the happy linguist

how to grow your confidence

The fear of speaking in a new language is very often something that holds us back from making the progress we’re capable of.

You can know a foreign language inside out and back to front, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy when it comes to actually using it. One of the biggest hurdles that I had to overcome when speaking a foreign language for the first time was confidence. I was so shy that I was always too embarrassed to say anything. However, once I broke down that barrier for the first time, my language skills got stronger and stronger and my confidence grew enormously. There are a couple of things you can do to help to break down the confidence barrier.

Having things to say

When you learn a foreign language, you also have to learn how to have conversations. With our native language, we sort of learn this naturally as we go along and, even then, some people are great conversationalists, whilst others aren’t so great. Well, one part of being a good conversationalist is always having something to say.

Before you next go away on holiday, write down five sentences that you can use during the first couple of days in the new country.

I’ll give you five examples in French:

c’est très bon

it’s very good

c’est absolument fantastique

it’s absolutely fantastic

c’est beau ici

it’s beautiful here

ҫa c’est pour moi

that is for me

ce n’est pas pour moi

it isn’t for me

These are just five short and simple sentences that you could use in lots of different situations, but you should make up your own sentences that you know you will use. If you prepare five things, you will be more likely to use them. Now, I’m not saying that this will be easy, because it won’t! It certainly wasn’t for me.

It isn't an easy thing

The first time I said anything in Spanish, I was nervous, I was stumbling over my words, my mouth was dry, I was a mess! In my head, I had come up with so many reasons why I shouldn’t say anything.

"What if I don’t understand what’s being said back?"

"What if they don’t understand me?"

"What if they think I’m weird for trying to speak Spanish?"

"What if they speak English anyway?"

But I finally did it and it felt amazing! Once you get over the hurdle, you realise it’s not that scary after all. So, just have a go; you’ll be so glad you did and it will get easier each time you say something. Don’t think about anything that could go wrong, just try your best and hope for the best. If something goes wrong, oh well; everybody makes mistakes; we’re human! I know I have made many mistakes, but it’s through our mistakes that we learn to improve.

So, your first challenge as a new language learner is to write down five short sentences and you have to say them within the first two days of your holiday abroad. Force yourself to do it, no matter how nervous you are. You’ll feel amazing afterwards!