How to "Fix" Fossilized Errors with Grammar, Vocabulary or Pronunciation

I can teach you the educational method that trains a very high level of accuracy with old errors that you’ve been making for years with grammar, vocabulary or pronunciation.

What is a "fossilized error"?

Basically, a “fossilized” mistake is something that you repeat so many times, you memorize the mistake. Even if you know it is wrong, your habit is to use the mistake. 


You can accidentally make “fossilized” mistakes when you speak or write. There is a good chance that you have fossilized errors both in your daily English at work, as well as inside the TOEFL iBT Speaking and Writing tasks. 


Here are 3 examples of fossilized errors that many of my students make in their diagnostic test when they start my program…

This is super common for students who speak dozens of different native languages.

Let's say that you have trouble adding the "s" on a phrase like "the woman thinks" or "the professor says." 

So, when you talk, you just skip the "s" and you continue with the rest of the sentence.

You want to say:  "the man thinks that it's a good idea because..."

But TOEFL Graders hear:  "the man think_ that it's a good idea because..."

Although your family and friends can gradually learn to interpret the way that you use English, the fact is that TOEFL Graders will not give you a 26 on Speaking or a 24 on Writing with verb conjugation errors. 

Do you ever make a mistake with remembering to conjugate the verb correctly?

Prepositions (in, of, to, for, from, etc.) are those small words that combine verbs and nouns. Prepositions can be super tricky to remember because your native language probably has different "correct" combinations from the combinations that are correct in English. 

What's the correct preposition for this phrase?

to sign up ____ classes

We can create lots of potential combinations…  

sign up to classes   

sign up at  classes   

sign up from classes

The only correct answer (and the one that TOEFL Graders would need to hear to give 26 on Speaking or 24 on Writing) is "sign up for classes." 

Do you ever make a mistake with remembering which word goes with which phrase?

There are 13 vowels in American English. Let's say an Arabic-speaking student mixes up the vowels that are represented by the symbols /e/ and /ɪ/. In the 2 words below, the only difference in pronunciation is these 2 vowels, so accuracy with the vowel is critical:

many  /

mini  /mɪ.ni:/

Let's imagine that Arabic speaker wants to say this sentence in TOEFL Speaking Task 2:

"Many students agree it is a waste of money."

If the student forgets to use /e/ instead of /ɪ/ at TOEFL Speaking Task 2, they use the wrong vowel sound (/ɪ/) so the TOEFL Grader hears this: 

"Mini students agree it is a waste of money."

Have you ever accidentally pronounced a word the wrong way after you learned "the right" pronunciation?

When my students get my feedback on their Diagnostic Speaking or Writing practice tests, they are surprised at just how many more issues I identified compared to their previous tutors.

Even people whose score seems to be “stuck” at 25/30 on TOEFL Speaking are usually making dozens of mistakes in those 4 tasks with grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation (in unique combinations, of course). And I’m not even talking about strategies for TOEFL iBT — I’m only talking about English mistakes.

People who are scoring 22-23 on TOEFL iBT Speaking can be making closer to a hundred mistakes in those 4 tasks. 

If you take a moment to think about it, you might realize that you have your own unique combination of fossilized mistakes. Maybe a friend or co-worker told you about your English mistakes… But what about the mistakes that they didn’t have time or energy to tell you about? 

Or what about the mistakes that your friends didn’t have the knowledge to explain to you? 

Fossilized mistakes are a major cause of "stuck" TOEFL scores. Until you master your mistakes, your TOEFL score won't move beyond 25 on Speaking or 23 on Writing.

How do you "fix" fossilized mistakes?

The short answer is that you combine Memory Pouches with a customized set of your flashcards that have your own unique types of mistakes on them.  On the back of each Memory Pouch is a particular protocol with a particular activity. It’s helpful to think of it like a recipe that creates the perfect dish. By following the “recipe” daily for 15-20 minutes, you focus on your issues with English. With Memory Pouches, students have reduced errors by 83% when they speak English spontaneously. That’s a success rate that you’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere else!

how to fix fossilized errors with grammar vocabulary and pronunciation

I developed Memory Pouches and The Effective Speaking in Action Method as a result of years of experimenting with students.

In 2015, I presented in Birmingham, England at the annual conference for International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL).

That day, I presented my prototype for how to fix fossilized errors with grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation.  The room was packed and teachers were standing in the hall, irritated that there were not more chairs! Why? Because up until then, most of them believed that fossilized errors couldn’t be fixed and didn’t even know how to begin thinking about it!

Jaime Miller presents about how to fix fossilized errors at IATEFL 2015 conference in Birmingham, England

Over the last few years, thanks to my students, my solution to motivation-crushing fossilized errors has evolved.

My tool to fix fossilized mistakes is super-simple and super-effective. The tool is Memory Pouches which we customize with your unique combination of flashcards. The study tool allows you to continue to improve every time you take it out of your bag and spend a few minutes on it. 

If you have the right tools and protocols, you can reduce your mistakes by 80% the first time that you speak or write.

Speaking or writing English more accurately is a major reason why my students break past their old limits and get new, higher scores at TOEFL iBT.

Need W24? The biggest difference is that my program targets and retrains your “fossilized errors” with grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. Study for TOEFL iBT with Jaime Miller's e-courses and live Zoom classes. Named "Best Personalized Instruction" by

What Students Are Saying

If you're ready to discover which fossilized errors you're making on the TOEFL iBT Speaking section that prevent you from scoring 26+
I invite you to learn more by clicking the green button:

My First Fossilized Mistake

I’m Jaime Miller. Since 2010, I’ve been guiding pharmacists, physical therapists, nurses and other ambitious students finish with TOEFL iBT. You’re on my website for students. I am the one who developed Memory Pouches. 

I want to share how I discovered my first fossilized error.  Back when I lived in Izmir, Turkey (where I had my first job teaching English), I had a super busy teaching schedule. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take regular classes so I used to study a ton by myself in my living room with my Turkish grammar books.

One weekend, I was studying future verb tenses. Good job, me, right? Well, without realizing it, I accidentally taught myself a mistake with the rule for conjugating. And I repeated the mistake again and again and again because I was doing hours of practice, writing in my notebook. 

I probably wrote that mistake 50 or 60 times by Monday morning. 🤓🙄 I was so excited and proud to use my new grammar. I started using it everywhere. At the grocery store. With the secretaries at work. With the ladies in the cafeteria at work. With my taxi drivers and bus drivers. Literally anyone who would endure my incredibly beginner-level Turkish. As the weeks went by, my confidence and speed kept improving with that grammar for future verbs.

Probably 2 or 3 months later, Özlem (one of the secretaries at work) took me aside so we were alone.  She whispered, “Jaimeçiğim… You are making a mistake with your future verbs.”

She wrote down my mistake. She wrote down the correct thing. I stood there, looking and comparing. I was shocked.

I thought about the hundreds of times I had repeated the mistake… And no one told me.  No one told me. Why didn’t anyone tell me for 3 months? I burst into tears. I literally just started bawling. 😭😭😭  

I felt so many emotions: embarrassment,  stupidity and anger. Mostly, I felt stressed to discover this confusing level of “partial accuracy.”  It was the first time I understood that I could speak accurately enough that people understood what I meant to say —  and not right enough to be correct — but also not wrong enough to know I was even making a mistake. It was truly confusing.  

It took me a long time to un-learn that mistake and say it the right way. So if you ever felt the same way, I really understand. ❤
For sure, that first experience had a really deep effect on me and I have no doubt that it led me to develop the Memory Pouches that my students use today to retrain fossilized errors with grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation.

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