How To Overcome Feeling Shy or Nervous When You Speak Spanish
Are you shy in Spanish?
Have you been studying Spanish for a while and you still get nervous every time you need to start speaking in Spanish?
Don’t worry! This is a normal issue among many foreign language students around the world. Keep reading to learn what foreign language anxiety is, what causes it, and how you can overcome it.
What’s Foreign Language Anxiety?
Sometimes, learners of a second or third language feel shy or embarrassed to speak in the new language they’re learning. This situation is more common than you would think and it even has a name, Foreign Language Anxiety (FLA).
Social scientists view FLA as “a complex and multidimensional phenomenon of self-perceptions, beliefs, feelings, and behaviors related to foreign language learning” and refers to “the negative emotional reactions of the learners towards foreign language acquisition.”
However, FLA does not affect all of the four language skills (reading, writing, speaking, listening) in the same way. A number of different studies suggest that Foreign Language Anxiety manifests mostly in speaking and listening in the new language.
Causes of Foreign Language Anxiety
If you have ever felt nervous or anxious in a specific situation, and felt shy or embarrassed about something, you may understand the reasons behind someone developing FLA.
Researchers point to a variety of possible causes.
- Learning a foreign language threatens learner’s self-concepts that are never challenged in their native language.
- A limited self-expression due to the imperfect command of the language.
- Fear of being ridiculed.
They also include other possible reasons that include the idea of a threat to concepts such as self-identity, ego, self-image, and negative self-evaluation. These are academic ways to say that we all fear being laughed at, and feel insecure about our own language skills.
My Own Personal Experience With Foreign Language Anxiety
Mexican-born, native Spanish speaker, I started to study English, one way or another, at the age of 6 all the way until I graduated from university. Granted, my school English lessons weren’t the best. However, I at least knew a lot of vocabulary words (thanks to a considerable amount of flashcards), even if I didn’t know what to do with them.
Then, one day, I decided to move to London and that’s when my Foreign Language Anxiety surfaced. I had been studying American English all my life, and there I was trying to understand unknown words and indecipherable accents that I had never heard before.
Needless to say, I panicked and tried to hide my anxiety by avoiding as many conversations with native English speakers as possible. The problem was that avoiding conversation in England can be a bit complicated.
At the end of the day, I was able to overcome my fear to speak in my second language and, eventually, became fluent in English.
If you have ever felt shy in Spanish or felt nervous about speaking in Spanish, you can overcome it too and I’m here to tell you how.
Have You Ever Felt Anxious When Speaking in Spanish?
If you feel identified with any of the situations described above, and you don’t like talking in Spanish because you don’t feel that you can express yourself in the language, it’s possible that you might have developed some kind of Foreign Language Anxiety.
The first thing to understand is that this is pretty common and normal, and that it’s possible to overcome it. Many language learners experience FLA and it’s not a reason to despair or quit on your Spanish learning efforts.
Foreign Language Anxiety is a “fixable” issue and, once you have identified the problem, all you need to do is to focus your efforts in overcoming it by using one or several of the following strategies.
What Can You Do?
The short answer is, don’t be shy in Spanish! Of course that’s easier said than done, but my point stands. There’s no need to be afraid of speaking in Spanish, nobody is evaluating you, and most people are quite helpful and understanding when you give them the chance.
These are a few strategies you can use to stop being shy in Spanish and overcome your Foreign Language Anxiety.
1. Positive Talk
You know that thing you do when you go to the gym and cheer yourself up? Well, it works the same with Spanish. Tell yourself that you can do it, that Spanish is not a big deal, that every language learner went through the same process, and that people all over the world speak foreign languages. If they do it, you can do it.
I know it sounds too simple, but it actually works. Give it a try.
2. Cooperative Learning
A great way to overcome your fear of speaking in Spanish is to surround yourself with others in the same situation you’re in. This is known as cooperative or collaborative learning, and follows the following 5 basic principles:
- Positive interdependence
- Face-to-face interaction
- Individual accountability
- Use of collaborative skills
- Group goals
3. Prepare Yourself
This is just a logical strategy. For instance, if you know that you’re going to be speaking in Spanish at work, prepare yourself ahead of time and be ready for the challenge. Don’t leave any room for improvisation, or unexpected situations. This way, you’ll know what to say, and maybe even more important, you’ll feel secure about yourself.
4. Reward Yourself
You need it. You deserve it. It’s called “positive reinforcement” and it’s a great way of motivating yourself to keep improving and working harder to achieve your goals. If you travel to a Spanish-speaking country and you’re able to order your dinner in Spanish or ask for directions on the streets, treat yourself to an ice cream or pamper yourself at the spa.
Small improvements every day make for a big improvement over time, so every new progress is welcome, even if it’s just a little question in Spanish.
5. Use Relaxation Techniques
Using relaxation techniques is one of the main strategies suggested by social scientists studying FLA. They’re an excellent way to control your anxiety, helping you to stay focused on the task at hand.
Harvard Medical School suggests the following techniques to help you achieve the inner calm you need to overcome that anxiety you suffer when talking in Spanish.
- Breath focus
- Body scan
- Guided imagery
- Mindfulness meditation
- Yoga, tai chi, and qigong
- Repetitive prayer
Start Overcoming Your Foreign Language Anxiety Today!
As you can see, there’s no reason to be shy in Spanish. Remember that by learning Spanish, your income can increase significantly, as a study by The Economist suggests. Remember you have overcome a myriad of other challenges to get to where you are, so you can definitely tackle a bit of Spanish!
Practice in a low-stress, relaxing environment with our friendly teachers. Start learning today on a 1-on-1 setting with a certified Spanish teacher from Guatemala at HSA.
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