I’ve been a language and communication teacher for many years. And as someone who speaks multiple languages and has lived in different countries around the world, I understand the fear of speaking in another language. The good news is that anyone can overcome this fear, very similar to the fear of public speaking or commonly known as stage fright.
Today I’m giving you strategies to help you get over your fear of speaking English. You can use these in any situation where you are speaking English. These strategies will help you in casual social situations as well as business settings.
Let’s get right to it.
Visualizing is when you imagine a positive outcome. Imagine the situation where you are speaking english. Who are you talking to? Where are you? What are you wearing. How do you sound? And imagine small details if you can. Visualize the situation going really well.
Do not give into negative self-talk and feelings of doubt that might be coursing through your mind. The quickest way to feel down on yourself and insecure is by talking yourself into it.
Instead, try to get excited for this opportunity to speak in English. What really works is giving yourself a PEP talk before or even during the conversation. That’s when you tell yourself it’s going to be a great conversation and you’re going to enjoy it and do your best.
You can even find a mantra or a phrase that you keep to yourself and say it to yourself over and over to put you in a positive state of mind. Here are some examples: “I got this.” “I’m going to great!” “I am going to share information that will add value to this person’s life.” Or choose an expression or phrase in your native language and say it to yourself before speaking in English, especially if you are nervous or afraid! This is another way to get yourself in the right mindset.
You Have More Time Than You Think
You have time. Do not feel like you have to rush or need to speak fast.
When you speak slower or even at an average speed, you build in time to think about what you’re going to say. You also give time to the other person to process the information.
When we get nervous and let panic take over, we are not thinking. Blurting out sentences or forgetting to think before we speak are avoidable by building in the thinking time you actually have.
When you are in the middle of a conversation, especially if you are speaking in your second language, such as English, even a slight pause or moment of brief silence can feel like an eternity. I know. But you should know and be comforted by the fact that you actually have time. So use it to buy yourself thinking time, and the people you are speaking with will appreciate your taking the time to speak logically and slowly so that they can follow along.
Feel confident in knowing that you can pace yourself. This will also prevent you from hyperventilating and breathing too quickly that you set yourself into panic mode. It also prevents you from rambling nonsensical phrases, which the listeners will have a hard time unraveling. Take your time and use it to think clearly, speak clearly, and have the audience follow along.
Oprah Winfrey, who is a seasoned public speaker and TV personality, has been credited with saying nervousness is a selfish emotion. Don’t be selfish!
Keep perspective about the reason you are talking to this person in the first place. You are there to add value, you are not there to be judged on how you speak or if you have an accent or if your grammar is 100% perfect. You've nothing to worry about. And you might even find you have better grammar than many of the people you interact with anyway!
Focus on the content of your message and your listeners. This will alleviate a lot of the pressure you might be feeling to perform and speak perfectly.
The reality is, everyone’s just thinking about themselves. So, it’s not about you. Sure, people might quickly judge your appearance or evaluate your outfit, but at the end of the day what’s going to earn their respect is the quality of the content you can deliver. This is the value. This is what they’ll spend time listening to. Just knowing that can decrease stress. Make it about them.
One of the best ways to feel confident and lower speaking anxiety is to prepare. Know what you want to say or share. You don’t necessarily have to be a subject-matter expert but if you’re speaking about a subject then you’re expected to know something that the listener does not know.
You can prepare some short stories or anecdotes that help make your point. You can prepare some details that you know you’d like to share. You can prepare a few talking points on topics that are of interest to you and to the listener.
If what you are sharing requires you to do research ahead of time, do that. Let’s say you’re talking in a meeting, then you should probably even have some notes to refer to. You can create a logical outline of points you’ll make and examples you’ll share.
Ben Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you’re preparing to fail.” Yikes. Sounds harsh, but it’s the truth.
And the reality is that the stress you feel is 100% avoidable by preparing yourself.
It’s one of the best ways to set your mind at ease before you have that conversation or speak in that meeting.
There’ll be butterflies in your stomach for sure, but instead of 1 million butterflies (stress levels way high), there might be only 3 butterflies (channeling stress into performance energy). You decide how many butterflies you want flying around your tummy.
The good news is that you are in control of your stress levels and you can train your mind to be more comfortable with speaking in English.
Start with those strategies to help calm down your nerves before speaking in English.
Everyone gets nervous in new or unfamiliar social situations and when speaking in a foreign language. You are most definitely not alone with experiencing this type of stage fright and social anxiety. With practice and time you’ll notice that your nervousness eases or might even disappear altogether! So keep practicing :)
I hope these techniques are helpful. Let me know your favorite strategy and the one that worked the best for you. Can you think of any other ways to calm your nerves before speaking in English? What seems to help you manage stress levels?
Thanks for joining me and I’ll see you in the next lesson where we’ll continue advancing your English!
Bye for now.