Sorry for my Bad English

Why do foreign English speakers feel the need to apologize when they speak or, as I’ve seen countless times, write on the Internet?

This “Sorry for my bad English” is a phenomenon.

And, I’m not going to lie, I myself have said it at some point, especially when I was starting to speak the language, and I am going to bet that you have too.

So, what’s going on?

I’ve heard it and seen it in writing so many times that it kind of feels like it’s a customary thing to say, like:

Nice to meet you. I’m Jorge. I am from Ecuador… I work in I.T… Blah, Blah… Sorry, my English is not so good.

Let’s see why this happens, what you can do to get rid of this bad habit, and how you can become the confident English speaker you want to be.


Fear and Anxiety

As social animals that we are, we use language to interact with others and form new relationships. When you use your native tongue, you’re most of the times confident you and the other person are on a level playing field as far as language is concerned.

But, when you speak English you might to some extent experience self-doubt, frustration, and self-consciousness, especially when your interlocutor is a native speaker or a more experienced speaker. You doubt your ability to make a positive social impression on others, you experience:

Fear of negative evaluation 

When you apologize for making mistakes in English, it’s because you don’t think you’re making a good enough impression on the other person. You experience a type of anxiety that’s particular to second language learning.

For every grammar mistake you think you’re making, you feel you take a step backwards in your efforts to make yourself look good in the eyes of the other person. That’s when you take a time out and say: sorry my English is not so good or something along those lines.

You try to give a reason why you’re failing to come across as the English speaker you wish to be.

Become the confident, successful and unstoppable English speaker you dream to be. Find out how you can take online Skype classes with me here:


Confidence Beats Grammar

Yes, confidence beats grammar EVERY TIME. If you are going to make mistakes, you might as well accept it and focus on being confident. You achieve this by being present and in the moment; you need to relax and flow naturally with the conversation.

When I’ve had conversations with speakers who were confident even though their English wasn’t perfect, I’ve always been able to connect with them.

If you feel comfortable speaking despite your mistakes, you’re going to have more and better conversations in English than if you feel stressed. And this is how you actually become a better speaker. 


“Sorry for my Bad English” in Writing

I’ve seen this in Facebook chats,  informal emails, YouTube comments, on forums, in memes,.. everywhere on the internet.

What you need to do is simply accept that will some make mistakes and know that adding “sorry for my bad English” or “sorry I’m not a native speaker” does not fix the problem.

Actually, it just makes it worse. It’s like you’re saying

I just wrote something, and I hope you get my point. I’m sorry if you don’t, but please understand English is not my first language.”

That doesn’t exactly make a good social impression. Putting yourself in a position of power does.

Sorry for my bad English

The funniest thing is when the writing is completely error-free and people still say “sorry for my bad English.” What are they trying to say?

My best guess:

I just wrote something in perfect English, and because English isn’t my first language, I deserve recognition.”  

Even Urban Dictionary has definition for this type of “Sorry for my Bad English.”

Sorry for my bad English


Whatever the case is, you’re bringing up something that is totally unrelated with your message and that no one really cares about. It’s unnecessary 95% of the times, off-putting and doesn’t do you any favors.


When ‘SFMBE’ is a Good Thing

On the other side of the coin, SFMBE can reveal a positive thing about you as a learner as well. It means you care about your English.

You want it to be good. You don’t want to screw up.

See, if you weren’t serious about your English, and knew a few words and remembered some basics of grammar from school, and tried to spoke in English just because it’s fun, you wouldn’t care about making mistakes. After all, English is not what you do, so it doesn’t hurt your pride to make mistakes.

But, when you start to take it seriously, mistakes make you look like you’re spending all this time learning and practicing English, and yet you still make them.

You’re trying to be a perfectionist. But, hey, not all perfectionism is bad.

There is good perfectionism and bad perfectionism.

perfectionism Sorry for my bad English


Good perfectionism is when you set a high standard for yourself, but welcome and look at mistakes as an opportunity to grow. Bad perfectionism is trying to be the best at everything, and if you make a mistake, it’s a crisis and you feel it’s the end of the world.

On the other hand, because you care about your English skills, when you have the opportunity to speak it you see it as a high-stake situation, especially when you’re not so used to speaking the language.

You’ve been studying and practising to be a good speaker, but when you get out there and don’t do as well as you would like, you get disappointed in yourself and you apologize for your English.

You’re not alone here. Everybody who really cares about getting better at any discipline will feel this way. But the thing is, beating yourself up for making mistakes is no solution at all. This is when you have to remember to be a good perfectionist. Mistakes will only make you improve.

Sorry for my Bad English


You need to look at mistakes as being a natural part of speaking a second language, especially if you are a beginner. You will become better with time as long as you keep trying. That’s a fact.

If you have been learning English for more than 4 years and still struggle to communicate error-free, it’s simply because you haven’t exposed yourself to the language as much as you need to become a proficient speaker. This article will clarify why you haven’t achieved your full potential as an English speaker, and how you can.

How to Make the Most out of your Mistakes

Whether it’s a grammar slip-up, an awkward choice of words or mispronouncing something, the way you learn from those mistakes is actually noticing you just made them. Sometimes you can’t notice them because you just ignore when you make one, but many times you get hints from the environment, like people don’t getting your point or reacting in a weird way.

A common mistake people make is saying “what” when they don’t understand or misheard what the other person said. The problem with this word is that it can sound aggressive if you say it to a person you don’t know very well. While in some situations there’s nothing wrong with that, when you’re speaking to someone you just met, there are far better alternatives:

Sorry?/ Excuse Me?/ Pardon? – Excuse me, could you say that again? – Could you repeat that again?

The lesson is finding the lesson. Recognize that there’s something to be learnt, and be proactive in trying to eliminate those mistakes. If you don’t know how to properly say something or how to express an idea, look it up on the Internet.

We live in day and age where we can access information like never before in history. Odds are that someone has already asked the question you have in mind on a forum, and all you need to do is use Google to find it.



Here’s some of the biggest takeaways from this article:

  • Don’t apologize for your English
  • Remember that confidence beat grammar
  • Don’t beat yourself up for making mistakes
  • Be a good perfectionist
  • Accept mistakes
  • Be proactive trying to learn from them


Answer in the comments:

Why do you think foreign English speakers apologize for their English?


Become the confident, successful and unstoppable English speaker you dream to be. Find out how you can take online Skype classes with me here:


About the Author Max

I'm the content creator and founder of Max English and the Master English Fluency Academy. As a professional ESL educator my mission is to help learners achieve their full potential by teaching them the skills they need to become a confident, successful and unstoppable English speaker.

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