How to get over shyness when speaking a foreign language

If you’re someone who cringes at the thought of speaking your new language in front of other people (especially native speakers) – have a look at my top 5 tips on how to boost your confidence!

1. Prepare 

Having a few phrases or questions in mind relieves some of the pressure of having to think of what to say on the spot. For example; try rehearsing your order before signalling to your waiter, search up the pronunciation of tricky words on an online dictionary, or have some questions in mind to ask your language partner.

 

2. Speak before you think…

Stop overthinking! I bet we’ve all had thoughts like:

“OMG, I sound so silly”

“Does this person even understand what I’m saying?”

“Damn! What was the word for *insert word you literally studied this morning*’ ?”

“I have no idea what point I’m even trying to make right now”

You can’t always stop these thoughts from popping up in your head so the trick is to beat your mind to it. Don’t give yourself a chance to doubt, jump right in and speak!

 

3. …and keep speaking!

Learning a language is like training a muscle, and sometimes our muscles need a bit of warming up before they can work effectively. I often set a 5 minute timer on my phone and challenge myself to speak until the timer’s up. The idea is to get all the awkwardness out of the way and begin getting used to hearing my own voice in a foreign language – I do this before a Skype or WhatsApp call with a language partner.

Sometimes all we need is to just get used to speaking in another language – the more you speak in a foreign language,  the less foreign it will seem to you.

 

4. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes

Speaking in front of a native speaker can be pretty daunting. I’ve always felt self-concisous and feared that I would be laughed at. However, to this day (over 10 years of language learning), not a single person has ever laughed or teased me. In fact, I received quite the opposite response. When people see you making a genuine effort to learn about their language and culture – they will praise you for it (even if you don’t speak perfectly!).

The person you’re speaking to may only know their own language, so they’re probably mind-blown that you can hold a conversation with them. They may even admire or be envious of your linguistic abilities.

 

5. Reflect

If you’ve gotten yourself to the point of actually conversing with someone in a foreign language, you’re probably a lot better than you think. So what if you’ve mispronounced a few words or mixed up some grammar!? The main thing is you’re speaking and the other person is most likely understanding you (trust me, you would have to really butcher a language for a native speaker not to be able to grasp the concept of what you’re saying).

Take time to constantly reflect on your progress. Chances are, you’ve come a long way from where you were a few months, weeks or even days ago. Celebrate the small successes like being able to have a conversation for a full 10 minutes, or not having to rely on your dictionary.  Reflecting on how far you’ve come gives you a boost of confidence and motivation to keep going!

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