I keep making the same mistake

I keep making the same mistake

Is that you? Is this something you’ve said? Do you feel like this? If you do, then the chances are that you have what we call a ‘fossilized’ error. What is a fossilized error? Basically, it is an error that a student makes that is either very difficult or nearly impossible to correct. Usually it’s a mistake that students make subconsciously as if it were the correct form… but it’s not. In this week’s blog, I’m going to tell you why you keep making the same mistake. When we’ve looked at those reasons, I’m going to tell you what you can do to help improve it too. 

Remember that cliched expression practise makes perfect? Well guess what happens when the practise isn’t perfect to begin with? Fossilized errors are common and depend on a range of factors. If your first language has the same word for two things in English, then you might make that mistake so much it becomes fossilized, or if it’s a ‘false friend’ which means that you have a similar word in your own language, but it means something different in English. If your teacher didn’t pay enough attention or correct you enough. Maybe during your language learning journey, you fossilized an error you heard. It could be any of these reasons. What we have to accept is that it’s an inevitable part of learning a language.  

I keep making the same mistake
I keep making the same mistake

 What teachers can do

We can help you. A lot. We’re very qualified and at UKCE we pride ourselves on helping our students in the best way possible.  

We can pay attention to your mistakes in class and correct you when necessary.  

We’re happy to explain what the error is and why it’s wrong, just ask! 

We can make sure you 100% understand what you’re doing wrong. 

We can overload you, so we’ll only correct one, usually the biggest, error. 

We can stop you every time you make that error. 

It isn’t always a good idea to interrupt students when they make mistakes, but instead we can do that at the end of the exercise.   

We can make you repeat but without the error. 


What teachers can’t do

We can’t continually correct every error. If we did, it would probably make you feel demoralised. Thinking about it, it’s far too intense an interaction. We have to spread ourselves around a little. 

We can’t be there all of the time – so it’s important that you take a little responsibility for your learning, remember to study at home.  

We can’t always tell why you make this error. There are so many reasons why students might do things, we can suggest but we can’t diagnose.  

We can’t offer quick fixes. If you’ve ever listened to that Britney Spears song, she’ll tell you. “You gotta work”. 

We can’t correct every fossilized error at once. If you have more than one, then we’ll deal with it one at a time. 


What you can do

If you make an error whilst speaking. (A fossilized one not a normal one) Write down what you said. Writing focuses the mind far more than speaking and slows the production. That means that gives you more time to think about what you are producing. 

Writing these errors down every time you make them and then the correct word or phrase, will also help you when you look back over your notes in the evening/weekend. As when you’re studying, and you keep seeing this error then eventually it will drill the correct version into you.  

Recruit your English-speaking friends and family to correct you. It might feel uncomfortable at first but that feeling will pass. 

Record yourself speaking and then after listen back to it. You’ll often spot your own errors like this. 

When a teacher repeats an error back to you, remember to repeat the correct version until you get it right (especially with pronunciation). If you don’t repeat, then you’ll keep making that error. Like I said practise makes perfect.  


Don’t feel ashamed you’re making errors; they are a part of life. The saying goes, we have to learn from our mistakes. So, when making mistakes remember to learn from them, don’t let them go over your head.