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Overcome your fear of speaking English

In this topic I’ll talk about how you can overcome your fear of speaking English!

The biggest problem and obstacle every learner of English has to overcome when it comes to English is by far “Speaking”! There are other obstacles and winding paths that every learner of English has to get over and I could spend long hours or an entire post describing one by one, but trust me, the ability of “Speaking” is the main barrier for most learners.

Why do people shake with fear of speaking? Why don’t they get out and start speaking? Maybe for fear of making mistakes?

Let’s think of it for a while, it may sound weird, but if you are learning a new language, why are you afraid of speaking? Language is supposed to be spoken, isn’t it? If you really want to learn a language you have to speak and try to find the great environment to do it and engage with native or non-native speakers of English.

In my early stages of learning English, I used to shake in my shoes just for fear of making mistakes and not being able to express myself properly as much as I wanted to, as I was studying and improving my English the fear of speaking kept vanishing little by little, however, I have to be honest here and admit that there is a trace of fear, but just when I have to speak with native speakers of English.

Have you ever stopped to think why you have fear of speaking? Why does it happen? Where does this fear come from? Let’s try to figure out why it happens, since I’m also a learner of English and I’ve been through a lot, I have definitely felt my share of fear.

Here are the most common problems:

1- Embarrassment: To be embarrassed or ashamed is by far the champion. People get embarrassed because of their accent, poor pronunciation and because they don’t know how to build elaborate sentences or in most cases because they are afraid to be the butt of a joke in front of others, but I can tell you, no one will laugh at you, it has never happened to me.

2- Mistakes: The fear of speaking also comes from a fear of making mistakes. Most of the time it happens because people get anxious and in that case they instantly lose their ability or capability to speak comfortably, in some cases, people’s brains get overanxious and their speaking performance drops off substantially, it has been proved that high levels of anxiety can hold you back, in the worst case scenario they stop and get stuck completely!

3- Vocabulary: Lack of vocabulary is also one of the reasons people are afraid of speaking English and they get discouraged to start a conversation. If you are waiting to achieve a great level of vocabulary to start speaking English you will end up waiting for years and it will never come to an end.

4- Confidence: You don’t feel self-confident enough to engage in a conversation because your fear is bigger than your confidence plus the three I mentioned above. Lack of confidence in some cases turns out into negative thoughts that will break you apart.

How to lose the fear of speaking English? How to overcome your fear?

Be aware that “fear” is a good sign, it’s a mechanism of protection and survival of your body preparing it to a specific dangerous situation or even a strong emotion linked with your higher levels of anxiety, when you are gripped by fear, your body is getting ready for a big action that may happen. The first thing you have to do is to learn how to deal with your “fear”, you should not let it control you completely, on the other hand, you are the only one who have to take control of your body, if you learn how to control your fear and its physiological reactions, for sure, you will be able to think clearly without any level of hesitation and being capable of performing well and speaking well enough.

Another aspect that you have to take into account is to admit that you have fear of speaking and learn how to deal with it, as soon as you admit to yourself your own fear, getting rid of it is just a matter of time, in my opinion the only way to overcome your fear of speaking is to seek or engage every opportunity to speak English.

You’ve probably already heard that “Practice makes perfect”. Don’t hesitate! If you get an invitation to speak English, don’t throw this chance away and grab this opportunity to start getting over your fear.

Before you engage in a conversation, take a deep breath, control your emotions and fear, I can guarantee that “the fear of speaking” is a gigantic imaginary monster that you have created in your mind! As you get into in a conversation and if you are not still confident, you can let the other person know that you are too shy to speak and ask them if they can help you out, the “key” here is to admit your limits, to be your own and not pretend to be something you’re not, if the other person is polite and wants to help you, accept any kind of criticism and learn from any suggestion that they may give you.

Some steps will help you to build your confidence before getting into a real conversation if you still don’t feel like doing it.

1- Put away your fears and practice speaking with yourself as much as you can, practice recording your voice or making videos, speaking in front of the mirror or while taking a shower, using English on a daily basis makes the language a habit, the confidence comes with practice!

2- If you don’t have a large vocabulary yet, take advantage of the powerful method of “narrow-reading”, which means that you will read and study all about the subject you have to speak of.

3- Picture yourself as a successful English speaker; visualize yourself being smooth and confident when speaking! As soon as you start picturing yourself as a fluent speaker of English, you will dominate your fear, not opening up any possible gap to negative thoughts.

4- Make a vision board and fill it out describing the person you want to be, like: I’m confident! I’m successful! I can talk with native speakers of English! I’m an experienced learner of English and put whatever you want to achieve towards your goal and look at your vision board every day! It will help you to build your self-esteem and confidence.

I know that it’s easier said than done, but keep yourself motivated and ally with your willpower; the “motivation” and the “willpower” are both strong warriors that will put your fear down! I can assure you that as you go ahead with yours studies and as the time goes by “the fear” of speaking English will disappear completely and you will “shoot the breeze”!

Take care!

About Marcelo

I'm passionate about the English language, self-taught student, enthusiast gamer, husband and a father of two, and coffee addict.

32 comments

  1. Hi, Marcelo. I like what you’ve written. You’ve really thought in depth about this matter! It’s so important to us that another human being understand what we think and feel, and so we get caught up in trying to build the perfect bridge to that other person — a bridge over which our most delicate thoughts can easily travel.

    When we’re fluent, then the speech-bridge which connect us to other people is strong and well-designed. But even in the early stages of language-learning, when that bridge is fragile and full of gaps, what really matters is the heart of the person communicating.

    When two people look at each other, and smile, and want to communicate, then it’s understood that both people are trying together to make that bridge between them as sturdy and useful as it can possibly be. It’s a shared venture, building that bridge, and it’s something which brings human beings closer.

    What really matters is the DESIRE to communicate, the desire to build that bridge to share thoughts with another person. The desire to connect and communicate with another person is instantly recognizable; it’s beyond language; and once it’s there, then the rest is just engineering!

  2. oops…I feel like I should correct my typos, if I’m going to write about language learning…

    In line 5 in my comment above, “connect” should be “connects”.

    • Hi, Betsy! Thank you for coming over here and leaving such a beautiful message!
      As I told you, my fear of speaking English is just with native speakers, when I start talking I don’t feel at ease, weird to say, but it takes some time to chill out and let things go naturally hehe.
      Once again, thanks for stopping by!

  3. Itibrão Motta

    Hi, Marcelo, I’d been a job in an interprise that have a lot of spertises, but no one speaks english. They sad to me. Only technician need to learn english, spertise no need. What do you think about it?

    • Hi, Itibrão Motta!
      Thank you for dropping a line.
      Let me see if I got this straight! If you meant “experts”, which means that are people who have some “expertise” in something, I completely disagree with them! Taking into account that “they” work for a company and depending on the job or role they have in, they should learn English or any language is important to the company. In a globalized world that we live in, everybody has to learn at least one language and like it or not, English is a lingua franca :-)
      Take care, all the best!

  4. Vẻrry good

  5. I also admit that I can’t even have a real conversation with an English speaker and I seem to have accepted that I simply can’t speak in English. I lack confidence and its funny coz I am very good in writting using the language but when it comes to communicating, I just freeze. It is so sad bcoz I can’t even share good ideas with a group in my class. Anyway thanks a lot, this should help

    • Hello Connie,
      I’ve been there! I was always shaking in my boots every time I would speak with native speakers! Eventually, I found out that it was a mental barrier that I had created myself. By the way, you write pretty well in English, you can try to apply the same mindset when speaking in English.
      I believe that after reading this topic you are going to be ready to win your battle and overcome your fear!
      Thanks for your message.
      All the best.

  6. Hi Marcelo ,I have seen your comments and i too have the same problems , could you assist me regarding how to avoid the mistake while speaking and writing . Please send any reference links to overcome my problem in sentence formation.

    • Hello Rocki,

      If you follow through the topic and put into practice the things I mentioned in it you’re half way there.
      The best way to overcome the fear of speaking English is to go ahead and speak as much as you can.
      Regarding links, you can read this topic http://englishforpleasure.com/what-is-language-exchange-english/ where I shared some sites to practice English with native or non-native speakers.
      Thanks for commenting, have a good day!

  7. Hi Marcelo,

    I am not a native speaker; I have lived in the US for the last eight years. I don’t have issues speaking with my American friends in English. However, I still have a hard time speaking English in certain situations. I feel like my ears get clogged when I am nervous or talk to people I don’t like. Your approach to overcome the fear to speak English is eye-opening. I always thought that I just need to study harder to get over my fear. Thank you for sharing your brilliant approach! It’s very helpful! BTW you are a great writer :)

    • Hi Jay,
      I’m sorry for my late response, but I’ve been off line for the last few days, totally away from the Internet and social media.
      Thank you so much for your compliments and for sharing your experience with us.
      All the best.
      Marcelo

  8. hi… I m speaking with my self in good English ,but when I m speaking with others I am searching for words and sentence.so that I can’t speak fluently with others..plz tell me how to overcome from this problem?

    • Hello shalini,

      From my experience and if you follow through what I wrote on my topic you are halfway there shalini!
      I wish you the best of luck!

    • U must get mirror with some sentences in english then try speaking over and over again you have to speak untill your hiperness over confidence comes to you
      you will see youself how unprecedence command is on yor topic
      you will start yourself and speak smoothly
      thanks to

  9. Hi Marcelo,

    I am not good at speaking and writing in English. My friends always say i am too care about the tenses and grammar of it. They said I should try to talk with others ,no matter is native one or not, in what you think from your brain and make it simple. But every time when a native speaker talk to me, i will be freeze and my mind is empty. The fear make me like an idiot. im 24 now and ready to work in an advertising firm. So scared to face native speaker. what can i do! i feel lost now><

    • Hello Catherine,

      There’s no need to get embarrassed or become worried about your mistakes or whatever you feel when you get into conversation with a native speaker. If you follow through the post and steps I wrote on the topic you’re going to be in good shape to speak in English with anyone and you’ll shoot the breeze. Just become more self-confident and you’ll see the results.
      Good luck!

  10. hello Marcelo, i found your tips helpfull, but again my problem is i am comfortable and confident when i speak infront of a mirror or to myself spesking to other peopple is different, i feel so nevous.

    • Hi Nestor, I’ve been there and I know how hard it is to overcome our fears and speak in English. Believe in yourself, be confident, follow the steps I provided on the topic and you will succeed.
      Best of luck!

  11. Hi Marcello

    I am a graduate in psychology and studying to be a linguist. I must say a very insightful post. I guess a person who goes through this experience can pen down its accuracy and you have nailed it.
    I am a REBT student too. I came across your blog just today when i was hunting for material to read on, how to overcome your fear of speaking in English. I must say it has served me well as a reference reading.
    Keep up the good work.

  12. thanks & hats off the way you have explained yourself. I’m a beginer in speaking english about 7-8 months. I am facing a very known problem like while i speak i still try to translate sentence from my mother tounge Bengali. so thing is that “How can I get rid of it?” .. no matter what’s the way i am well prepared! pls help!!!

    • Hi Suman Das,

      First thing first, don’t get hard on yourself. Remember, life is a marathon not a sprint, and it is the same process when learning a new language, it takes time and it doesn’t happen overnight! There’s no problem in using your mother language as a scaffolding to support your understanding of the English language in the beginning. It’s early days yet! As you gradually move forward you will become less dependent on L1. My piece of advice: Settle back and enjoy your English journey!
      Best wishes,
      Marcelo

  13. Hi Marcelo,Thanx a lot!!! this is really a good article for beginners. I have too ‘fear’ to talk in English, because i think that i have lack of vocabulary, how can i overcome with this?

    • Hello Patil,

      It depends what level you are now. To beat the lack of vocabulary you have to hear and read a wide variety of language at the right level for you. Exposure to authentic materials such as books, newspapers, Comic books, TV series, Podcasts and etc will help you substantially in your language acquisition.

      Thanks for commenting!
      Marcelo

      • Mr.Marcelo …..Really you have doing Great Job For Learner of English….i appreciate your job….As well as learn from you…Keep motivating us…..All the Best…

        • Hello Sarath kumar,

          Thanks for the kind words and support, I really appreciate that.
          All the best for you and success!

          Marcelo

  14. HI sir,
    I wanna share something to you….Actually i can able to Speak English with Fluency…But while i talk to Friends i can’t express actually what i want to convey them….But i can speak with others ..actually i don’t know What is My Problem……Can u suggest something for solve this issue….As well as i want know How to overcome Fear …And How to Enhance my Confident Level…I hope you will give suitable solution for my Issue……I’m Waiting…….For Your Reply…..

    • Hello Sarath,

      About the lack of vocabulary and confidence you have to hear and read a wide variety of language at the right level for you. Exposure to authentic materials such as books, newspapers, Comic books, TV series, Podcasts and etc will help you substantially in your language acquisition. The more you listen and read in English, the more language you acquire.
      This reading might give you some insights: http://englishforpleasure.com/successful-language-learner/
      Thanks for commenting!
      Marcelo

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