I'm too scared to talk in my target language and that's why I can't improve

As they saying goes, "practice makes perfect," right? But what if you are too scared to practice? I've seen a lot of advice saying that "you can't be afraid to fail" and that "people won't judge you if you are trying to speak in your target language" -- but based on experience, that doesn't always seem to be true. 


In short, how do you personally gather up enough courage to try and speak in your target language even if you feel stupid, or embarrassed, or scared of making mistakes? Also, where do you think is the best place to go to try to practice without that fear of judgment?


Thank you for sharing!

Dec 10, 2015 11:26 PM
Comments · 29

It's simple. If you are too scared to practice, then probably learning a language is not for you At this moment in time.


It applies to all things in life. Too scared to bungee jump? Don't jump. Too scared to swim? Don't swim. Too scared to fly? Don't fly. Too scared to stand up and try to give presentations in your strongest language? Avoid it. 


Have you ever seen children too scared to fall, too scared to kick a ball, too scared to try a new food? a total no risk attitude of trying something will restrict you in anything. 


in a language, what do you lose by trying to dip your feet in water? The change has to come from within you yourself.


Sounds harsh but that's how to survive in the school of hard knocks. Life is not an easy ride. 

December 11, 2015

Perhaps you could set yourself a daily goal, (an easy one!) such as "I will speak one sentance in my new language to another person, every day." and then do it.  It's not easy, but if you do it on a regular basis it will become easier.


I'm learning French at 53 years old.  I have only been learning for a year, but I have enough life experience to know that if I want it, I have to do something about it.  It won't happen if I don't set come kind of goals to see progress.


Remember that you are looking for PROGRESS not PERFECTION.  I will NEVER be like a native speaker, but I can make myself understood now, and can express my feelings, in my target language.  It takes a patient person to listen to me, but that's what ITalki teachers, tutors and language partners are good for.


Why not make it your goal to make another person laugh in your target language? Learn some jokes and tell them!  It could be a good way to get over the fear of having others laugh (at you) if you are in control of the laughter for a while.


And one more thing.  You WILL be afraid.  Courage, however, is being afraid, but doing it anyway.  You are courageous!

December 13, 2015

Hi Kira,

This is something that I can totally relate to and have struggled with a lot in the past! I've spent a lot of time feeling so afraid of sounding stupid in a new language. I think the biggest thing that helped me was being on the other side, as a language teacher. Every time I listen to my students, I never think they sound stupid! I think they just sound like they're learning, and if anything I often think that they sound very cute and sweet (which makes sense, because if you're learning a language from scratch, you basically become a child learning to speak again). If you can, I encourage to listen to people trying to learn your language! It will help you realize that you shouldn't be embarrased. :) And try to find a safe place or a safe person to learn with. Best of luck, Kira!

December 11, 2015

I would say the best place to practise is your bedroom [or living room], where you can sit in front of the computer screen, and talk to it, imitate the speech you listen to, record your own if you wish, and repeat until you can get it as close to the model as you can.

I think that it makes it easier to speak to someone else if you have prepared something in advance and practised it by yourself.  If you have rehearsed it well, rather like your lines in a stage production, when the time comes to deliver, you somehow manage to get it out, despite your nerves.

When I am speaking <em>ad lib</em>, and I'm not sure about how to say something, I will just ask  'How do you say this ?'  rather than risk making a mistake.  I feel stupid when I can't remember simple words, or the form of a simple verb in the present tense.  I remind myself that even a young child learning his mother tongue has probably done the same thing because, like me, (s)he forgot the right word.

I feel embarrassed if I know that my accent is dire, and I trot out the excuse that [ . . . ] is such a difficult language for an English speaker to pronounce properly and, perhaps wrongly, this usually seems to work, as it elicits sympathetic acknowledgement from the speaker.

'Scared of making mistakes' :  this has increased as my level has improved.  I try to avoid saying things which might be incorrect, and then I may ask afterwards :  could I have said it like this ?  It seems less risky to find out this way whether I could have said something that I was not sure about.

These are my strategies for minimising embarrassment and the fear of getting something wrong and appearing stupid.  If they fail, which they sometimes do, then I retreat to the bedroom and talk to the computer screen for a while, until my confidence is restored.

December 11, 2015

@Learner SC,
Borrowing your horse example, we are just talking about HOW TO lead the horse to the right place, HOW TO make it eat, and HOW not to be scared.
>for a person who is too scared to practice, I don't see an option because the horse doesn't want to open its mouth to practice.
Again, we are discussing how not to be scared and how to open its mouth to practice.


As the possible solutions, people here suggested with their experiences;
-Talk to yourself
-Study by yourself more
-Find best teachers and/or language partners who can give a warm environment.
Think more optimistically

Then, the horse could open its mouth.


Your suggestion seems to be included in the above list as;
-No choice, just speak anyway (since you don’t see an option).


This would be just one of the possible solutions. I agree with all of the above terms including yours.

December 13, 2015
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