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Why am I so scared of speaking English?

I’m scared of English!

How is it possible to be scared of a language? After all, it can’t bite us. It doesn’t hurt when we speak or otherwise use it. And yet….. So many language learners are scared of speaking. Some are afraid of writing or listening too. There are some learners who are so terrified of speaking that they avoid it as much as possible. Unfortunately, problems don’t go away when we avoid them, so for these highly anxious learners, the fear of speaking is always present in their minds, waiting for the next time they have no choice but to speak.


Are you afraid of making mistakes? Highly anxious language learners are afraid of many things when they speak and use English:


· making mistakes

· being laughed at

· not understanding native speakers

· not being understood by others

· weak pronunciation

· sounding like “a foreigner”


I could go on……. Fundamentally, these learners are afraid of making mistakes and are scared that these mistakes will embarrass them or show other people that they are not good enough at English.


For highly anxious learners, this fear becomes a crippling inability to speak and an obsession over making mistakes. What causes this fear?

Fears like these may have very deep roots in our mind. A negative experience at school, such as being laughed at, can lead to us not wanting to speak a foreign language later in life. An education system that places great importance on being right all the time can make us feel bad when we inevitably make a mistake. Add to this the pressure that comes with speaking English in modern life:

· attending meetings in person or online

· giving presentations in person and online

· dealing with international and native-speaker colleagues

· needing to have a specific language level for work or further education

· seeing ‘perfection’ on social media and wondering why we can’t do the same


It’s easy to see how early negative experiences can be amplified by the modern world. Learners can get into the habit of judging, criticising and negatively comparing themselves to other people, all in the name of having ‘perfect’ English. And once this habit starts, it can be very difficult to stop. The feelings of fear and anxiety get stronger, and learning more vocabulary and grammar doesn’t seem to help.


So if you:

· worry a lot about making mistakes

· avoid speaking English whenever possible

· feel deeply ashamed of your speaking or pronunciation


Have you considered the fact that you might be suffering from Second Language Anxiety? What is Second Language Anxiety? Second Language Anxiety is a recognised psychological phenomena. It explains why some people feel anxious when they have to speak or use their second language. For some people, the anxiety is connected to a specific situation, such as an exam or interview. For others, the anxiety is a constant, debilitating presence which, in extreme cases, ruins their lives. Yes, it’s that serious. What can you do about it? Up till now, foreign language teaching has largely ignored the importance of a healthy and positive mindset for language learners. But this is starting to change. As different fields increasingly recognise the importance of our thinking patterns and beliefs on the outcomes we experience, it is time for foreign language learning and teaching to catch up. I have been working with anxious language learners for the last three years. As well as helping them achieve their language goals, I also help them overcome their limiting beliefs and anxieties around speaking so they can find freedom in their language use. For them, this has meant:

· a place on a Masters’ degree programme for a highly anxious student with complex learning difficulties

· a new job in an international law firm for a student who struggled with overwhelm and frustration

· a pass at CPE after previously failing three times due to nerves. This student was a teacher in their own country and without CPE would have lost their teaching license!

I am passionate about helping people get over their fear of speaking English. In fact, my mission is to change the way that English is taught and learnt so that no-one needs to feel ashamed of their accent or terrified of speaking. Book a free discovery session today to find out how I can help you.

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