The more I know, the more mistakes I make...

… does anybody know this?

But first let me try to explain what I mean by this. We all learn grammar rules, mnemonic rhymes and so on.
But I realised that the more I learn of these things, the less I do intuitive - which results in more errors.

I can remember one class test some years ago, I had been ill for two weeks and the day I returned to school my English teacher said we would write a classtest on that day. I didn’t know about it, though I stayed in touch with my classmates during the two weeks I was off from school, but it seemes as everybody had forgotten to mention it.
The class test was - among other things - about the usage of adjective/adverb and I’d never heard about it in my life before, so I asked my teacher about the difference (about one minute before she handed the papers out) and she just said that one’s with ly and one without. Ha, ha, ha…
But to cut a long story short, what I did (it was the only thing I could do) was just trusting my feeling which part of speech to put into which gap. And - everything was correct! About 30 gaps and I “guessed” all forms right!

The weird thing about it is that, after somebody had told me about the rules, I made many mistakes - until I started again just to trust my feeling and not to care about the rules.

Now it still seems to be the same, the more I think about certain grammar rules, about which words to use, about whatever… I start to make mistakes. (well, obviously I always make mistakes - but I start to make more mistakes).

That’s why usually grammar exercises are quite hard for me, as well as the exercises in which you have to chose the right word - if I wrote the same sentences in an essay I probably would have all forms correct but as soon as I start to think about the words I’m not sure about the easiest things. Usually my first idea is correct and then I start thinking and thinking about it - and chose the wrong word in the end.

That’s also the reason why I never check texts I’ve written - I tend to “correct” more words, tenses… that were originally correct into wrong words, forms… than the other way round.

It’s the same for me in German by the way - if I just write and write and write without thinking about commas or spelling I usually make about one mistake in 1500 words. But if I start thinking, then…

Anybody here who knows that “problem”?


PS: Don’t get me wrong, I don’t wanna say that grammar rules are unnecessary! Though I’ve decided for myself not to look into grammar books too often but more to trust my feeling - yes, I know about most of the grammar rules and about many exceptions but I try not to think about them too much (e.g. in those mentioned exercises or when writing a text and being unsure about certain things) - and also I try not to study too much stuff concerning grammar anymore. Maybe I have a good feeling for languages - but not caring about grammar too much is just better for me personally.

Hi Stefanie, you pretty much summed up what learning a second language is all about: listening to native speakers and repeating their phrases. You are right, the more grammar rules you are trying to cram into your head the more mistakes you are bound to make when you want to speak. Have you ever experienced the following - you ask a native English speaker why a partical phrase is correct and instead of giving you a lenghty explanation they simply say because it sounds right. When we use our mother tongue we don’t think about grammar rules, we just speak. I think we can apply the same principle when communicating in a second language. Of course, this requires a lot of listening and immitating before you actually start expressing your own ideas in the new language. But this is a far more effective way of learning grammar than doing the same exercises all over again.

Hey Stefanie, good post indeed, you have said something I’ve always wanted to tell my English teachers but never have mustered the courage to :slight_smile:
However, I think you should also point out a very important fact: You have a strong interest in learning English and you have a boyfriend whose mother tongue is English. If you had to learn English because your English teacher told you so, I doubt that you would be as successful as you are now. What do you think?

Well, my boyfriend I’ve only known for about 3 1/2 months now (of which we’ve been a couple for less than a month, will be a month on Dec, 3rd), so he can’t be the reason :wink:

The situation I mentioned in my posting was… let me think… Must have been… in 7th grade, so it was in late 1997 or early 1998 when I was 12/13.

It’s true that today I have a stroger interest in learning more English and become more “perfect” because of my boyfriend (and because of the fact that it’s more likely that I move to England after my graduation than the other way round).

I also can’t really say that I had a special interest in learning English that time, yes, I liked the subject but not more than many other subjects…

Hi Stefanie, I think what Englishfan is trying to say is that you have been learning English not for the sake of the language itself but because it helped you achieve other goals. Often people don’t know why they should learn English, they try to cram the grammar into their heads because someone told them so or because they went to an English class where a teacher had them do grammar exercises. That’s the wrong approach. You will only learn if you know why you are doing the activity. You have been learning English because you are interested in getting to know other people or maybe because you want to read something about your favourite topics etc.