HOW TO HANDLE YOUR FEAR OF SPEAKING A FOREIGN LANGUAGE
Stop letting language be an obstacle on your way to achieving your goals.
Have you ever felt nervous speaking a second language, especially when you are around native speakers?
Do you have thoughts like,
“They are gonna judge me and make fun of my accent.”
“ They will think I am not smart enough.”
And this feeling of judgement is pressuring you? Although you know you have a lot to say, good ideas, and you are smart, but once it comes to speaking in a second language you stumble over your words and feel stuck. You are just so nervous.
So if you are nervous you shut down, you are quiet, you do not share your ideas, you may even judge others who do share their ideas. As a result, you create even more evidence that language is your biggest obstacle.
Language seems to be the problem, but it’s not. It’s not the language, it’s the way you think about your language skills, which creates a lot of anxiety.
What if this finally could have an end? What would happen, if you didn’t care about your accent, your grammar…? What if this wouldn’t be about language at all?
Did you ever experience the exact same struggle as a native speaker in a similar situation?
I guess you remember a time when you tried to explain something to someone but were unable to. How about a situation where you weren’t able to recall a word in your native language? Regardless of whether we are native or non-native speakers, this happens to all of us.
As humans, we fear being judged, and we attempt to avoid it. It is a general pattern that we have.
Your language skills are just an excuse for not putting yourself out there, because you fear judgement. Isn’t it interesting, that the fear of being judged itself feels awful, even though there isn’t even a judgement jet. So how do we create this anxiety? Subconsciously, you rank native speakers higher than yourself, because of their better language skills.
That is what gets you anxious and nervous, it is the authority of native speakers. I guess you are less anxious when speaking with non-native speakers.
You expect to operate on the same level of language as a native speaker, which is nearly impossible and unnecessary. Nevertheless, you turn it into an indication that you are inadequate and not good enough. Now, this is pretty unfair, isn’t it? Do you agree that this perception is absolutely inhibiting?
The native speaker was born into the language. You learn the language as a second, third or fourth language, which is a total different circumstance, which means you have an accent and make a few mistakes. But basically that’s all about it. It doesn’t tell anything about, who you are, how smart you are, your strength, your passion… It just says that you are non-native, and you know even more languages, which is fantastic, right?
You’re possibly be limited in your ability to communicate in a second language. But this could also turn out as an advantage. Most likely, you get straight to the point much faster than most people, which many people appreciate very much.
You do not have to be limited in your presence because you speak a second language or have an accent. And above all, it shouldn’t prevent you from bringing your ideas out to the world. It is on you to own this.
So, language isn’t the problem, it’s your thoughts that hold you back from acting naturally, from being fully yourself.
And to be honest, no matter if you are a native or a non-native speaker. There will be always people who feel entitled to criticize your language, who think they have a better way to say it. And even if this was true, who cares?
I guess you understand this intellectually quite well. But in the situation itself, you freeze and fear overcomes you.
Let’s take a deeper look at your fear of judgement and find some solutions.
3 TIPS THAT WILL HELP YOU OVERCOME YOUR ANXIETY
Change the record in your head – rewire your brain.
So, when you have these thoughts like “Language is my biggest obstacle.” “I gonna fail.” “I can’t express myself.” “I speak so slowly.” “I have an embarrassing accent.” this is exactly what you are going to create. Your brain is like a muscle. Whatever thoughts you train, they become stronger and influence your emotions and actions as well.
Your brain controls your nervous system. So your thoughts create your feelings.
The thoughts I’ve mentioned will make you feel nervous, insecure, anxious, shy, shameful, sad… everything besides powerful.
And if you feel powerless, you will act accordingly. So, for example, if you feel shame, you most probably will want to hide, and you will not show up. If you feel nervous, you will have a hard time to concentrate, and you will be reactive… As a result, you are going to fail. By thinking “language is my biggest obstacle”, you create an obstacle for yourself and don’t show up as who you are.
BECOME AWARE OF YOUR THOUGHTS AND BELIEFS
So start by becoming aware of your beliefs.
When it comes to your second language, what do you tell yourself? Be conscious about your thoughts. And if they come up, do not fight against them. Just realize them as your old thoughts, an old record in your brain, which you want to replace from now on.
REPLACE YOUR THOUGHTS
Then find a new thought, one that you can believe and is a little more empowering. Just take a little step forward. Nothing like “I am the best in xyz-language.”
For example, if you are telling yourself “I can’t express my ideas accurately.” you could replace this with “I have great ideas, which I wanna share.” This is just a slight shift in your thought, but has major impact on how you feel an act. So every time a limiting thought comes up, just let it be and focus again on a powerful thought. Practice that over and over, and take little steps in your thought process.
Or for example, if your thought is “I have a horrible accent.” you could shift it to “An accent only means, that I know more languages, which is admirable.”
Now, play with your thoughts and practice encouraging sentences.
REMEMBER YOUR WHY
In situations when you want to hide because of fear of language or accent, remember your WHY. Ask yourself why you want to share your ideas with your team, boss, or community. There is a reason you are exactly where you are, right?
30 years from now you will not remember your fear of speaking with an accent, but you will remember the great ideas you had, that added to the companies value, that inspired other people. And no, not all ideas we share are going to be mind-blowing, and that’s ok.
BE KIND TO YOURSELF
Appreciate and be kind to yourself. Recognize the challenges you are taking, moving abroad, learning a new language, finding new people, dealing with a new job…. This is a lot and you do your best. Be proud about yourself, celebrate the little successes.
Dealing with all these things is what makes you so qualified to handle other situations. So the obstacles you have now will make you even stronger for the future. The disadvantages you might see now are actually your advantages. But only if you learn to see them as such. Only then you are willing to overcome these obstacles, face them and move on.
So instead of thinking of your second language as a non-native speaker as a source of shame, use it proudly. Acknowledge your true identity and your innate worth.
So, while you need to work on your mindset, first and foremost, as your mindset has definitely the greatest impact on your confidence, there are helpful things you can do simultaneously starting today.
Here are some quick tips, that will support you in order to be more confident whenever you speak your second language.
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