How To Overcome Shyness, The Biggest Killer Of Language Learning
Learning a language is definitely not for wimps. I can admit to being slightly wimpy sometimes, especially when it comes to attempting to speak Spanish in front of others, but as I mentioned in my last post, it is important not to be too hard on yourself during the process of learning a new language. It is OK to take breaks when you need to, allow yourself imperfections, and it’s even OK to complain about how hard it is (trust me on this, I do it all the time!).
I am in week 10 of my 90-Day Spanish Challenge and I am still by no means ready to speak Spanish with anyone. The same thing happened when I was learning English many years ago. I was too shy to talk to people and would write yellow post-its in English if I had something on my mind. I was worried that I would make mistakes and that people would laugh at me. When I finally did start to speak, some people did laugh, but I survived, the world did not implode.
The moral of that story is eventually I had to be brave! I had to get out there and talk to people, I had to let myself be vulnerable. Most of all I had to get my act together and forget about the shyness.
Shyness is a language learning killer and eventually you (and I) will have to talk. It is all well and good that I know 360 words by now and have created 1000s of LingQs, but at the end of the day if I don’t venture out and eventually start speaking Spanish, I will never become fluent. At some point I will have to speak. I have been thinking of ways to overcome this shyness.
But first let’s identify those signs of shyness.
– Do you get all hot, bothered and sweaty when thinking about speaking in your target language?
– Do you get heart palpitations when you feel like you’re on display?
– Do you want to run away from the situation?
– Do you feel like everyone looking at you might be judging you?
– Do you worry about everyone in the room laughing at you?
If any of these apply to you like they do me – then you are screwed – just kidding! But wouldn’t it be nice if shy people like us could get over that way of thinking? I hope to eventually speak Spanish to someone other than myself, so I have come up with some things that might help me get into a different frame of mind.
Try to put into words how you perceive yourself in situations where you might have to speak your target language. What kind of words come to mind? Stupid? Embarrassing? Lack of Fluency? Insufficient vocabulary? Or perhaps other negative things. If that’s how you think of the situation, then turn it around and think about all the positive things that might happen if you speak out loud, such as the sense of accomplishment, the fact that not long ago you couldn’t string a sentence together, that people might think you are brave for trying. In other words think positive thoughts.
Worst Case Scenario
What’s the worst that can happen if you screw up in front of someone? Nothing! Some people may laugh at you, but so what? No one in their right mind will think less of you for trying, or because your pronunciation isn’t perfect all the time in your newly acquired language. On the contrary, like I said before, people will probably think you are awesome for trying. (And if they are real jerks – ask them to say something in your language and then laugh back at them if they can’t).
Take A Good Look Around
Why am I even shy? Why are you shy? Is it because you care too much about how other people perceive you? This goes for speaking a new language, but also for life in general; be less concerned about what others think about you? It has taken me a long, long time to get to a stage where I care less (I still care more than I should) about what people think. It’s probably one of those things that comes with age, which is why I also think I’ll speak Spanish out loud to other people much sooner than I did English. Also, I refer to the point above: what is the worst that can happen?
Just DO IT
Get out there and socialize. Talk to someone – in the Speak section on the exchange in LingQ you can ask a tutor to have an online chat with you in your target language. It can be someone who wants to learn your language and have learned the language your target language, or it can be a native speaker of your target language (that requires slightly more bravery or it can be a tutor. One thing is certain – none of these people will laugh at you because everyone is on LingQ for the same reason – to learn a language.
As someone who has just started learning a new language, you are often extra shy and you can quickly become a little unsure of yourself – that’s perfectly normal. The more you practice your target language the better you’ll get, so go ahead and speak – you’ll be alright.
Be Proud Of Small Accomplishments
After everything is said and done and you have uttered a few words to another person in your new language – even if it is just something simple like: ‘Hola ¿cómo estás?’. You deserve to feel good about it. You have taken the first step in overcoming the language learning killer, that shyness is.
Are you shy? Tell me how you overcame it. Or if you haven’t, how it affects your language learning.