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Are you ready to discover which fossilized errors you're making on the TOEFL iBT Speaking section that prevent you from scoring 26?
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.