How to Be Confident Speaking English with Native Speakers

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In this lesson, I share three reasons why you might be intimidated to speak in English with Native English Speakers. To help you communicate confidently, I teach you three strategies when you feel social anxiety speaking English. Next time you are afraid to speak English, try these techniques to put you at ease.

When you’re speaking in your second or third language you might feel nervous and apprehensive about talking in front of people. This social anxiety might even be more apparent when speaking with Native Speakers of that language. In our case, we’re referring to the English language and Native English speakers.

Rest assured, that’s a completely natural response, even though it’s an uncomfortable and impractical one.

In this lesson, I’m sharing top reasons why you might feel intimidated by Native English Speakers and more importantly I’m sharing remedies for resolving this issue.

If you’re ready let’s get into it.

Of course you might have your own set of reasons, and I welcome you to share them with us. From over a decade of experience teaching English and Communication and from learning and mastering two foreign languages myself, here are the top three reasons I can think of.

Reason #1 You’re Intimidated: You’ve Placed Them on a Pedestal

To place someone on a pedestal means that you view that as perfect. It’s the idea of treating and viewing someone as an ideal person instead of a real person, faults and all. When you view them as perfect, next to them you feel imperfect. Of course, this has nothing to do with reality, and everything to do with your own perception. It comes down to viewing the person as a bit of an enigma or mystery, because you probably don’t know them well enough yet to also know what their faults and idiosyncrasies are.

Reason #2 You’re Intimidated: You Fear their Judgment

It’s easy to think that anyone who’s a Native Speaker of a language knows everything about their language, including pronunciation rules, grammar rules and syntax structures. Well, the dirty little secret is that Americans especially will be the first to admit that they couldn’t explain to you grammar rules. A lot of people just learn grammar implicitly rather than deliberately. Look, this might even be true for your and  your own first language. So I welcome you to consider that just because someone might be a Native English speaker does not make them equipped to evaluate your language in any way and even if they were, it does not mean that they are judging your every word choice.

Reason #3 You’re Intimidated: You Believe They’re Questioning Your Smarts

If you feel like your English is not as fluent as it could be or your expressiveness is lacking in English. You personally might feel like you come across as less intelligent than you are. Meaning, you might believe that if you speak in a simple way that makes people view you as simple-minded or too simplistic. While I can see why your mind might go there, this is not something that most Native Speakers are even considering. And I get that you might feel self-conscious about making grammatical errors, misusing words, or mispronouncing certain words. But the way to look at those speaking opportunities is a chance to make those mistakes. If you don’t make mistakes that means you’re not courageous enough to try out the language. And communication improvements and language progress can only be made when you’re brave enough to make mistakes.

Since we’ve talked about common reasons why someone might feel intimidated by Native English speakers, let’s now discuss the remedies. Here are three ways to stop thinking in this negative light and change it to a more positive perspective.

Remedy #1 : Flip the Script

I love this concept of flipping the script because most of the time it’s as simple as that. Rewrite the narrative, meaning change your perception. If you’re placing them on a pedestal for how they’re speaking English, consider that they might be placing you on a pedestal for how you’re speaking your first language. You might even pepper some language tips for them when you’re having conversations with them. Of course, this would be most relevant if  your friend is learning your native language and you could give them pointers. Let this unfold naturally, of course, don’t force it. But the point is, your mind can be your number one friend or foe. So instead of making an enemy of your mind and letting it sabotage your thoughts, flip the script. Tell yourself that for something, maybe it doesn't even have to do with language, they place YOU on a pedestal for. Maybe they admire how you run your business, or maybe they admire you for speaking two or more languages. As time goes by you’ll learn and reveal more about each other.

Remedy #2 : We All Judge

As a human being, everyone is judgmental to a certain extent. The point is to be aware of it and rein it in, meaning control it. You can remind yourself that everyone’s evaluating everyone, all the time, so this is not a unique situation. Recognize that you're evaluating them too. And look, it's okay, this is part of how we make sense of the world. We try to categorize and create folders in our mind in which to place experiences and encounters. This is how the human brain is wired, and some of our software is still a bit primitive. The point is, we learn to live with this realization and move on, don't let it stymie your growth. Just as you should attempt to keep your judgments at bay, consider that the person you’re interacting with might also be attempting the same.

Remedy #3: Focus on Your Value Add

Instead of worrying about how you might not be showcasing your true intelligence because you’ve found language to be a barrier, focus on adding value. And look, if you feel like language is a barrier, then that might even be sufficient motivation to improve certain aspects of your language and communication. That might be enough of an impetus to work on vocabulary expansion, reading high-quality articles, listening to quality content such as this, and so forth. When you’re delivering value, you’re not making it about you, you’re making it about them. And let me tell you, that’s a great way to ease tension and social anxiety you might be experiencing. And like I said, feeling like there are improvements you can make to level up could serve as an additional motivator to read more, learn more, and keep advancing your English. That might not be a bad thing after all!

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Fantastic work! We discussed three potential reasons why you might feel intimidated when speaking with first language speakers of English. And now that you have remedies for these you have some alternative ways of perceiving the situation. And hopefully when you apply these remedies to your own social interactions you’ll feel more confident speaking with first language speakers of English.

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