On learning from mistakes (II)

In my last post I talked about learning from the mistakes. In this post I want to continue on it. Let’s recap what we covered:

  • Don’t think you need to learn from all your mistakes, just learn from the ones where you know what you actually did wrong.
  • Mistakes can be subdivided into two categories:
    Mistakes made based on “not knowing something”.
    Mistakes made based on a “mistaken understanding of grammar”.

I started teaching Dutch about a month ago and that gave me the opportunity to see how other people learn languages. So I want to write about the things I noticed during the lessons.

In general I noticed that I need to repeat a lot of things many times before the students get it. Sometimes they just never get it. I am not sure where the problem lies. I am not explaining it right ? Or is the point that I am trying to get across too difficult to grasp ? Let’s look at an example.

In Dutch whenever there is something in front of the sentence, it could be an indication of time or something else, then the subject and verb switch places. So you get an inversion.
Ik ga naar school – I go to school
Morgen ga ik naar school – Tomorrow I go to school.

So as we see, the “ik ga” switched places. This happens all the time, it’s a general rule. But I would hear something like “morgen ik ga…” all the time from my students. Even when I tell them that “ik” and “ga” switch places in all of these kind of phrases, they just go on and do it again, and again. So why does the student not get it ?

One plausible explanation could be learning and getting used to the wrong one from the beginning on, which makes it very hard to correct it. To unlearn learned behavior could be even harder than learning the correct way from the beginning on. One other possibility could be me not explaining it right, but I can’t see this as being true, because I give them a lot of understandable examples with easy words that all my student know and some of them still don’t get it.

If the problem is the first case, then this raises some more questions. Why did they not learn it at first ? What went wrong ? Or did they even know about the rule ? Or maybe they didn’t notice that people inverse those two. Which would mean that they did not make the generalization of some cases they knew of.

Sometimes I see people just translating grammar structures from their mother tongue with the words replaced by Dutch words. Which could probably indicate that they haven’t studied Dutch grammar at all. If that’s the case, then what is the point of me being a teacher ? Then I just become a talking textbook. Which could still be useful for some students, that need some kind of a social support while learning.

Whatever the cause of the original misunderstanding may be, I believe that the problem, resulting in the people not learning new structures , is an absence of willpower. The fear of challenging your thoughts by stepping out of you comfort zone (in this case the comfort zone being the grammatical structures which you are used to). People tend to get lazy as soon as they understand that the others can understand them, that’s enough for them, they don’t strive for perfection.

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