Idioms discussed in this episode: bite one’s tongue and put oneself in someone’s shoes.

Welcome back to Ashwini’s Journey! In this episode, Ashwini and Monica discuss the importance of making mistakes while learning English, how to overcome embarrassing moments, and ways to be a better peer to other language learners.

Annotated Transcript

[Monica] …Awesome! The theme for today’s episode is mistakes. So… how would you say you feel about mistakes when you’re speaking in English or in another language?

[Ashwini] Yeah, what I feel like is it’s always so embarrassing for me when I make mistakes. Like, earlier when I started learning English that was so embarrassing for me but over time I just noticed I feel like okay ‘it’s okay to make mistakes.’ You shouldn’t like, worry too much about this, like it’s just a journey, you will like improve over time. So, it’s okay to make mistakes. If you don’t make mistakes, how [would] you get to know what’s wrong and what’s right? So, I think for me now, it’s okay to make mistakes if you really want to learn and improve overtime.

[M] Yeah, that’s kind of how I’ve been too. I think I’m still guilty of–like if I’m talking to a bunch of people in Spanish and like I stutter, I mispronounce a word, but I’m still like ‘oh I’m so sorry,’ like ‘my Spanish isn’t so good’– which is just ridiculous! [laugh] So I feel like, I’m getting to a place now where I’m like okay, I know that I was stuttering for a specific reason. Maybe the word was really long and it’s just hard for someone who’s an English speaker to produce a word that has like six syllables or something like that.

[M] So, I think for me kind that’s kind of the first tip and the first thing that I always work with my students is kind of  change the idea of what a mistake is,  like you were saying, one – you’ll never know what’s right or what’s wrong if you don’t try. Part of the journey is making mistakes and the other part is like, having compassion with yourself and asking yourself why am I making these mistakes and kind of seeing like of like oh maybe it’s like the grammar structure is different in my first language, or maybe this is a really hard sound for me to produce, and kind of validating that for yourself and being like ‘it’s okay.’

[A] Yeah. Like you just really, you know, you just make yourself realize that it’s like it’s important to make mistake initially when you are learning a language because That’s important to learn things about the language. If you don’t make mistakes as you said, like how you gonna improve? So I think it’s first thing like you should realize before you start learning a language that it’s okay to make mistakes. Yeah, definitely. And are there any kind of stories or experiences that come to your mind about a time when you were just feeling insecure speaking? Another language You know, I never felt like insecure about speaking English. But yeah, I was thinking all the time about like of grammar structures. Initially I wasn’t like very insecure about my speaking skills because I thought like I was just able I was good, not that much good but like I was able to hold a conversation [with] speakers but like I’ve been, you know, sometimes the still insecure about my pronunciation. So there is a word called suggestion and we use it very, like in daily lives, so many times and like, recently last week, I would say, I got to know the exact pronunciation of that word. Like it is suggestion instead of suggestion. So like I have been pronouncing this incorrectly for my whole life and recently I got to know that how it is pronounced. So I think that was the reason, like my experience I would like to share here that it’s okay. Like there is… no one is perfect. So if you’ve been doing something like wrong for [your] whole life, and as we know like language learning is a lifelong journey. So you cannot be perfect. You have to learn over time. Whether you are [a] native speaker, whether you are just a language learner.

[M] A hundred percent! I think it happens to me all the time that I’m saying something in English. And then I realized that, I mean, I don’t want to call them mistakes because there’s so much room for, you know, language change, but for example, I was seeing the other day kind of like false friends between English and Spanish and one of them was like habit. So habit it in Spanish called costrumbe and in English the word that’s like it is custom. And I use custom to mean habit all the time.

[M] And I think people around me do too, because no one has ever misunderstood me and no one’s brought it up. So the same way, everyone obviously understood you saying suggestion because you get it from context. And so yeah, I think that’s also another thing to just be like, huh, that’s kind of cool or that, you know, I can like for example, I live in a community where there’s a lot of bilingual English/Spanish speakers and I think it’s pool that we all say custom instead of have it sometimes.

[A] And you said..[…] it’s English word. Like, not the Spanish, I guess you get used to it. You don’t really realize that. Okay, I’m just trying to, like, I’m just speaking speaking, I mean, just speaking Spanish word with the English, like, you don’t realize that thing, right?

[M] Exactly. And if you use a word to mean something else, it can, like that’s how slang happens, you know. All the time, that’s what’s happening like extra for the longest time, just meant more than something. But now, if you say something’s extra, it’s like, well, that’s… how do you even explain that?

[A] Yeah, it’s sometimes a difficult time.

[M] It’s like too much. Calm down, you’re being dramatic… Now, has there ever been a situation where you kind of hear people, either talking in Hindi, or you hear other people talking in English and you’ve been aware of other people making fun of them ’cause I think  it’s so normalized, like people just making fun of each other  for mistakes.

[A] Yeah. It, you know, so it’s very normal and sometimes, you know, you don’t realize that you’re making fun but like it happens automatically. So when I listen to someone, like listen to an English speaker, when they sometimes speak in Hindi, like, it’s like totally okay. Like, totally new for me, like I haven’t heard someone speaking Hindi like this so although I don’t want to like laugh, but it happens automatically and I can’t help. So it’s not, it’s not like, I’m just trying to make fun of them but like, you know, it happens automatically. So I think that would happen. Same with me. If I try to speak English like in a native country. So they might judge me on the basis of my accent. So maybe they would laugh at me and I and I don’t think I’m, I would just get offended because of that because yeah, sometimes you don’t really want to make fun of the people but that comes, you know, automatically that happens and you don’t realize that you’re making fun of someone’s accent or like their languages skills so maybe people don’t do it really on purpose it happens sometimes maybe some peoples do it on purpose. I don’t know. Like I wouldn’t do it on purpose.

[M] I think it’s always important to remember like people’s intentions. Like, are they doing it to be mean, are they doing it to offend you? And I mean, maybe because I’m more sensitive [laugh] even the smallest thing. I just get mad on other people’s behalf if I like witness it or yeah. If someone tells me like hahaha that’s how you pronounce that word in German like no, that’s like so wrong blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. [laugh] I think it’s so important to like, put yourself in those people’s shoes like to put yourself in that position because I talk to people all the time and they tell me like, ‘oh, I remember this time when I was 5 and someone on made fun of me speaking in another language and I’ve never forgotten it.’ And like everyone has a story like that, everyone. And yet we just do it to the next person without realizing the effect it could have on them, you know?

[A] Yeah, it happens. Like, sometimes you get angry with yourself, like, how can you make that mistake? It’s so simple. Like, how didn’t you notice that thing? Like, I talked about the word suggestion and I like, I’ve been pronouncing it, I don’t know, from from since my childhood and when I pronounce that word incorrect[ly] and that teacher corrected me, like, I felt so embarrassed like, oh my God, this is very simple work. How I could know that the pronunciation of that word?

[M] So how do you not think about it over and over and over again and say, ‘I can’t believe I made that mistake. That was embarrassing.’

[A] You have to let it go. Like,  you just have to get over it  and keep moving.

[M] Right, like what has worked for me… Like, I’ve definitely been in a similar situation. Definitely in English because there’s so many words that you just need to know how to pronounce them. It’s not intuitive in any way, but it’s also happened to me and other languages like in German, where people will make fun of how I’m pronouncing a word. And I feel like that is the point where you have to, like,  talk to yourself, validate your feelings  like, damn, that was embarrassing. And then just be like, why did I make that mistake? Pronunciation isn’t so clear all the time. And so I think having that conversation with yourself and like training your mind to do that each and every time makes it feel like, okay, it’s not the end of the world. Like it has nothing to do my intelligence with how well, I speak the language. It’s just something that happens to everyone.

[A] Yeah, you’re right. You just need to remember that. This is not the end of the world, and you can improve day by day, so if you pronounce a word incorrectly, there’s no point of just, you know, getting embarrassed or just thinking over time and just dwelling on the things. It’s okay. It’s okay to make mistakes. I think that’s the that’s [what] the gist of this episode should be. It’s okay to make mistakes. No one gonna judge you on the basis of the mistakes you’re making.

[M] Right. And most people aren’t going to be thinking about those mistakes. Like you might remember the mistake 15 years later, but the person who made fun of you or whatever, definitely isn’t still thinking about it 15 year later. So, not as bad as you might think it is. And then, I think another takeaway is to get used to kind of having that moment in between you hear someone speaking a language that you speak and you hear them do something that is kind of funny. Like get into the habit of just not voicing that, don’t… Don’t make a comment, just bite your tongue which just means don’t say anything.

[A] Just don’t hold yourself back and just don’t make anyone offended because that can have lifelong impact on [their] life, right?

[M] Exactly. And if it’s something like, always question other people’s intentions, are they doing something harmful? And if they are, I’m sure [on a] future episode will talk on accent discrimination and how that looks different than what we’re talking about this episode. Any last thoughts, Ashwini?

[A] Just last thought is, it’s okay to make mistakes. Keep making mistakes! It’s totally fine.

[M] I agree. So that is the end of this episode on making mistakes. If you’d like to read the transcript, you can find it at languagesnaps.com and we will see you next week with a new episode.

Ashwini’s Journey is available on Language Snaps and Spotify.


  • How do you feel about making mistakes?
  • Why does Monica suggest learners should revaluate what it means to make mistakes?
  • Ashwini listed a few ideas on how to overcome embarrassment. What else can you add?