How to overcome the anxiety of speaking a foreign language?

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Foreign Language Anxiety
Foreign Language Anxiety

Have you ever felt worried or anxious when you were about to speak in foreign language? Suddenly you forgot everything you wanted to say or you couldn't concentrate at all. Does it sound familiar? if so, don't worry - you are not the only one. :)

One of the English learners who was experiencing similar problem asked me this question:

My mind gets blank and I struggle to speak in English when I am with people who have much better English knowledge than me. What should I do?

Note: The learner also mentioned that an example of such a stressful situation is meeting with managers in a company who have far better English knowledge.

Here's my suggestion:

Thank you very much for this question.

I can completely relate to your problem because I have experienced something similar in the past. I believe that the underlying problem is our psychology - when we are dealing with someone who we think is better than we are in some way we can feel intimidated, or frightened.

This isn’t related to speaking in a foreign language only - we can have similar experience when dealing with our boss, potential partner on a first date, and so on...

The reason our "mind gets blank" is because of the stress we are experiencing at that moment and the way we are focusing our thoughts.

The problem is also that this negative experience works as a reference for the future. That means - when we are about to get to the similar situation again, we can start feeling stressed even before the situation begins.

How to overcome this? :) (or what has helped me personally?)

  • Focus is the key - we have to stop focusing on the negatives - don't think about managers as some "special people" who have "perfect English". It might be true, but it will make you feel unworthy. Don't even compare your skills with theirs.
  • Think about the situation differently. Think that you are going to have a nice conversation with another human being, your friend, or colleague. Focus on the goal of the conversation you are going to have.
  • Then, we need the practice - it's going to take some time until we are ok with the situation itself. We have to expose ourselves to the similar situation again and again - and create positive reference.
  • What has helped with my confidence in speaking a lot is Power English program.

Another reason that can stop us from speaking English is the fear of making mistakes. Watch the following video and learn what can we do about it. :) The video is over 30 minutes long but it is worth watching.

Have you ever had the similar experience in your life? What has helped you to overcome it? Share your thoughts in the comment section below. :)

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