The most difficult part of speaking a language is . . . speaking
One of the, maybe the most, difficult parts of speaking a new language is speaking it. I”m talking about the anxiety you, and I, get when saying the very first words to a native speaker. But, overcoming fear and speaking a language is essential for those of us learning a language.
As much as I travel and have this first speaking experience, I never seem to get over the fear of speaking those first few times. And to be honest it often keeps me from speaking right away.
I don’t know why so many of us have this fear but it does seem to be pretty common. And if you are familiar with Easy Travel Speak you know that one of the fundamentals of the program is to start speaking right away – at the first opportunity you can. So coming up with some strategies to overcome the fear of speaking a language is something I had to develop.
How to overcome fear and speak a language
So, I’ve come up with some strategies to overcome the fear of speaking. It’s not only easy but it’s pretty painless and when I do it, not only am I speaking right away, but I feel so much better about myself for getting over this fear.
It’s starts with some basic ‘getting over the fear of ___________’ techniques.
First, rehearse what you are going to say. And I’m talking about saying one or two words. A bit more on that in just a minute.
After I’ve rehearsed and right before I’m going to talk, right as some stranger in a strange country using a strange language is looking me in the face and waiting for me to say something, just when my nerves are at the highest point of panic mode, I take a deep breath. And not just a deep ‘in’ breath, but a long exhale. It’s this long exhale that is key.
This not only calms the nerves but gives you a moment to focus. A lot of times it just this pause I need to think rather than react. A moment to formulate thoughts rather than freeze.
The key strategy to overcoming the fear of speaking a language
The journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step. The journey to speaking fear-free begins with a single word
This is the key to overcoming the fear of speaking the first time.
The trick is to pick something really easy to say, something you will say a lot and to many people. Usually, it’s something like ‘thank you’, but this latest trip put me in Albania and ‘thank you’ in Albanian is “faleminderit“. That’s way too long and complex for my first try. So, I opted for ‘dua’, ‘I want” because it’s easy and I can use it a lot.
So on the first morning in Albania, I sat down for a coffee and said to the waiter, “Dua coffee, please”.
Then I looked up the word for ‘milk’ and pointed because this is the word for milk, “qumësht“ and there was no way I was going to attempt that on my first day.
Then the waiter said in English, “A coffee with milk, a latte?” I didn’t let his English throw me, because I knew the word for yes, and responded, ‘po’.
It’s all about the confidence – overcome fear and speaking a language
What this little interaction and two Albanian words (really 3 if you count coffee, which is pretty much the same in English and Albanian) did is give me the confidence to say all this again with much less anxiety AND the confidence to try a few more simple words.
And what you will find is your confidence builds exponentially, you feel ok saying 1 word then 2, then 4 or 5, then a full sentence, and in a few days you are trying all kinds of multiple sentences and really starting to learn the language because you are speaking and listening.
Confidence kills fear
Confidence is the opposite of fear, the opposite of anxiety when it comes to speaking a new language, so you’ve got to find a way to build up your confidence and that often starts with a single word.
Some choose 1 or 2 often used words, rehearse, take a deep breath, believe in yourself, and make it happen.