Knowing how to speak English when you are scared or intimidated is important.
Many students spend years studying English, listening to CDs, taking tests, and working with computer programs to improve their English speaking skills. But when it comes to actually approaching an English speaker and speaking English, these same students might just stay silent instead. They missed an opportunity to use this still they have worked at so hard – because they are nervous.
So, you need to know how to speak English – in real life, even when you are nervous.
There might be many reasons you are nervous about speaking English, and they are all totally natural. In fact, no matter what language you are learning, you will probably be a little nervous when it actually comes to putting your skills into practice. Some of these reasons might be:
– You will be embarrassed if you make a mistake.
– You don’t want someone to laugh at you.
– You are not sure if the words you are thinking of are the right ones.
– You are afraid the other person will be offended if you assume they do not speak your language.
– You are generally shy.
There may be many other reasons that you struggle to speak English in real-life situations, but the point is, you need to know how to speak English even when you are nervous or worried.
Here a few tips that will help you overcome this fear:
1. Memorize a “Conversation Starter” phrase.
This is more than knowing the word “Hello.” You want to pick a phrase that sounds natural – maybe something you see someone use on a movie or TV show, like, “Hey, how’s it goin’?” Then practice that phrase about five-hundred times. Practice imitating a native speaker saying this phrase. Notice how they link the words together, their sentence tone or melody, and which word they stress. You want to practice this phrase so much that you can say it without thinking, and so that you can say it with convincing, confident English pronunciation. When that nervous, “I completely forgot how to speak English” feeling comes, you can rely on this well-practiced phrase to get you through.
2. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.
Much of the nervousness that you feel may be because you are worried about what other people will think of you. But think about it from their perspective. If someone who was studying your language came up to you and tried to speak your language, with poor pronunciation and lots of mistakes, would you think badly of them or laugh at them? Or would you try to help them and encourage them to continue studying and keep trying? If you are like most people, you would be encouraging to someone who is trying to learn your language. Why would you expect anything different from someone else?
It is true that some people will be rude to you if you don’t speak the language perfectly, but usually, these people are not very friendly in their own language either. In that case, it is their personality that is the problem, not your language skills.
3. Remember where you are.
If you are in the United States (or most English speaking countries), you are in a country that is very different from the majority of the world. Most countries are very homogeneous, and have a small immigrant and non-native speaking population. In the United States, however, about 20 percent of the population – 61 million people – speak a different language at home, and there are over 300 languages spoken in the U.S. So when you start wonder how to speak English when you feel so nervous, remember – you are not alone. Most Americans have interacted with dozens if not hundreds of people who do not speak English as their first language. It is a normal, everyday occurrence for us.
Likewise, if you are learning another language in your home country, and trying to practice with the English speaking teacher down the road or in your local Mexican market, imagine how the other person feels having to speak another language most of the time. They may appreciate the effort you put into talking to them in their native language, and they might enjoy the break they get from having to think in another language.
If you can get past the first few words of a conversation, you will be surprised at how easy it becomes. You just have to relax and feel confident in your attempts to speak English.