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Dayna Boyer
Feeling disheartened with my progress

Hi everyone! I'm feeling really disheartened with my Spanish speaking progress, does anyone have some tips for this? My brain freezes up whenever someone speaks Spanish to me, and even if I know some of the words they're saying I still feel like a deer in headlights. What can I do to get over this?

Should I do more iTalki sessions? Should I listen to more Spanish podcasts? Watch more Spanish TV? Flashcards? Talk to myself in Spanish when I'm home alone?

Any help or suggestions is super appreciated!

Jul 19, 2016 9:52 PM
Comments · 42

Hi Dayna. I've been studying/teaching Spanish for the last 8 years and I STILL get that feeling sometimes. It's totally natural!

The best way is to obviously talk with someone in Spanish - native is preferable, obviously, but honestly with anyone who will speak. I've found (and my students have told me) that the longer you speak (continuously without a break) the easier it gets; so the first 15-20 minutes of a conversation may be really rough, but then it slowly gets easier and easier. There really is no substitute for just putting yourself out there and going for it. And there's no shame in asking someone to repeat something multiple times or to ask them to slow down. 

I always use Spanish television/movies. One of my fave shows to watch is Masterchef España. You can find that and a lot of other shows at And watching movies that you're already familiar with in Spanish is also helpful.

If you like to read, audiobooks in Spanish (preferably books you've already read and are comfortable with the plot so you can focus on the language instead of trying to get the story) would also be good practice in distinguishing native speaker voices. And, similarly, if you read the news frequently maybe try listening to something in English and then finding a related story in Spanish and listening to newscasts. 

Like I said, I have a lot of experience working with native English speakers studying Spanish so feel free to shoot me a message. I also offer Spanish lessons here on italki if you're interested in that. 

Good luck!

EDIT: OH and the most important (and difficult) thing with speaking is to not try to understand every individual word that someone says when speaking. Try and understand the majority of words and use context to get the gist of what they're saying. If you get hung up on not understanding one word, you'll always be frustrated.

July 19, 2016

I think something that would help you out is talking to yourself in Spanish. Make it a habit to set aside some time everyday to describe your activities, what your doing, your future plans and etc. You can even try to have a conversation with yourself, by asking questions and answering in Spanish.

Of course more Italki sessions and podcast will help both your speaking and listening skills, but speaking to yourself is something you can start to do right now. And it will help you tons. 

It will allow you to formulate responses and just give you the continuous practice of recalling words, that you need .

Good Luck and Keep at it!

July 19, 2016
I just wanted to point out that this thread was 3 1/2 years old when Miguel commented on it. Any comments now will at best be generically helpful for anyone that’s thinking in a similar way as the person that originally asked. Miguel, how did you even find this old post?
February 19, 2020

Are you freezing because you do not understand what is being said?

Are you freezing because you cannot think of an answer?

Are you freezing because you cannot speak out what you want to say (know the Spanish words but unable to say them)?

Sightly different techniques for solving each problem.

July 20, 2016


First of all, I love the list of five study activities you’ve put together. The only activity you’ve listed that I think might not be such a good idea at this point in your learning is flashcards. While flashcards certainly do have their place, they are not going to help you with your particular issue at the moment.

Disclaimer: I’m a language acquisition specialist, not a psychologist. That being said, I believe what you’re describing is actually a type of situation-specific social anxiety, or more precisely, “stage-fright.” Getting past it may be easier said than done, but I believe it’s easier than you may have thought. In my experience, the secret is to set realistic expectations for yourself. If you’ve been speaking your native language for 20 years, then expecting to speak a new language after just 20 days with the same fluency and accuracy would not be realistic — to put it mildly. Believe me, nobody expects you to, and you shouldn’t either.


July 19, 2016
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Dayna Boyer
Language Skills
English, French, Spanish
Learning Language