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#2 Building English Confidence: Part 2

How big a role does the fear of making of mistakes play in modern Taiwanese culture?

What can I do about feeling embarrassed about making mistakes when I speak English?

Let’s just start with a given: Taiwanese students, for the last 3 generations, have led the world in Academics. With laser-guided focus, Taiwanese excel at studying, which is, let’s be honest, the primary job of a student. When one factors in a fear of mistakes that borders on obsession, one produces an elementary-aged student ready, willing and able to cram massive amounts of information into their little noggins. The word buxiban literally translates to “cram school”. When it comes to cramming for tests, few cultures are better suited for the challenge. And Taiwan eats it up.

A multi-billion dollar business model, Taiwan spends so much money and effort on trying to conquer the English language by cramming away at it year after year after year, hoping that just a little more cramming will help. But has it?

The Return on Investment is not good at all. Taiwanese continue to struggle with basic conversation skills, no matter how much time and money they spend on cram schools. Why isn’t it working? The same principles of dedication have worked incredibly in other subjects such as mathematics and other sciences. Why hasn't it worked even close to as well for English?

One reason is that the methodology of cramming, while useful for passing tests, works with short term memory.

If one discontinues studying, one quickly forgets.

Realize now and forever that you will likely use English for most of your life and that once you achieve a 900+ TOIEC score, you'll never take another test, so for that reason alone, you need to reject cramming as your means to your end. It simply won't work. And lots of buxiban owners are getting rich on this market misconception.

Secondly, and far more importantly, language is ART, not science. Of course cramming works well for science based subjects such as mathematics, chemistry, etc….

In Science, there is only one right answer. Therefore, it is easier to retain the answer or the formula in question.

By accepting that language is an art, you can begin to modify your study time. Instead of cramming, spend time simply experiencing the language. Taiwanese people tend to hesitate doing this because mistakes are going to happen and they would much rather protect their face by completely avoiding experiential situations.

And therein lies Taiwan's biggest conundrum. If one is unwilling to try, then one cannot make mistakes thereby throwing away any chance of improving.

I suggest you adjust your cultural mindset to accept the role mistakes play in the learning of any art, languages included, and set about headlong down the perilous path of learning from mistakes.

Quick Tip: Practice + Time = Success

Take every opportunity to experience your 2nd language and freely make mistakes. The more comfortable you can get while using English, the more prepared, the more receptive you will be in making English part of your life.

Thanks. Enjoy

How body language can actually improve confidence. The amazing Lisa Cuddy explains how to "fake it 'til you make it".

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