Do you blush at the very thought of having to speak English? Do you dread the idea of making a mistake while speaking to a native speaker? Then this blog post is for you. Read on to find out what you can do to get rid of your anxiety when speaking English.
1. Mistakes are ok.
Seriously. Think about your mother tongue. Don’t you make mistakes every now and then? Really?! Never? Language slips and mistakes are natural and they do happen. So there’s absolutely no point in dwelling on each and every mistake you’ve made in your life. Believe me, native speakers don’t speak impeccable English either. What I’m getting at is that we really shouldn’t avoid speaking English only because we are afraid of making mistakes. At the end of the day we use language to communicate and even if this language is sometimes incorrect it’s not such a big deal. Expert speakers of English have even been known to invent new words in a jam or create a unique turn of phrase to convey their meaning even if it isn’t actually correct. Another popular excuse for expert speaker mistakes is speaking too quickly and changing their thought mid-sentence. Anyways the point is: mistakes will always happen.
2. Add English to your daily schedule.
Let’s be honest, if you practise your English once a week for 60 minutes it’d be hard to make you feel comfortable while using it. You can try to maximise your English experience by spending some time each day practising it. However trivial this may sound, try reading articles or books, watching favourite films or series, chatting with friends, listening to music (of course everything in English!). Once you develop a habit of using English on a regular basis, it’ll become easier to truly enjoy conversations. Obviously, it won’t happen overnight but well… practice makes perfect.
3. Learn some survival phrases.
The reason why some people feel anxious when speaking English is that they’re afraid they won’t understand their interlocutor. Yes, it might happen although it shouldn’t prevent us from navigating conversations comfortably. What to do? How about learning some fixed expressions for checking understanding? Here are some ideas: ‘Sorry, I didn’t catch that’, ‘Say again?’, ‘Sorry, you’ve lost me. Can you repeat?’, ‘What do you mean by..?’, ‘(Beg you) pardon?’. It’s quite important to learn these phrases by heart so that you can retrieve them automatically when necessary. It’s perfectly acceptable to use checking understanding phrases and there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Besides, the majority of native speakers appreciate the fact that you make an effort to put your message across in a foreign language and they’ll be willing to repeat things for you.
4. Practise, practise, practise. Out loud.
Ok, here’s the puzzle: How do you eat an entire elephant? One bite at a time! And when we treat the poor elephant as a problem, we get the answer to coping with it. If you’re shy when speaking English, it’s unrealistic to assume you’ll go to a party with a group of English speakers and start speaking confidently. Think about realistic goals. You can start with something small, not outside your comfort zone. Maybe speaking to one person would be a better solution at the very beginning? If this is still too much, try to speak to yourself, maybe even in front of a mirror. It may feel awkward at first but this might be a nice warming-up activity. Think about situations in which you know you can be yourself. This is the place where you can start!
And, most importantly, just let your hair down. You can do it!
To blush – when your face (especially cheeks) go red from embarrassment or shyness
Practice makes perfect – an old adage that suggests that regular repetition leads to improvement.
I didn’t catch that – (an idiom) I didn’t understand what you just said.
Let your hair down – (an idiom) Relax, unwind and don’t let anything bother you.