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Foreign Language Anxiety (warning: this is quite long)

Call me crazy or a whiner if you must (though I'm not a whiner, though I may be crazy), but I have spent a long time trying to find out how to get over this. As I am on a website filled with language learners, I figured that there will be others who have experienced this and it wouldn't be just me. So let's talk. (if you have a story, you can share if you wish).


Story Time with Richard


I am a monoglot (someone who only speaks one language, which is English in this case), so I didn't grow up bilingual or anything like that, but I have always wanted to learn a foreign language.


Back at the beginning of middle school, I was really excited that I got to the stage where my school would teach me French (because French is a mandatory subject in English middle schools...or at least, it was in mine) so I was as excited as any 8 year old would be. I believe my mother even got me a French dictionary, good times. :)

But as almost anyone living in England can tell you, the classes were very, very boring.


Skip forward 4 years, and we got to go to France (hooray). It was my first (and only) trip abroad so I was very excited, though not as an 8 year old but as a 12/13 year old. when we got to France, oh my god there were street signs in a foreign can tell I had never been abroad before. When we got to the hotel, I knew this was going to be a 'fantastique' week.


Well...I have never been more wrong in my life.


Granted I didn't experience any real culture shock in my week, I realised one very bad thing during my time there: I couldn't speak french. Even after a full 4 years taking french classes from a young age, I couldn't speak a work of french. However, my input ability was quite decent, so I could understand the gist of what was being said to me, but could I say anything back? Nope?

Now this didn't bother me too much, as most financial transactions just involved me handing something to someone, and them saying "[blah blah blah] euro s’il vous plaît," which wasn't to hard to understand. The only real trouble I had was when my friend went on a roller coaster and I was sitting there talking to myself. A kid next to me heard me talking to myself in English and turned around and asked if I was from England (or at least I think that's what he said), and I had to reply with the worst "oui" you have ever heard.

After that, and the odd looks I got from the kid I mentioned before, I was too scared to even try speaking French, so I spent the rest of my week just getting through on French input, then wiped all French from my head once I got home.


Fast forward a few more years, and I became interested in watching anime and playing lots of Japanese made video games. So I decided to start learning Japanese with hopes of becoming fluent in that language. It started well, I must say, with me being able to read Hiragana and Katakana very quickly, as well as learning some common phrases which even today are still at my command...ish. I also learned the apparently 'tricky' sentence structure, and how to use most of the particles. But other than that, I could do nothing in the language, and this was after the first 3 years of learning the language. I couldn't hold conversation, I couldn't understand most of what was being said to me, and most of all, I was still too afraid to speak it.

Also, It's worth mentioning that I had a Japanese-American friend who was bilingual, as well as a teacher who spoke fluent Japanese, and I was too afraid to ask them for help.


Fast forward another year, and I lost complete interest in Japanese. Go me, right? But then a rookie K-pop group called Fiestar (피에스타) had debuted with a rediculously catchy song called 'Vista'. At this point, the only Korean song I had heard was Gangnam Style (of course) so I knew little to nothing of Korean music. After I somehow found many of the most famous K-pop groups (Super Junior, Shinee etc.) I thought I would try learning Korean (this is where my inspiration comes from apparently), but this problem with being too scared to try and speak still stands.


After what I would consider a failure, I would stay very far away from the target language out of fear (no K-pop or Korean TV for me). Also, I sometimes think I sound good in the language and other times think I sound like a [Insert loads of really rude words here] in the other language, bringing back what I call the "oui" feeling.


Am I the only one who experiences this? Am I the only one with this bad "oui" feeling?


TL;DR? Let's talk about foreign language anxiety and how to get over it.





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