How to Overcome the Fear of Speaking a Foreign Language? Have you ever heard people saying that they would like to speak a new language but they are afraid of making mistakes? Have you ever been afraid of making mistakes with a new language?
I always remember the English lessons from one English course at high school. I was probably 17-18 years old and I had always done very well at school. Now we had an English course where we needed to speak English in 4-person groups.
In my group, all 3 persons had the best grade in English = 10 on a scale 4-10. My grade was only 7 so it was obvious that I couldn’t speak English as good as those other three students in my group. I was nervous before those lessons because I knew that I should speak English there. After the course, I felt relieved and I thought that I am never forced to speak English again if I don’t want.
When I look back at those experiences, it seems a bit hilarious. How was I so nervous? It was just a learning environment. The way I look at speaking foreign languages has dramatically changed since then.
How Did the Fear Disappear?
I found the guy on the Internet called Benny Lewis. His Fluent in 3 Months methods completely changed the way I was looking at language learning. I learned at school that making mistakes was a bad thing. If you did a mistake in a test, the teacher immediately corrected it with a big red pen so you will clearly see it.
When a teacher asked a question from the class and some of the students gave the wrong answer, the rest of the class laughed at him. That’s what I learned at school about making mistakes. (Of course, I am a little bit exaggerating here to make the point.)
Then Benny Lewis came and said, “Making mistakes is a key to learning languages. The more mistakes you make the more you learn. I set myself a goal to make at least 100 mistakes every day with a new language. Nowadays I speak 13 languages fluently.” Woah!
That’s a totally different approach that I learnt at school. But it sounded very wise and some success coaches said that making mistakes is a path to success. Instead of being afraid of making mistakes, you should embrace mistakes as a learning experience. Mistakes are the proof that you are trying.
I wasn’t afraid of speaking a new language anymore.
A Baby Learns to Speak
Do you have kids? Or do you know children of your relatives of your close friends? I bet that all of us have seen little a little baby who doesn’t speak perfectly yet.
I remember when my niece was less than 1 years old and she started to say her first words. We were so amazed when she said: “Daddy” (in Finnish naturally because our native tongue is Finnish). Then he said another word, “Mummy” and so on. Little by little she started to speak more.
My little niece didn’t pronounce those words perfectly. She made lots of “grammatical mistakes”. But all of us were totally proud of her. We just said, “SHE IS SPEAKING!! WOW!” Even though she had only said a few words or sentences, we declared that now she is speaking.
We should have the same attitude when somebody is learning to speak a new language. Instead of laughing at mistakes we could encourage, “Wow, you did it. Sounds great!” Then we could give tips on how to move forward and make even more progress.
“But I Can’t Speak Spanish/French/English…”
Have you ever heard someone saying that he can’t speak some language but then you hear him speaking it with other people? If you go to Finland, most people say that they speak English “only a little” but when you start talking to them, almost all of them speak it fluently.
Do you remember how much many words my niece was speaking when we already celebrated that she speaks? Only a few words or sentences! I believe that most of you can speak a foreign language much more than you could imagine.
Appreciate all the progress that you have done already. You can speak it. If you can say, “Hello, how are you? My name is Peter.” you are already speaking it.
You Failed – But You Didn’t Give Up
Have you learned to ride a bike or drive a car?
When we start out practicing those skills, we make lots of mistakes. Usually, we fell down with a bike many times before we master it. Do our parents say, “Jack will not learn to ride a bike because he already fell down 3 times.” Of course not.
If you fail with languages a few times, it doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t learn them after all.
Remember that mistakes are the proof that you are trying.
No matter if you forget a new word for 5, 10, 20 or even 50 times. Then you just “get up” and learn it again. Over the time course, it will become permanently a part of your vocabulary.
If you can’t pronounce the French “R” after 100 times, it doesn’t mean that you couldn’t pronounce it after 200. Practice makes progress.
3 Resources to Overcome Your Fear
Nowadays you have better opportunities to learn languages than ever before in the human history because you have the Internet.
Here are 3 wonderful resources that can immediately help you to overcome your fear of speaking a foreign language.
The famous course by Benny Lewis. He spoke only 1 language at the age of 21 and nowadays he speaks something like 10-15 languages fluently.
Fluent in 3 months premium is full of resources and tips that will help you to master a new language faster than before (while having fun).
This is the place where I became fluent in Spanish and learned to speak more French. I also took some of my first steps in German in Italki. It’s an awesome language learning community where you will find tons of helpful and friendly people.
By the way, you will also get $10 bonus if you sign up to Italki through my links.
Even though all language games don’t require that you would speak, they will anyway expand your vocabulary, listening comprehension, boost your confidence and much more.
You can find lots of great language games online. (One of) the best is LingQ.
I hope you have found this article useful and inspiring. I believe that it gave you some interesting ideas that you can put right away into action. If you have any questions or comments, just leave them below and I will be more than happy to reply you personally.
Have you ever had a few of speaking a foreign language? How did you overcome it?