quinta-feira, 20 de junho de 2013
Conquer Your Fear of Making Mistakes when Speaking English!
If you’re a foreign English speaker – there’s a 90% chance you are because you’re reading my blog! – you’re most likely familiar with anxiety of making mistakes when speaking English.
You know – it’s the feeling when you’d gladly say something when chatting in English with someone, but you hold it inside because you’re not sure you’ll get it right.
In the most extreme cases you might even be avoiding communication only not to experience embarrassment and humiliation! That’s when it gets really serious because no matter how badly you fear making mistakes, you’re not going to improve your spoken English simply because you’re not speaking enough
So how to deal with this anxiety and how to overcome your fear of making mistakes?
1. Fear of Making Mistakes Feeds on Itself!
I think that the majority of foreign English speakers have to admit that FEAR of making mistakes when speaking English is one of the main factors inhibiting our spoken English fluency.
We all can definitely remember situations when we’ve made a mistake when speaking or attempting to speak, and that has made us feel insecure, embarrassed and ashamed of our level of spoken English.
The more similar situations we encounter, the more conscious we become, and fear of making mistakes constantly feeds on itself. So what initially shows up only as moments of slight embarrassment can grow into a proper speech anxiety, and you can start avoiding contacting other English speaking people to avoid those embarrassing situations
And this is where it gets serious. While being a bit confused and making an odd mistake here and there is absolutely normal, those foreign English speakers who are constantly worried about making mistakes have their English improvement seriously impeded; in other words – they find it hard to enjoy themselves when speaking English.
2. Where This Fear Comes From?
So where does this fear of making mistakes come from and why it’s so prevalent among foreign English speakers?
I think there are a couple of reasons for that, and the biggest of them goes back to your school days when you studied English sitting behind a desk.
Just think about this – at school you are aiming to achieve good grades, so every mistake you make downgrades your assessment in your English teacher’s eyes. While generally students are encouraged to speak and express themselves, at the same time your knowledge is constantly assessed and checked against the existing standards.
Such system works pretty well in exact subjects such as Math, and similar, where you are literally required to memorize formulas and to able to perform certain calculations whereby making a mistake would result in a wrong answer.
English speaking is a completely different matter altogether, I would rather put English is the same subject category with Arts and Music because when you learn a language it’s more about being able to improvise and express yourself in a unique way rather than cram something into your brain and then re-produce the very exact knowledge
So in other words, I believe that the existing English teaching system at school is responsible for many foreign English speakers being way too conscious of mistakes they’re making. They feel as if they’re still sitting behind a desk in an English class and if they say something that isn’t 100% correct, they’ll get a bad grade.
Another reason for many foreign English speakers being too worried about making mistakes when speaking is their type of personality. If you aren’t very confident and you generally tend to be a bit on the shy side, you can find it very intimidating when speaking with an English speaker and making mistakes.
It’s basically down to feeling like a lesser person, and none of us like feeling that way, do we?
So if you’re one of those folks who are anxious about making mistakes, here’s what I’ll tell you.
You have to change your mindset regarding how you perceive mistakes made during a conversation!
A slip of a tongue when speaking isn’t the same as making a permanent mistake when performing some practical task. If you’re a shop assistant and you make a mistake when giving a change to your customer, it’s a real mistake.
If you make a small mistake when thanking your customer for making a purchase, it’s an entirely different matter. You can always go back and correct yourself, so you have to start looking at mistakes made during English speech in a similar way you’d regard mistakes during a musical performance.
When you sing despite not being a professional artist, it doesn’t really matter that much if you’re off tune on a couple of notes, or if your voice is a bit shaky because you’re nervous on stage. Once you’re hitting the main notes right and you carry yourself with a head held high, you’re 100% fine, and people will still be getting the song’s message, they’ll feel your heart and soul through the song.
And the same goes with speaking English. You’re not a professional English speaking artist which means that you’re not a native English speaker. But similar to what I just said about signing performance, as far as you’re smiling and being friendly and the small mistakes you make aren’t as big as to create a real communication barrier, you’re fine!
You see, the thing is that nine out of ten native English speakers and also other English speaking people in general will see much more in your English speech than just words. It’s about how you look at people; it’s about your emotions when you speak, your facial expressions, your gestures and so on
And it’s not a secret that the biggest part of the message you get across to the other person consists of those components than just words.
Of course, as I said previously, if your mistakes create a real communication barrier, it does become an issue indeed, so you need to make 100% sure you’re getting the basics right, there’s no doubt about that!
But the main point of today’s lesson is that if you constantly fear making mistakes when speaking English with people, you will avoid real communication and therefore you will find it very hard to improve your communication skills!
3. Speaking English Is Much More Than Just Words!
There’s much more to speaking English than just being able to speak. It’s actually more about facing other people, especially people you speak with for the first time, or important people, and the related stress you’re experiencing and how it affects your verbal performance.
You may even find yourself in a strange situation when you can speak with much fewer mistakes with certain people or when you practice your spoken English with yourself.
When you go out there and face real life communication, however, you might make a whole lot more mistakes because during real communication you get stressed out a bit, or you face non-standard questions so you’re required to improvise when speaking, and it all adds up creating a brand new dimension of English speaking.
So basically if you perceive mistakes during English speech as something terrifying, as something that you make and it stays there, and you can’t correct, or as something that will definitely make others laugh about you and you’ll end up being humiliated, then you definitely have to change the way you see mistakes.
You have to start seeing them as an integral part of being a foreign English speaker, you simply have to tell yourself: “Making mistakes is normal” whenever you feel onset of fear and anxiety if there’s a prospect of speaking with someone.
But don’t think I’m condoning speaking in bad, broken English without trying to improve it. That’s not what I’m saying at all, you definitely need to work on your spoken English skills to make sure you get English grammar right and also that you use proper words and phrases and so on.
Every time you feel onset of fear when there’s a prospect of a conversation with someone in English, don’t avoid the conversation, simply jump into it as if you’re jumping in a swimming pool from a jumping board!