October 24, 2022

How to correct your ‘fossilised’ mistakes…

When you’re a high-intermediate or advanced English speaker, it can be frustrating when you make the same mistakes over and over again. Especially, when they are basic.

You know it is a mistake. As soon as it comes out of your mouth, you know it is wrong, and you feel embarrassed about making such a basic error.

First, know that this is very common!!

When you learn a language, some mistakes become ‘fossilised’ (fixed). If you have made the same mistake many times since you started learning, it becomes automatic.

So how can you fix fossilised mistakes?

First, don’t let a fossilised mistake reduce your confidence.

Continue speaking and stay focused on your message – most people won’t even notice!!


1. Notice the mistakes 

The first step to correcting any mistake is first to notice what it is. Reflect and write a list of the errors you often make. You could also listen to recordings of yourself and note down what you notice.

2. Keep a list of these mistakes with you

Keep a SHORT list of the points you need to pay attention to. Maybe you often use present tense when you need to use past; you always pronounce a word incorrectly, or you mix up ‘he’ and ‘she’. Write these down to remind you. Focus on only 3 mistakes at a time, so you don’t become overwhelmed.

3. Explore the cause of this mistake

Many fossilised mistakes are linked to your first language. For example, maybe your mistake is saying, “make research”, when in English, the correct collocation is “do research”.

In many languages, ‘research’ is written with the translation of ‘make’, so it feels more natural to say this in English.

When you are aware of the origin of your mistake, it can help you to break the faulty link and correct it.

4. Create a memorable trigger

Think of a way to remind you of the correct form. You could make a link with your first language, or create a memorable image in your mind. For example, a client of mine often pronounced ‘myself’ as [meeself], he started to imagine an eye to remind him:  m👁 self and now he doesn’t make this mistake.

5. Be patient 

It’s so important to stay patient.

It will take repetition and time to completely correct a fossilised mistake. If you make this mistake, don’t punish yourself. Just notice it, without emotion, and continue speaking.

Remember,  a few mistakes won’t make you seem incompetent; your overall message is what really counts!

Do you make any fossilised mistakes? How could you correct them?

For more help correcting your mistakes, find out more about my 121 English coaching programmes here.

You can also book a free, no-obligation trial session to see whether English coaching is the right solution for you.