13 Steps to Overcoming Speaking Anxiety When Learning a New Language

Learning a new language can be a thrilling adventure, but it can also be a daunting task.

For many learners, the prospect of speaking in a foreign language can induce feelings of nervousness, embarrassment, or even anxiety. It’s natural to feel apprehensive when starting out, but it’s important not to let these emotions get in the way of your progress.

Here are my 13 top tips and strategies to overcome speaking anxiety while learning a new language, so you can keep on track and achieve your goals!

1.      Understand that speaking anxiety is normal

First and foremost, it’s essential to understand that speaking anxiety is normal. Everyone experiences it to some degree, and it’s a natural response to new or challenging situations. Even native speakers can feel nervous when speaking in public or in a formal setting (I can tell you that first-hand!).

Acknowledging and accepting your anxiety can help to reduce its impact and allow you to focus on your goals.

2.      Start small

When you’re just starting out, it’s helpful to start small and gradually build up your speaking skills. Begin by practicing simple phrases and common expressions with a friend or language partner. Start with greetings, introductions, and basic questions and answers. This will give you a chance to get comfortable with the sound and rhythm of the language and build your confidence.

3.      Focus on pronunciation

One of the biggest sources of anxiety for language learners is the fear of mispronouncing words or sounding foolish. To combat this, focus on improving your pronunciation. Listen closely to native speakers and imitate their intonation, stress, and rhythm. Use online resources or language apps to practice individual sounds and words (YouGlish is great). The more you practice, the more comfortable you’ll become with the language, and the less anxious you’ll feel.

4.      Get feedback

Getting feedback from others can be incredibly helpful in overcoming speaking anxiety. Find a language partner or tutor who can listen to you speak and provide constructive criticism. Ask them to focus on specific areas, such as pronunciation, grammar, or vocabulary. Getting feedback can help you identify areas where you need to improve and boost your confidence by recognizing areas where you are already doing well.

5.      Practice, practice, practice

As the saying goes, practice makes perfect, and this is especially true when it comes to language learning. The more you practice speaking, the more comfortable and confident you’ll become. Look for opportunities to speak in your target language whenever you can. This might mean speaking to a language partner, ordering food in a restaurant, or practicing with a language app. The more you practice, the more natural speaking in the language will feel.

6.      Don’t be afraid to make mistakes

Making mistakes is a natural part of the learning process, and it’s important not to let the fear of making mistakes hold you back. Native speakers expect language learners to make mistakes, and mostly we are patient and understanding. When you do make a mistake, don’t get discouraged. Instead, use it as a learning opportunity. Ask for clarification, learn from your mistakes, and move on.

7.      Use positive affirmations

Positive affirmations can be a powerful tool in overcoming speaking anxiety. Affirmations are short, positive statements that you repeat to yourself to reinforce positive beliefs and attitudes. For example, you might say, “I am confident in my ability to speak in English,” or “I am making progress in my language learning every day.” By focusing on positive thoughts and beliefs, you can reduce anxiety and boost your confidence. (sounds simple but it’s so true – it’s also called “fake it ‘til you make it”).

8.      Visualize success

Visualizing success is another powerful tool for overcoming speaking anxiety. Take a few minutes each day to visualize yourself speaking confidently and fluently in your target language. Imagine yourself in a conversation with a native speaker, using the language effortlessly and confidently. By visualizing success, you can build your confidence and reduce anxiety.

9.      Join a language community

Joining a language community can be an excellent way to overcome speaking anxiety. Look for local language groups, meetups, or language exchange programs where you can practice speaking with other learners and native speakers. These communities provide a supportive environment where you can practice speaking without fear of judgement. You can also share your experiences with others and get tips and advice from fellow learners who have gone through similar struggles.

I have a speaking program designed to deliver exactly THIS.

10.  Set realistic goals

Setting realistic goals is essential to language learning success. When it comes to speaking, set small, achievable goals for yourself. For example, aim to have a conversation with a language partner for 5-10 minutes each day, or practice ordering food in a restaurant using the target language. These small wins will help build your confidence and motivate you to keep going.

11.  Take breaks

Learning a new language can be mentally and emotionally taxing, and it’s important to take breaks when you need them. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious, take a break from studying or practicing. Go for a walk, do something you enjoy, or simply take a few deep breaths. Taking care of your mental health will help you stay motivated and make progress in your language learning journey.

12.  Find motivation

Finding motivation is key to overcoming speaking anxiety. Identify why you want to learn the language and what you hope to achieve. Maybe you want to travel to a foreign country and communicate with the locals, or perhaps you want to expand your career opportunities. Whatever your reason, keep it in mind as you work towards your language learning goals.

13.  Celebrate your progress

Finally, it’s important to celebrate your progress along the way. Learning a new language is tough and it’s important to acknowledge the small wins along the way. Celebrate when you successfully order food in a restaurant using the target language or when you have a conversation with a native speaker. Recognize the progress you’ve made and use it as motivation to keep going.

Look, it is widely known that speaking anxiety is common for language learners, but it doesn’t have to hold you back.

By following these 13 tips, you can overcome your fears and become a confident and fluent speaker.

Remember, learning a new language is a journey, and every step along the way is an achievement to be proud of. Really proud of.

So, take a deep breath, keep going, and enjoy the journey!

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