The fear of speaking

At SpeakTribe, in the process of improving our apps and figuring out what to add to the app so that it makes learners’ lives easy, we also talk to a lot of our users, scour language learning forums, read reviews of many other products out there and also read what leading polyglots and linguistics experts have to say about language learning.

Something that we often come across from many language learners is the fear or inability to speak even though they have more than decent vocabulary and grammar knowledge and have listened and spoken and practiced such words countless times. In fact, this is probably second only to declining motivation when it comes to challenges faced by new language learners. And yet, it holds the key to getting you to fluency faster.

If you are learning a language just to be able to read, surely speaking is not the be-all-end-all of your language learning efforts. But for most of us, speaking becomes the ultimate aim as most of our social conversations are carried out orally.

We thought we will go on and talk about this aspect of language learning - hopefully dispel some myths, clear some anxiety and help people to get fluent faster.


When should you start speaking?

The jury is out on this one. While it would be tough to guess how it is split, opinion is split between - “as soon as you start learning” and “only once you feel you are comfortable”.

If you are a SpeakTribe user, you might know we fall under the first camp. Why?

We actually overestimate the number of words we really need to communicate. So if you do see one of our earlier blog posts, we have talked about how fluency does not really require you to know several thousands of words. Read our post to know more if you are not sure how that’s possible.

But we recognize that speaking, especially with a native/fluent speaker, can be daunting when you are so new to language learning. Here is how you can take the first steps.


Speaking your way to a new language

Positively approaching the challenge of speaking is really half the battle won when it comes to mastering speaking. But there is also a bunch of stuff you can do.

  1. Make yourself familiar with the ‘sounds’ of the target language (the language you are trying to learn). It is a significant beginning step towards mastering conversational skills.

  2. Speak along as you are learning the new words. Get used to speaking them, understanding them.

  3. Talking to yourself in the target language is a great way to practice conversations without the fear of making mistakes. Avoid framing sentences in your native language and then translating it - it will be difficult at first but that is what your target should be.

  4. After building sufficient confidence, another idea worth exploring is one-on-one language sessions - either with tutors or with fellow language learners. While the former can be a bit formal and structured, it also could be better in terms of spotting mistakes and fixing them early on. So both have their own pros and cons.

  5. Try to get past the feeling of making mistakes and sounding stupid. Use the goal of speaking languages to drive past the anxiety. Most of the times, people who are talking to us in their native language are gentle with your mistakes, knowing that you are trying to learn the language.