The biggest mistake

Photo by Hrishikesh Deshkar on

So, you want to know what the biggest mistake is? As I’m writing this blog post Switzerland is nearing the end of the third week of partial lock down because of COVID-19. People are getting from frazzled to nuclear burn out. We’re not used to a world with so many restrictions and so much global stress. Many people have a lot of time on their hands, but is now a good time to learn English?

If you’re anything like me you’ve noticed that your brain is not working as well as usual. Things that were easy before are getting harder. No wonder -who can sleep peacefully right now? Stress erodes our capacity to think clearly, it mucks up our memory, it turns mountains into molehills. When we’re stressed we make our biggest mistake: we beat ourselves up for not being good enough. When you’re learning a language this can be fatal.

Learning a language is like learning to play an instrument. When you start off you are bad, you are terrible – how many people can stay in the same room as a beginner violinist without breaking a sweat? The first time you use your new language in public you will falter, you will stutter, you will make mistakes. Get used to it. You’ll keep making mistakes, even when you’re at an advanced level! -including some potentially very embarrassing ones-

Who cares! You must admit, they can be hilarious. Remember:

Those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” (Dr Seuss)

(Unless, of course, you’re doing an English examination, in which case all bets are off.) I would say that 99% of the time your English is not being examined, except by you! Give your inner examiner a break and do something fun with English this week:

Discover a sitcom on youtube:

Visit the Queen in Buckingham Palace:

Go for a walk around London or New York on Google Earth

When your brain is ready for some action, bash out some Quizlets or do some grammar exercises, but remember: a language is as big as the entire consciousness of the people that speak it. Don’t expect to understand things straight away. It’s a process. You’ll come across the same forms again and again, and each time you meet them you’ll get to know them better. You’ll make mistakes, especially in speaking, until this knowledge has filtered through into your subconsciousness and become second nature.

Get to know your weaknesses and correct your mistakes when you can, but don’t beat yourself up about them. If you beat a horse it might go faster for a while, but at some point it’ll be too worn out to go any further.

So that’s the biggest mistake!

Hope you are well and safe and as happy as possible.

Take care and see you soon,


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