Experiencing a fear of speaking English is a common problem amongst English language learners. You may think it is an issue for beginners, but in fact – even advanced students have a fear of speaking English! Although, trouble with speaking doesn’t equal being scared of speaking. Extraverted students usually love talking and while they might not speak perfectly, they are not scared to engage in a conversation. On the other hand, fear of speaking is often a trait of introverted students, who are usually shy and hesitant to start a conversation. That being said, it is not a general rule, as everyone is different. But how to overcome the fear of speaking English or any foreign language? Here are some tips:
1. Accept that you will make mistakes
This is going to be a tricky question – are you really scared of speaking English? What’s so scary about speaking English? Speaking itself is not scary for most people, it is just an action. Most likely, what scares you is the fact that you will make mistakes when speaking.
The bad news – yes, it is possible that you will make mistakes. The good news – your mistakes are FANTASTIC learning material. Try to accept them and learn from them. If you feel like somebody might laugh at you – they won’t. If they are native speakers, they will be so happy you speak their language that they won’t even care about your mistakes. And if you are talking with another student – feel comfortable and let them learn from your mistakes as well. You will be surprised to discover how supportive people around you can be.
2. Accept that you are not perfect
This is a follow-up on point number 1. Ambitious, talented students tend to strive for perfection in everything they do, and if they are not perfect in some specific area, instead of focusing on improvement, they stop practicing it altogether – or they are very hesitant to do so. And speaking is a tricky area. It’s a bit like playing guitar and singing at the same time – if you ever played guitar, you know how difficult it is to play and sing at the same time. In English, you need to speak and think in another language simultaneously, possibly translating it from your native language. There is so much going on in your brain that you are bound to make mistakes. Learning English is like that – once you accept that you are not perfect, you will be able to embrace your mistakes and speak better.
3. Change your fear of speaking English into curiosity
There is a psychological trick which sometimes works for people with chronic anxiety – maybe it will work for you too? Basically, your brain sees English conversation as a danger, therefore it reacts with fear. What happens if you don’t treat an English conversation as some kind of danger? Then you can try changing this intensive emotion – fear, into another intensive emotion – like excitement. If you switch your fear of speaking English into excitement and curiosity about the language, your brain will be much clearer, since it will not be clouded with fear and tension.
Relieving stress will make your English-speaking better – you will most likely be able to speak with more confidence and make valuable points.
4. Focus on your conversation partner
Usually, when we speak, we focus on ourselves. But even when we don’t speak and just listen to our conversation partner, the truth is that we still focus on ourselves. We think how should we reply, how should we react, what should we do to look cool and be accepted. What you might want to do instead is redirect your focus to your conversation partner. Analyze their answers, try to ask them more questions, maybe ask them to tell you more about an aspect you are particularly curious about? Once you shift your focus to your conversation partner, not on yourself, you will find yourself more relaxed and curious. Additionally, you might discover how interesting your partner is, and they will most likely be happy to talk more about themselves. Who doesn’t like it when somebody is interested in them? Plus, it is a great listening practice.
5. Engage in a conversation as often as possible
If you aren’t exactly comfortable speaking, this one might be tough for you. But there isn’t any better way to improve your speaking than just to speak. Once you improve your speaking skills, you will be more confident, therefore you will be less nervous about engaging in a conversation and stating your opinion. Moreover, try to speak out at every possible opportunity, even if that simply means saying “yes”, “no”, “I agree”. Try to not stop there – you might want to say longer sentences with each conversation, until you are able to have a talk in English with no fear (or at least – with fear being under your control).
All these are merely suggestions, you will hopefully be able to find a suitable solution for yourself. If you are looking for further ways to improve your speaking, do not hesitate to start improving with italki today! You can choose from over 8000 English teachers from all around the world, whose experience will aid your learning process, making it more fun and effective. If you choose to learn English online with italki, you will choose comprehensive learning planned in accord with your needs and level. If you are hesitant – how about trying a trial lesson? It’s inexpensive, and you will be able to gain much more than you spend!