Some people have the ability to get into a conversation in a foreign language with such ease and confidence. Even if they don’t have a rich vocabulary, chatting casually is no problem for them.
You, on the other hand, think that there is a higher chance of an asteroid hitting the Earth before you overcome your fear of speaking English, right?
If you think that you are the only one who feels that way, trust me, you are not!
In fact, the fear of speaking a foreign language is far more common than you might think. There is a name for this fear or so-called phobia: xenoglossophobia, the fear of learning and speaking foreign languages.
We all know that feeling of not being able to put our thoughts into words.
Let’s find a way to beat this one together, shall we?
What exactly are you afraid of?
The fear of failure, being misunderstood and grammar mistakes are the three most common reasons why people are afraid to speak English. Making mistakes feels like failure. And that seems like ‘the end of the world’ for us.
Then there is the inevitable anxiety.
Anxiety reduces your brain’s ability to do its job the way it is supposed to. It means that when you are anxious about speaking English with others, your brain can’t process the language properly.
The fear of being judged is usually present as well. Most of us are afraid of being judged. It is the same thing with foreign languages because we often think that others judge us for our grammar or pronunciation mistakes.
Ways to overcome your fear of speaking English
No need to despair. There is always a way to succeed. Here’s what you need to do:
Identify your exact fears
Before you start a conversation, why don’t you try talking to yourself first? Try to explain to yourself that there is no real reason to be scared. Start the conversation without fear. Remind yourself that fear is not rational and that it will only hold you back from your goal, which is to speak English fluently.
Preparation and practice can help you with your confidence as well. As much as you think that other people are natural talents, believe me, they surely prepare themselves and practise a lot. However, it takes time, and it won’t happen overnight. Invest your time and energy into practice. Over time, you will see improvement.
If you feel afraid, one-on-one conversation is a good start. Group conversations can be more complex, and people usually speak faster. To overcome your fear, try talking to one person. This way, you can concentrate on their speed, style, the way they are speaking, etc., especially if you talk to a stranger. One more tip: don’t overthink your way of speaking, words you are going to use, etc. Just relax and let the talk flow.
One of the best tips to have meaningful conversations is to ask questions. This way you won’t be the center of attention, but you will still practise your language skills. Asking questions allows you to participate but at the same time doesn’t force you to be overly included.
In the beginning, speak slowly, so if your speaking partner doesn’t realize that, feel free to ask them to slow down a little bit. It is interesting to know that if you begin talking clearly and slowly, your partner will speak that way, too.
There are various topics, but they are pretty much repeating themselves. No matter how many different people you meet, topics are mainly about everyday life. It benefits you because you will simply use the same or similar words and phrases, and over time, you can master and expand them. After all, that’s the point of vocabulary growth.
With an honest smile, you can also speak the language in some way. Perhaps you are familiar with this fact, but it is good to mention that a smile can really help sometimes. When you start talking, don’t think about your fears or about words or phrases you might use wrongly. Instead, put a smile on your face and just speak.
How to speak English with confidence?
If you, after all these tips, feel nervous and shy about speaking English with other people, then you surely need to work on your confidence. In order to be more confident with English, try the following tips. You will soon realize that everybody makes mistakes and that it isn’t the end of the world.
First of all, don’t worry. Even native speakers make mistakes. Nobody will laugh at you.
Read a lot. For starters, find a text up to 300 words and something that isn’t too hard for you.
If you aren’t sure, ask someone who is fluent or native English to read it for you and record it. You can hire a native English tutor online and practice your skills regularly.
Listen to recorded audio and practise along with it. Practise until you become more confident.
Try reading the text without any help. After several repetitions, record your voice. You can record it any time you want, not just once. This way, you will not only listen and compare yours with your tutor’s recording, but you can also see your improvement and learn from it.
Stand in front of the mirror. If you are a shy person, this will be excellent practice for you. After practicing in front of the mirror, you will definitely have more confidence.
Native English speakers are very good friends
Hanging out with native speakers is always the best way to improve your speaking abilities. At least in today’s world, this is more than easy. Make friends with native English speakers. That way, you will be ‘forced’ to speak with them only in English.
How to make friends with English speakers? Some ideas you can try:
Find conversational networking groups and forums that use English on the internet. You can offer to teach your native language in exchange.
Find places, clubs or bars near you with events held by English speakers. There, you will have the opportunity to meet many native speakers and also make friends with them. They can help you with English, and you can help them with, for example, finding nice restaurants in the neighborhood or perhaps good clubs for partying.
Join conversational classes. There are plenty of these types of courses that you can join and make some new foreign friends.
Travel to English speaking countries. Meet native speakers, start a conversation with them. Ask for directions or some tips for having fun and invite them to go out with you. Friendships made this way are one of the strongest and most honest ones.
What if none of these tips for confidence work for me?
If you can’t find a way to overcome your fear, that only means that you are way too afraid and anxious about it. But not to worry. For every problem, there is a solution. Take a look at our recommendations:
Take time off
Take a break a little bit, for example, a week without English. Perhaps your anxiety makes things seem worse than they really are. So, a short break should be right for you. Do something else: cook, go for a walk, try some new coffee or tea flavors, etc.
Every time you feel worried about speaking, remind yourself to relax. Keep in mind that being nervous won’t help you. It will only make things worse.
Your attitude is the first step to success. If you are positive about your English skills, you will be more confident, and, therefore, you will not be afraid to start speaking.
Whenever you feel blue, remember, your goal is to speak English confidently. Remind yourself of why you started learning English in the first place. If you are doing it for a promotion at work, that’s more than okay. If you, maybe, want to learn to impress your partner, keep that in mind every time you get discouraged.
Believe in yourself
No matter that this tip is at the bottom of our list, it doesn’t mean it is less valuable, quite the contrary. It is the most important thing: you need to believe in yourself in order to overcome any fear.