Correction doesn’t work!

Correction doesn't work!

As adults, we often believe that our role is to guide children through the language development journey by “teaching” them, and many of us associate teaching with correction of errors. Let’s not deny it, we have all done it! Our child says a word and we feel tempted to let them know explicitly that what they said is wrong, and that we know the right way to say it.

What I would often encourage parents to do is to think about how it feels as adults to be corrected by others. Of course, being corrected once or twice feels appropriate or helpful, but how would you feel if you were corrected all the time?

Back to children, the result of overcorrection is not a sudden boost in language skills, but it may result in a lack of confidence, and at times bilingual children stop speaking a language if they are made believe that they are not very good at it, or that they will be corrected for their attempts.

So, what is the alternative to correction?

I would say that all children who are developing two or more languages (and also those who are only developing one!) need to feel that the adults in their life appreciate their efforts. The less a child uses a language, the bigger the effort will be when they attempt to put sentences together, so be patient and offer as many opportunities as possible to talk, play and use language naturally.  Instead of explicitly correcting a sentence or a word, the adult can use a sentence with the correct word, so the child will hear it, as in the example below:

family with toddler

CHILD: I bringed you a present!

ADULT:  Oh, you brought me something really special!


Remember, the more opportunities to talk and use language, the stronger the language will become. 

At Mother Tongues we meet many families looking for some guidance, reassurance or just want to have a conversation about their own language strategies. If you want to chat with us, we offer one to one consultations. Book one through this link

Don’t forget that we have a wealth of resources on our Learning Hub, including, videos, podcasts and articles.

francesca la mogia

Dr Francesca La Morgia

Dr Francesca La Morgia is is the founder and director of Mother Tongues. She has an MPhil in Applied Linguistics from Trinity College Dublin and a PhD in bilingual language acquisition from DCU. She lectured in language development from 2010 to 2021 across various universities, holding posts at the University of Reading, Trinity College, Ulster University and Maynooth University. Francesca’s work within Mother Tongues focuses on Learning, Research and Policy development across education and the arts.

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