Reasons why English teachers shouldn't always correct their students' mistakes

Reasons why English teachers shouldn't always correct their students' mistakes

Some teachers of English as a Second Language (henceforth ESL) are yet to realise that learning a language like English poses a lot problems among second learners, even among native speakers. Consequently, they always expect their students to speak flawlessly and will never hesitate to correct them if they do otherwise. 

On the contrary, there are ESL teachers who rarely or never correct their students' mistakes for reasons best known to them. Which category do you fall into? Or which approach do you adopt?
Reasons why English teachers shouldn't always correct their students' mistakes 
Well, in my point of view, both approaches have serious weaknesses hence shouldn't be adopted by ESL teachers. The attitude of the first category of teachers will make the students nervous; thus they won't be able to communicate effectively and fluently. Students may even lose motivation and shy away from using the language. The attitude of the second category of teachers will produce students who are very outspoken and fluent in ungrammatical sentences.

Therefore, ESL teachers should adopt a middle or balanced approach – an approach that neither gives room to incessant nor zero correction of students' mistakes. This approach will help both the teacher and the students.

The Pivotal Points of the Middle Approach
1. In this approach, the students are allowed to speak freely while the teacher takes note of the mistakes made by the students.

2. The teacher groups these mistakes in topics, makes a note of each topic and plans an activity for a later lesson. In course of the lesson, the students take note of their mistakes and learn to avoid them when speaking or writing.

3. The teacher corrects the students only when it is necessary. The question is, "When is it necessary to correct students' mistakes?"

When Should an English Teacher Correct Students' Mistakes?
1. English teachers should correct students when they lack the right word or phrase to use. When students get stuck in their speech due to their inability to get the appropriate word or phrase, the teacher can help them out by mentioning the word or phrase. This will not only enhance communication but will also motivate the students.

2. English teachers should correct students if their speech will lead to misunderstanding. If a student is explaining a past event using present verb forms, he/she should be corrected in order not to confuse the listener(s).

How to Correct ESL Students When They Make Mistakes
In order to make your students not to repeat a corrected mistake, you have to take these points into consideration when correcting their mistakes:

1. You should explain to the students why it is a mistake. Pointing out a student's mistake(s) to him/her without explaining why it is wrong is like giving that student a test on what you didn't teach him/her. Unfortunately, this is the attitude of most ESL teachers. Students are more motivated to understand correct English when they understand why the wrong English is wrong.
2. Never hesitate to show the students a better way of saying it after telling them why it is wrong. You can as well give more examples that are similar to the mistake(s) corrected, stating their forms and usage.

In sum, making mistakes, errors and corrections are part of the learning process of a language. However, the way one corrects the mistakes or errors made by a language learner greatly determines the learner's attitude towards that language. Therefore, ESL teachers should always adopt an approach that will instill in the minds of their students a positive attitude towards the language. If I must suggest, the middle or balanced approach is much more appropriate for teaching a language like English.