Saturday, November 3, 2007

Common English Errors: Are native speakers good models?

In a somewhat joking way, I recently asked how many of my students have native English speakers as roommates, and I replied by saying, "Oh, that's too bad." They were surprised by my response, but I commented on how often native speakers (regardless of language) are not perfect role models of how language should be used. This, of course, can lead learners to learn the language incorrectly and/or question what the right usage is. For example, which sentence is correct?

She is tired, so she wants to lie down.
She is tired, so she wants to lay down.

Thus, how can ESL/EFL students best learn from native speakers so the use English correctly? Share your ideas.



  1. Hi Randall: I don't think there is a set answer to this question. It depends on the goals of the Ss and on the curriculum. In many cases, the Ss are simply trying to learn how to make themselves understood ("survivial mode") in everyday conversation; in these cases, using either "lie" or "lay" would be ok - the sentence is perfectly comprehensible either way. Often, Ss want (and need) to learn how native speakers speak - whether or not the language is "correct". For instance, this week I will be introducing my adult ESL learners to the concepts of "linking" and "dropping terminal consonants" in everyday speech. Neither technique produces technically "correct" English, since enunciation goes out the window, but both are commonly used by native speakers - so my Ss should be able to understand the concepts and use of these techniqies for everyday conversation. Writing is, of course, a different matter! By the way, your site is absolutely amazing - thanks!

  2. These mistakes are found oftenly. But the most amazing thing about english is, if you go wrong grammatically anywhere, the ears get an errie feeling as if something is wrong. You can try it out yourself.....
    Here is something similar......

    5 most commonly made english mistakes

    Good luck!

  3. When I started learning English, I'd always try to talk with people (native speakers) older than me, because it's believed that the youth use a lot of slang terms and sentence structures which are not considered acceptable or appropriate in most comunication contexts.
    I most say that by talking to native speakers of English, I've learned a lot about the use of words and phrases according to the context I was in and to whom I was talking to. It seems that learning a language goes beyond the knowledge of grammar and vocabulary. I know native speakers also make mistakes ( and a lot of them), but when it comes to fluency, they have a lot to teach us non-native speakers.

  4. Who does not make mistakes? Even on TV programs it seems difficult to find something gramatically correct to work with students in the classroom. However, it is also useful to demostrate that they must not be afrait to use the target language outside the classroom.


Thanks for posting a comment. I appreciate your interesting in sharing your ideas.