Sunday, December 9, 2012

Reducing Anxiety When Speaking English As a Foreign Language

English: An anxious person
An anxious person (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Lena W Brown

Why does trying to speak another language make us so nervous?

It's incredible how someone can be brilliant in other highly complex subjects and have panic attacks when they have to learn another language.

This is so common that there is even The Foreign Language Classroom Anxiety Scale (FLCAS). So how can you overcome this common problem?

Below are a few ideas that could help.

1. Acknowledge the difficulty of the task

Learning another language is hard and feeling nervous about learning it is normal. It's like having to give a presentation about what you've learned every day. That's not expected in any other subjects. You are often given weeks or at least days to prepare to present in other circumstances. Learning a language is different in so many ways.

2. Surround yourself with support

It's critically important to feel comfortable with the people around you, particularly when you are learning. Make sure you have a teacher who is supportive and helpful. If not, find a new one.

3. Role play

Role playing is one of the most helpful things you can do to reduce your speaking anxiety. As I mentioned in item one, speaking a foreign language is like having to present constantly.

When I have to give a presentation at work, I prepare extensively to help me feel more comfortable, including scripting and rehearsing it as many times as I can. The same steps can be applied to language. What are some common conversations that you have that you can script and rehearse?

4. Narrate activities when you're by yourself

Practice is the key to all language acquisition, but you don't always have someone to practice with. Also, if you are suffering from anxiety, you may not have the nerve and motivation to practice with another person.

A way to practice on your own is to narrate your activities. When you are getting dressed in the morning, try saying the steps out loud, like "I'm going to take a shower" and "I'm putting on my shirt".

5. Keep a journal

Sometimes identifying what triggers your anxiety can be a big step in controlling it. Try and keep a journal of when you feel anxious. Is it a certain person that makes you nervous? Is it a certain situation?

I've said it before and I'll say it again, learning a new language is hard work. Don't give up, keep trying and you will get better.

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