What does Albert Einstein teach us about making mistakes?

Albert Einstein on making mistakes

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”

When Albert Einstein told this phrase he was probably speaking about scientific progress. However, just like the general theory of relativity, this statement influences all aspects of life. Everything that’s new to us is also unknown. Dealing with the unknown inevitably leads to mistakes. That’s how we learn about the unknown and make it known.

General theory of relativity is like language learningLanguage is pretty much the same as physics in this sense. While Einstein dealt with the world itself, we are dealing with the way to describe it. We understand the world using theories. And describe it using languages. Einstein made mistakes to define and correct his view. Ultimately, this led him to his ground-breaking theory. When you’re learning a language, you’re doing the same thing that Einstein did. You make mistakes which help you form the correct method to use this language. This new way to describe the world.

So making mistakes is alright?

Just let me make it clear to you. Mistakes are neither good nor bad. They are a means to an end. The function of mistakes is to acquire new language skills by learning what’s correct and what’s wrong. So when we say “it’s good to make mistakes!” it doesn’t mean you should speak at random. Making mistakes only helps for as long as you’re learning something new about the language. Once you acquire certain knowledge about it, making the same mistake again probably means you didn’t really get it.

The fear of making mistakes

On the other hand, you shouldn’t prioritise avoiding mistakes when learning. That’s what they do in schools and this results in a dangerous fear of speaking incorrectly. It’s hazardous as it teaches us not to speak at all. We at Bliu Bliu think that learning a language should be a natural process. Which means speaking without worries about mistakes. Made the same mistake again? So what? You might make it 5 more times until you remember it. The point is that you will stop making it at some point, not necessarily reflecting your progress! So just continue practicing.

Homer making mistakes

Fear is the great nemesis of many language learners. Fear of many things, but especially of making mistakes. Let’s remember Albert Einstein’s idea once again. Basically, he says there’s no progress without mistakes. So you acquire skills of a new language precisely by making them. People generally understand that if you’re learning a language you will make mistakes in it. Also, learning a language in public is not illegal. However, when we look at some language learners we get the impression that it’s forbidden. They are just so afraid to make a mistake! To show that they are still learning and their knowledge is not perfect. They choose to remain silent instead of saying something incorrectly. That’s something you should not do. Less practice means less progress and this fear is based on nothing but our own psychology.

People will understand

Fear is only in your headDon’t worry about what other people think! If they knew you better, they would totally understand. Anyone who has ever learned a second language will know how you feel. They won’t think it’s something wrong with you if you’re making mistakes. They might not understand it if they never learned a foreign language. However, this means that you know way more about languages in general than they do. In any case, their judgement does nothing you should fear. It’s just the idea in our own heads that obstructs our learning process.

So remember Albert’s words. If you really want to learn something new you can’t avoid mistakes. And now that you know you’re imperfect, accept your flaws. Paradoxically, the sooner you do this, the faster you will solve some of these flaws by acquiring a whole new language. This might not be easy, but hey, the general theory of relativity wasn’t created overnight!