As soon as we open our mouth, we feel our chest tighten, we freeze up, and we can’t get words out. Our cheeks turn red and we look down in embarrassment. Does this sound like a familiar feeling?
We feel these typical fears when we speak a second language:
- making mistakes
- people not understanding you
- people laughing at you
- mispronouncing words
- not knowing the correct expressions
It is so common for people to feel this sense of insecurity and frustration when they speak another language. The truth is that feeling muted or silenced is a really awful sensation. You are so focused on how others perceive you and you are afraid they might laugh at you. Not only that, you might be terrified of making a mistake or butchering the words and mispronouncing them. So, you often just stay silent and listen, which is more comfortable and safer.
Despite these awkward feelings, it is important to change your mindset and see learning language as a kind of fun experiment, which will help you have a more adventurous spirit and it will give you a sense of empowerment that will allow you to let go of your fear of speaking another language, especially with native speakers. Remember, the more you speak, the better you become at speaking the language, but you have to open your mouth!
1. Appreciate your Mistakes
The more mistakes you make, the faster you can learn from them and correct them. Mistakes are natural and common. Fear limits us and blocks us, which hinders our ability to learn language quickly. Our fear makes the learning process worse. If you change your mindset to an attitude of appreciation, then when you speak and catch yourself making a mistake with a verb tense or an adjective, you can correct yourself. Also, your language partner or teacher can help correct you. You can even learn to laugh at yourself. Once, I ordered “poop water” in Portuguese instead of “coconut water” and the waiter thought it was hilarious. I’ve learned to laugh at myself and not take myself so seriously because life is about learning and the more we fall, the faster we learn to stand back up again.
Accept the fact that you are inevitably going to make mistakes when you speak another language. In addition, if a friend or native speaker corrects you, be appreciative and thank them for helping you see the mistake. One tip is to carry a notebook around with you or use the notepad on your phone to write down some of these mistakes you are making and the phrases native speakers typically use so that you remember them in future conversations. You can use Anki flashcards on both your desktop and your phone to save and review words you are learning.
2. Get a Language Exchange Partner
In the video, you can see that Erica and I are practicing speaking English and Portuguese. We meet on a weekly basis and practice speaking together. I find this routine highly motivating and a wonderful way to improve my confidence with Portuguese. It is so much fun to share your language with a friend and in exchange, you learn their native language and it is completely free. Also, we have some dynamic, memorable and fascinating conversations. You can learn about your language partner’s culture and lifestyle. Also, you don’t feel as nervous about making mistakes because the exchange provides a more comfortable, relaxed environment to practice. Did I forget to mention that is is 100% free? There are some amazing technological tools that you can use to help you find a language partner.
Here are some websites you can use to find a language partner:
I’ve been teaching and learning on Italki for 6 years and highly recommend it. I found Erica, my Brazilian language partner on italki. To reiterate, italki is a useful website to help you find a language partner to do exchange on Zoom or Skype. You can also exchange your writing in their notebook and get corrections from native speakers for free. I also use it to learn Galician and to find Galician teachers.
I just recently added HelloTalk to my applications library and find it to be really fun and practical. I’ve been sending voice messages out to people in Spain to connect, but I haven’t had too many responses, but persistence and setting a positive intention is key. You can meet people around the world to practice with and you can also learn languages through podcasts, dialogues, and vocabulary activities. The lessons are geared to beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels, however, if you want to have access to all of the listening activities, you have to upgrade to a premium membership, but it might be worth it to get more comprehensive lessons and learning tools.
I just downloaded the application and you can use my referral link to try Busuu. It is nice because the application sets up a learning program for you and you can study the language for 10 minutes a day at the same time every day. Research shows that if you study at a consistent time every day, you are more likely to stick with the routine. Also, if you pay extra for the premium version, you can record yourself saying something in the language and request a native speaker to give you feedback, which is an amazingly useful feature. The vocabulary lessons and dialogues are fun and interactive and the graphs and data trackers help motivate you to continue learning.
3. Use Meditation to Calm You Down
Meditation is a powerful way that you can calm yourself down very quickly. In the above interview with Érica Lima, she shows you how to do a heart-centering meditation and breathing exercise before learning and speaking another language. This exercise is extremely helpful and fast-working. It calmed me down tremendously and gave me a sense of peace and well-being. Also, this kind of meditation is wonderful to do before giving a presentation in English or before leading a team meeting.
You can find more about Érica’s meditations, listen to her podcast in Portuguese, read her blog and discover her amazing, transformational courses: https://esquecerparadescobrir.com/ and check out her Youtube channel a Esquecer para Descobrir by Erica Lima and you follow her on Instagram @ericalimainsta. I really enjoyed her playlist and found her meditations selections to help me stay grounded and centered.
Some people tell me they don’t meditate because they can’t sit still. I try to meditate while walking and it works extremely well. You can download the Simple Habit app on your phone and do free meditations while walking.
4. Confidence through Collaboration
There is nothing that will help you grow more quickly with a language than collaborating with others. Communities of language learners can give you the support and help you need. This could be a traditional classroom environment or an online community. Other people help you push your language skills forward and help you get from point A to point B more swiftly.
Try doing something creative with your language partners. For example, you could give a presentation to your language partner in English. In addition, you could make a video of you speaking in English and share with an audience. Another idea would be to interview your language partner about your hobbies or passions. The pressure of sharing information with others will help you improve your speaking skills and you will be more likely to skyrocket your fluency. Confidence comes from consistency, persistence, and a supportive community. Good luck friends! You’ve got this!