Confidence: It's roll and importance in language learning

March 6, 2015

Word Bucket

What happens to you when you are learning a language and find yourself speaking to someone whose native tongue is your target language? You get nervous, right? Most people in the learning stages feel intimidated when talking to a native speaker. Many factors trigger the intimidation and nerves - and this is an absolutely normal response. However I am here to tell you it is the wrong response and one which you need to abolish right away. 

But wait, you may be asking yourself how you can accomplish this when you lack the confidence in your language abilities - after all, those abilities are limited! fair enough. The truth is you can and should feel confident despite your lack of language abilities. Sound contradicting? Not really.

Little is gained by studying a language if when the time comes you don't bring yourself to speak it. The feeling of being judged is normal and it may or may not happen. But you are doing yourself a disservice by feeling intimated.

Intimidation and fear of having what you say be torn apart by a native speaker is something every language learner deals with at some point. But let's change that. Every person you talk to from now on is a teacher, look at it that way. Next time you find yourself in a situation where you feel on the spot or need to communicate in your target language try a few things: 

Be fearless

The more intimidated you feel the less you will be able to say what you want. You'll find yourself doubting words and thinking about your accent. This plays against you because it interrupts your speech and train of thought, in turn making you sound worse than you truly are.

Instead just speak your mind. You will make mistakes, of course! Be ok with it - mistakes make you better and the person in front of you appreciates your efforts. And if they correct you? That's a bonus.

Pretend

Most of my students to different degrees fear using the language when addressing native speakers. This unleashes on them feelings and insecurities described above. So I do a little exercise with them to make them realize they perform much better if they pretend they know everything. For 10 minutes we talk about any subject with the caveat that they can't stop to think of words and without long pauses. It's a fun excersise especially because your throwing out there uncensored material. It forces your mind and your ego to separate. 

What I've found is that students speak in a much more fluent manner - to their surprise! Of course at the end of the excersise we go over things to be corrected. The more you try this the more you'll realize you speak better than you think, oh and the fun you'll have!

Be confident

You want to reach a point where you either speak perfectly or are at least comfortable and confident with yourself in that language. The above tips help you do that. But once you achieve confidence nothing can stop you. 

Confidence despite flaws helps you not care about your mistakes - which you will in time correct - and have real life conversations that don't detract from your learning path.

Work with what you know, use it fearlessly and believe me you'll progress in your language learning at a pace you did not think possible.

Until next time!