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Learning English? The Problem with Perfectionism

Posted by Lindsay McMahon on Thu, Apr 21, 2011 @ 03:41 PM

Are you learnperfectionism_for_English_learnersing English but struggling because you are a perfectionist?

I see this with so many students that it breaks my heart!

It holds you back and prevents you from ever getting better.

First of all, you should know that this is a common problem for English learners.

However, it is possible to change your mindset and learn the English language faster and have more fun learning. 

In this post, we will share 3 things that you can do if you are a perfectionist learning English. 



"The most successful people on earth are those who make lots of mistakes consistently" -Benny Lewis (Fluent in 3 Months)


Do you agree with Benny in the quote above?

I certainly do!

If you think about your experiences in the past, which ones have you learned more from? The times that you have failed or the times that you have succeeded?

Personally, I have always learned more from my mistakes.

That's why I am not afraid to make a mistake when I learn Spanish.

I know that I will benefit from that mistake in the long run because I will work hard to correct it or to understand a vocabulary word or grammar point that is confusing. 

In a recent blog post, Perfectionist Paralysis, Benny Lewis argued that in order to be successful language learners, we must get out there and use the words that we do know, instead of obsessing over the words that we don't know.

We cannot wait until our language skills are perfect before using them.

Why is this true?

While the perfectionist English learner waits until he knows every verb form or conjugation, he misses valuable opportunities to really learn English by practicing with the people around him because he thinks that he is not ready to speak.

Will he ever be ready?


Learning languages is about connecting with people.


When I was learning Spanish a few years ago, I felt nervous in the beginning, but then I realized that by learning to speak the Spanish language, I was able to connect with Spanish speaking people on a much deeper level.

Once I realized this, the learning process was no longer about me or how silly I looked when I made a mistake.

It was bigger than that.

It was about human connections and I was forming lifelong friendships and professional connections that would never have been possible without my language skills.

So, perfectionists, I encourage you to try these 3 strategies:


What to do if you are a perfectionist learning English:


  • Shift your Focus: Consider the positive aspects of learning English.  You are able to get to know people on a more authentic level. It is about more than just your mistakes.


  • Put Things into Perspective: When you feel nervous about making a mistake, ask yourself, "What's the worst thing that could happen?" I am sure the answer couldn't be so bad.


  • Have Self-Compassion: Remember that you are much more critical of your mistakes than other people. When you speak with native speakers, they just want to maintain the conversation with you. They are not focusing on your errors, so why should you?


So don't let perfectionism take the fun out of learning English! If you try these strategies, keep in touch and let us know how they work!


 free video lesson 7 simple secrets to connection in English



photo credit- e_monk

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