most of them like to use “how to say” as a speech filler. This is certainly affected by the Mandarin filler words “怎么说呢.” At first, when I heard people using this wrong expression, I tried to correct them by explaining that this was "grammatically incomplete" and they should say “you know” or “what’s the word” instead. Some people didn’t take me seriously. Others relapsed into their fossilized habit of using a wrong expression after trying to utter the correct phrase once or twice. Now I don’t bother, because I know it is useless to correct this mistake. Literally everyone says it.