5 Reasons not to stop you from speaking to a native speaker
It is summer and you are walking down the street, worry-free and excited about the new places you are about to explore. A couple of tourists approach you, carrying too much luggage, with a map on their hands, feeling stranded and helpless. In broken English, they utter “-Can you please, help us?”.
Of course you can! And not only you can help them in English, but you have detected that they are Spanish, the language of which you have been learning for more than two years now! In fact, you can answer to them in Spanish, and solving all this mess in a few minutes.
What do you do? Do you continue communicating in English? Finally try to speak in Spanish? Or you just shake your head in denial because you are completely, absolutely, totally intimidated to speak a foreign language?
I know you’ve been there and my hope is that no matter your reaction at this scene the first time, this article will help you feel more confident and comfortable to speak to a native speaker of the language you have been learning. There are several reasons why you should not deter yourself from just speaking to a native speaker of a foreign language.
- It’s never as bad as you imagine.
It is certain that before any major exam, project presentation at work or appearance in front of a larger public for any reason, you have felt the same kind of stress overwhelming you. But you did it anyway. Actually, the moment you completed it, you exhaled in relief, thinking that it wasn’t actually that bad as you thought it would be. This is the same kind of thinking that you need to keep on to, when the time comes for you to speak a foreign language.
You just need to dare and go for it the first time. After the first few words, you won’t hesitate that much to continue the conversation, especially when you see the positive reaction and help you are going to get from the native speaker standing in front of you. Before you create a catastrophic scenario in your mind of how the talk will develop, just start talking and in the end, you will realize that it wasn’t actually that bad.
- Making mistakes.
What if I make a mistake? What if I use the wrong tense? What if I don’t remember the right word? Yes! All of this will happen! You will make tons of mistakes the first few times you speak to a native speaker and of course they will include both big and small mistakes, regarding syntax, grammar and vocabulary. Some of these mistakes will be so HUGE that the moment you utter them, you will understand yourself the gravity and probably instantly think to yourself “What the f! Did I say just now?” but you will let it go anyway because there it went, it was uttered and the conversation has already moved on after that.
Making mistakes is part of any kind of learning, in every section of knowledge. Embrace it and learn to laugh at yourself. Being that strict, firm and scared of being judged will never help you start speaking a foreign language in the first place. So, go on make grandiose, grand, monumental mistakes that will make you laugh with your heart. You will still feel so proud that you have tried and managed to say something, even with your amazing mistakes. After all, eventually, they will start to fade away…
The first few times you engage in a conversation with a native speaker of another language, you will feel the need to ask him to repeat themselves several times either because your speed is not the same or the accent is different and didn’t allow you to catch a word the first time. No worries. Ask the other person politely to repeat more slowly, while explaining that you are still new at this language. Trust me, everyone will be more than understanding to repeat and even explain more thoroughly his idea to you.
Naturally, this will feel enervating during the first times you engage in conversations with a foreigner and it is probable that you will also realize that you are able to use a lot less in the foreign language than you thought you could. It doesn’t matter. Continue anyway. Continue asking the other person to repeat themselves, to elaborate, to explain and to provide you with examples. It is certain that the time will come when you will be able to go through an entire conversation without asking for any kind of repeat from the other person.
- Lack of confidence.
How many times have you walked away from something you truly wanted just because you felt overwhelmed by fear of being embarrassed, rejected or ridiculed? How many times have you regretted not even trying and kept wondering how would have things turned out if you had acted on it?
Let’s be honest, nobody was born with immense confidence. Confidence is a quality that we build gradually with every successful attempt, smaller or bigger. It comes from realizing that the moment we were ready to quit, success came the next day. By constantly trying, setting new goals, not being discouraged by failures we augment piece by piece our confidence.
Speaking out loud a foreign language will definitely scare you the first few times, but it is guaranteed that you will feel a little bit more comfortable each time you speak the other language. Your confidence will be rising every time the people around you understand you and respond to your ideas in that language.
Yet, for all that to begin happening, you need to start!
- Lack of Practice.
Naturally, if a person has not found the opportunity to practise speaking a foreign language adequate times in the past, they will feel intimidated to start having real life conversations in it. However, you could ease your way gradually into dealing with native speakers, by taking these small steps:
♠ Start by chatting online.
First of all, you have the time to respond at your own pace and not immediately. At the same time, you can parallel look up for the words you may not know in a dictionary and use them. Finally, the other person cannot see your face, which normally would be nerve-wracking at first!
♠ Visualize speaking before you actually start speaking to a native speaker.
While you are studying, or you are alone, it is worth thinking about and programing your mind of what to do when the time of speaking comes. Select an everyday topic like the weather, or a more complicated one, according to your level. Think of which phrases and words you could use to open a conversation, continue with your arguments and then concluding. Also, which words or phrases you have recently learned and you would love to use during a discussion.
♠ Start practising in situations where you are allowed to be the beginner.
It is imperative that before you find yourself in real life conversations, where the other person might be waiting for too long for you to put together your thoughts and words, to train as a beginner. The help of a tutor or exchange language partner, will definitely make you feel more relaxed in these first stages, as these people are aware of your level and they will be willing not only to show understanding but also help you express yourself in detail.
If you can only keep one piece of advice, after reading this article, let it be this:
Take action!It will all get better, after you start doing it…