You open your mouth to speak and your hands start to sweat, your heart starts pounding, and, suddenly, your mind goes blank.
This is Foreign Language Anxiety.
Many students experience what's called Foreign Language Anxiety when learning a new language. This stress and fear in language learning is one of the biggest predictors of success in students. If you are an anxious learner, it is much more difficult to learn a language.
What can cause Foreign Language Anxiety?
Often students develop Foreign Language Anxiety and lack of self-confidence due to their strong belief in common misconceptions about second language learning. This discussion post is part of a series to debunk these misconceptions to help challenge your perspective about second language learning and help you gain confidence in speaking!
Misconception 1: “When I speak I make too many mistakes and nobody understands me.”
Let’s take another moment to reflect.
Do you speak your first language perfectly?
Think about the last conversation you had with a friend. There were probably a lot of repetitions and “huh?!?!’s”, “what’s?”, and requests for clarification.
We make mistakes while speaking in our first language quite consistently, so why can’t you make mistakes in your new language?
Here it’s important to set realistic, attainable goals for your language learning. As a language coach, I suggest that one of your goals should be to communicate with other speakers of the language, not to obtain a superficial level of perfection that even native speakers don’t have.
What do you think? Is this true? Do you feel the need to speak perfectly in your second language? What does that feel like? How does Foreign Language Anxiety manifest itself in you?
If you feel nervous speaking a second language, consider setting new goals! What new goals can you set that are more realistic?
To gain more confidence in speaking your second language, find a tutor/coach with experience in Foreign Language Anxiety reduction and focus on not only learning the language, but also skills to manage your Foreign Language Anxiety as well!
If you need help, feel free to reach out!