5 steps to overcome the fear of speaking in a foreign language

Learning a foreign language should be fun and interesting, not stressful! It may seem intimidating when you begin to say your first words in a foreign language and that’s natural, you’re stepping outside one of life’s major comfort zones! But this is a good thing, and you must try and see it that way. Learning a language is a journey in knowledge and thought, and on your journey you’ll encounter things that really satisfy you as well as those that intimidate you, or frustrate you. The key thing to remember though, is that it’s all part of it. There are certain things you can do on your path to learning a foreign language that will make you feel more comfortable and less fearful. Here’s a list of 5 things that you can factor into your learning that will help you overcome the fear of speaking in a foreign language.

How to overcome the fear of speaking in a foreign language:

Focus on the journey, not the destination

Learning is an infinite journey, we can never know everything or come anywhere near, and if you are truly seeking to improve your knowledge then admitting this is the first step. It’s about the process, not the result — the journey rather than the end product that you hope to achieve. That’s not to say that you don’t need to set objectives, though, but rather to enjoy yourself as you work towards them rather than focusing entirely on the end product. Every little thing you do is another step, and matters, it’s not just about the destination, but the journey also. When learning a language, you may have an end product in mind already, which is fine! But don’t let the fear of speaking in a foreign language give you anxiety over achieving it quickly. This will happen in its own time and the best thing you can is work step-by-step towards it, whilst focusing on each step you take.

fear of speaking in a foreign language

Be honest

Honesty is universally recognised, if you speak honestly with a true intention, and are seen to try your honest best when speaking, then the reception will more often than not be a good one. It really is true that honesty is the best policy and it’s something we must practice when speaking foreign languages as well in in life itself! Be open about your ability, and how it’s a work in progress. Don’t worry about trying to speak honestly though! Because by trying in your own natural, people will recognise it in you! People will respect that, as no-one starts off good at something, we must all learn.

Start thinking in foreign language

That may seem peculiar at first, as when we consciously engage our brain in speaking a foreign language we are still often translating back into our own native one. It’s difficult to overcome this, but it will happen, and you can help yourself think in a foreign language by reading texts, literature, or posts online that relate to you. Watching films in a foreign language that you know very well can be a great way of exposing your mind to phrases you’re familiar with in the foreign language you’re learning. Over time you’ll develop a second state of thought — one where you find yourself actually thinking in a foreign language. This allows you to use more thinking power to focus on speaking the language, as you’re using less translating information into your own! It sounds strange, but it will happen spontaneously.

Simple thoughts

When you begin to speak a foreign language you should keep it simple. Not only does it help others to understand you, but it will prevent you from getting confused with ambiguous words that may have multiple levels of meaning. Try and keep your speaking concise and focused. That’s not to say that you can’t step outside the box and try and add complex words into your vocabulary early on, but be mindful of how you’re using them and compare them to real world examples.

Let perfectionism go

It can be tempting to be overly critical, working through smaller things that you don’t quite understand. Indeed, it can be hard to move on when you’re stuck on something you find tricky, but overall, it’s not a problem. It’s more productive to let perfectionism go and be content with what you have and what your learning currently extends to. If you find something tricky then it’s a simple rule to move on, and you’ll probably come back to it and find it a lot easier! If you get caught up trying to make something perfect, then it may cost you time and frustration! The other thing to remember is that no speakers speak perfectly! You don’t need to be absolutely spot on to convey a sentence and communicate, and your imperfections will brush themselves up over time anyway. Be content as, after all, nothing and no one is perfect!

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Originally published at Bilingua.