Fear is What’s Stopping You From Speaking English


Yes! You are afraid. You are afraid to speak English fluently. You are afraid to make mistakes in English. You are afraid to succeed. If you continue to be afraid…. and keep telling yourself, ‘I can’t speak English.’ You NEVER will. Below you will learn what fear is, how to identify it and try to overcome it.

What is fear?
An unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

Fear can be a small negative voice in your head that keeps telling you
• “No one understands you”
• “Stop wasting your time. You will never learn to speak English.”
• “Give up!”
• “Why are you even trying to speak English?”

Fear can also create physical symptoms in your body. Fear can appear as:
• a stomach ache
• a blank mind
• forgetfulness
• stuttering
• over thinking or worrying
• avoidance
• shy/timid

If you let fear run any part of your life or your English studies you are likely to fail. If you let your fear determine what you do, what you think, you will continue to experience failures or only small successes in your language acquisition process.

How can you overcome fear?
When you are speaking English and you start to feel afraid or nervous, ask yourself… Why am I afraid?

Identify why you are nervous, anxious or afraid.
• Do you think others will laugh at you or make fun of you?
• Did you forget how to say something in English?
• Do you not understand what someone said?
• Are you afraid to talk to native English speakers?
• Do you feel stupid when you speak in English?
• Do you feel like you don’t have enough words to say? Or the right words to say?
• Do you not have enough things to say to keep a conversation going in English?

Only once, you identify what is causing your fear or negative thoughts; can you start to solve your problem.

What is the worst thing that could happen?
So, say the worst thing that is going to happen if you say a word incorrectly in English is that you are going to have to repeat yourself or think of another way of how to say something.

Is that really so bad?
No one (that I know) is going to hit you or throw something at you if you make mistakes in English.
Just do your best. Try your hardest. You are learning something new.
If you ever want to speak English fluently and effortlessly you are going to need to make a lot of mistakes.

Three steps to overcoming your fears of learning/speaking English:
1. Identify your fear
2. Think of the worst thing that could happen if you do the thing that you are afraid of
3. Be positive and take action. Say ‘No!’ to fear.

STOP being afraid to speak English. RIGHT NOW!

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Does Learning English Stress You Out?

Does learning English give you a headache or stomachache?
Do you avoid going to English class?
Do you get confused when your English teacher gives you assignments and book exercises?
Do you get nervous when you have to speak English with other people?
Do you study English all the time but can only hold a simple conversation in English?
Do you feel like you have no idea what people are saying when you hear conversation in English?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the following questions, you might be learning English the wrong way. The saying, “no pain, no gain” should not apply to learning English or any learning for that matter. Learning should not be painful.

In many traditional English schools, teachers are stuck teaching the way they learned English. Listening and repeating, copying information off the blackboard and out of the book and memorizing dialogues are just some of the ineffective strategies that are used by many English teachers around the world. Many traditional English teachers are afraid to let go of less effective English learning strategies and try new ones. They think, ‘I learned English this way 100 years ago and I can speak English fine. So, why change what works?’

The problem is; this type teaching is not as effective as it was once thought to be. You should not have to feel confused and uncomfortable when learning English. If you feel this way when you are learning, you might feel like giving up. You may feel like you will never learn English or that it is too hard. Everyone can learn a new language. If you have been struggling to learn English up until this point than you need to self-reflect about how you have been learning. If English has been difficult, uncomfortable and a BIG headache to learn then you should try new or different strategies to learn to speak English in the future.

The reason why so many people struggle to learn new languages, math and science is because it is not usually taught in a student friendly manner. More and more information and vocabulary is taught to students before they really understand the concept and what is going on. By the time students asks a question, they are totally lost or in a panic and they most likely have given up or shut down. Students should not have to be stressed because they do not understand what is being said, what is going on or what is written on the board when learning something new.

You should not have to feel unsure, stressed and confused when you are learning English. If this is how you do feel, then it is why you are not progressing and learning English as quickly as you could. Learning English should not be treated like a topic. Learning English is a tool to help you learn about anything in the world.

Think of a time in your life when you were in a class and did NOT understand what was going on. Do you remember the how your felt in that class or do you remember what you were learning that day? Most likely you remember how you were feeling. If you are stressed, unsure or in a panic when learning then you will not be able to retain the information that you are trying to learn.

If you feel good, are having fun and enjoy what is going on when you are learning then the information will stay in your head forever.

When you are learning English, you should:
• feel relaxed
• have fun
• be successful
• feel confident
• use more than one sense (hear, see, touch, etc.)
• not be forced to speak English before you are ready
• learn small chunks of English at a time
• hear lots of repetition
• hear English spoken naturally
• laugh

Next time you find yourself stressed while learning English. Stop and reflect why you are feeling that way. Choose a learning environment and English teacher that encourages your English language acquisition and doesn’t hinder it.

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How to Keep a Conversation Going in English

Once you’ve broke the ice and started a conversation in English; you need to keep the conversation going. Keeping a conversation going in English is difficult; especially if English is your second language.

To keep a conversation going in English, you can do a variety of different thing to let them know you are interested in continuing the conversation. The most important thing to do in a conversation in English is to ask follow-up questions. If you don’t ask follow up questions the conversation will most likely stop very quickly. You can improve your English conversation skills if you try. You will get better at speaking English and holding conversation the more you try. Below are some tips to help you improve and extend your conversations in English.

Tips To Help You Improve Your English Conversation Skills
1. Ask questions– to keep the conversation going you need to ask many thought provoking questions in English
• “What did you do next?”
• “Why do you say that?”
• “How did that happen?”
• “When did that happen?”
• “What did you say?”
• Where did that happen?”
• “How did you react?”
• “Did you like it?”
• “Do you recommend it?”

2. Act Intrigued/Interject/Make Positive Exclamations-
• “Really?”
• “Wow, I can’t believe that.”
• “No way!”
• “Tell me more.”
• “Uh huh”
• “Oh No!”
• “That must have been fun.”
• “Right”
• “True”
• “Incredible”
• “Unbelievable”
• “Cool!”
• “That’s so funny.”
• “That’s great.”
• “Sounds interesting”

3. Use Your Body Language to Show you are Interested
• Look at the person
• Smile
• Maintain eye-contact
• Nod your head
• Don’t cross your arms
• Don’t be distracted by your cell phone or other electronic devices

4. Don’t ask “yes” or “no” questions- If you ask the person questions where they can respond with just one word; the conversation may end quickly. To correctly make small talk in English you need to form questions that mostly start with
• “What…?”
• Who…?”
• “When…?”
• “How…?”
• “Why…?”
• “Where…?”

5. Rephrase or repeat what the other person said– If they said, “My trip to Mexico was great.” You could respond, “I’m glad your trip to Mexico was great.” Or if they say, “Our team won five games.” You could say, “Five games!?” This shows the speaker that you are actively listening to what they are saying and you are interested.

Below are three example conversations with follow-up questions in English:

Example 1:
You asked: What are you going to do this weekend?
Person Answered: I am going to my Grandma’s house.

Possible Follow-Up Questions:
Does your grandma live close by?
Where does your grandma live?
What are you going to do at your grandma’s house?
How long will you visit you grandma for?

Example 2:
You asked: What did you do over the summer?
Person Answered: I went on vacation

Possible Follow-Up Questions:
Who did you go on vacation with? Did you go with your family?
Did you visit anyone?
Where did you go?
Was that the first time you went there?
How did you get there? Did you take a plane? Was it a long flight?
I’ve never been there before. Is it far away?
What did you do there?
Was there good weather?

Example 3:
You asked: Do you like soccer?
Person Answered: Yes, I love soccer.

Possible Follow-Up Questions:
What is your favorite team?
When did you start getting so into soccer?
Have you ever been to any great soccer games? Where? Who won? Was it a close game?
Do you have a favorite player? Why?
Did you play soccer when you were a kid? How long? Were you good?
Do you know where I could see a game around here?
Could you recommend any websites, podcasts, blogs, etc. about soccer?

Hopefully, you now have few new ideas about how to improve your English  conversations. The key to keeping English conversations going is to ask questions and to look and act interested in what the other person is saying.

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How I Learned to Speak Fluently in 12 Months

My Language Learning Journey

I understand your love/hate relationship with learning English. Some days, you feel really successful. When you learn or understand something new and don’t make mistakes. Other days, you struggle to understand almost everything and you feel like giving up.

I started learning a language just like you. I started studying a foreign language because it was required to get into university. Applicants had to have two or more years of foreign language study on their transcripts (grades). I learned in a traditional language class in my high school; learning from a textbook. I learned a lot of words but I had many problems…. I couldn’t speak in sentences. I didn’t understand native speakers. I couldn’t conjugate a verb to save my life… but somehow I was able to get good grades (A’s and B’s).

What did NOT work for me when I was learning a foreign language?
• Memorizing lists of vocabulary
• Conjugating verbs into different tenses
• Memorizing dialogues
• I had to translate everything back to my native language to understand
• Learning things that I could not use or had to memorize for an exam
• Pressure (Being forced) to speak in front of my peers (classmates)

I spent four years studying, and I still couldn’t understand a native speaker. Conjugating verbs made me nervous and gave me a stomach ache…I had developed a FEAR OF VERBS! Pathetic, right?

I was about to give up on learning a foreign language until the idea of immersion and traveling was presented to me. A friend suggested that I study abroad. It had never occurred to me before… but I loved the idea. A few months later, I was on an airplane with about 50 Americans… headed to Argentina, to learn Spanish. I spent one year in Argentina. I lived with local families. I made friends. I went to school. I look art and Portuguese classes. I went out dancing, partying and socializing (A LOT). I was immersed in the culture and the language.

Guess what? In twelve short months, I was speaking fluently. I no longer got stomach aches thinking about verbs. Actually, I no longer even thought about verbs PERIOD. The opportunity to learn the language naturally was so great. I learned to speak as a native did.

At first it was intimidating. I couldn’t understand much of what was said to me. Soon, I was able to understand everything. I started to say a few words here and there, when I felt comfortable. Within a few more months, I was able to hold long conversations and could understand everybody.

What worked for me when I was learning a foreign language?
• Learning the language naturally
• Low stress authentic environment
• Natural interactions with native speakers
• No memorization. Just a lot of repetition.

As an English language teacher now, I understand the struggles that my students face every day. It is hard to learn a new language. It is REALLY HARD but don’t give up. You can learn English. YES… YOU!


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11 Tips to Help You Learn English Faster

1. Take a deep breath and SPEAK!
The more you think about speaking, the more nervous you will get. Just try speaking more. Next time you go to English class or speak English, count how many times you speak in five or ten minutes. After that, try to speak more. If you spoke one time today, next English class, try to speak two or three times. The more you speak the more you will learn how to communicate properly.

2. Don’t apologize for not knowing everything or “Not speaking English!”
You are learning English… You are trying, right? That’s what’s important. You don’t say “I don’t know how to cook that.” and stop cooking new things or “I don’t now how to use a computer.” and stop using new computer apps and programs. You just keep doing your best and you learn more and more as time goes on.  Please don’t say ‘I DON’T speak English’. Instead you could say:
• “I am learning English. Could you speak a little slower?”
• “I’m sorry, I didn’t understand.”
• “Could you repeat that?”
• “So, you’re saying that…. [rephrase what you heard]”.
• “What does _________ mean?”

3. Stop translating everything word for word to your language.
Translating everything to your native language is a big NO NO when learning English! If you are doing it, STOP right now! Translating everything is slowing down your progress. If you hear something in English and instantly try to translate it to your native language; you will not be focusing on learning English, but rather translating. When you hear people speaking in English:
Listen for words you DO understand
Use contextual clues… so, if you hear, “There is a big rhinoceros.” If you don’t know what ‘rhinoceros’ means but you see a big animal in a picture, or someone is pointing at something. Use those clues to figure out what it means.

4. Train your ears to understand.
You need to focus and listen. Train you ears to listen for words they (YOU) know in English. Listen for patterns. Don’t focus on grammar or single words. Focus on the phrases. Listen to English movies, music, and TV. Listen to the way things are phrased or ordered. If you train your ears, you will automatically start to understand more when people speak English. Training your ears to listen to English, will help focus on the big picture; understanding English. You cannot become fluent if you are focusing on words, one at a time. It would take you forever to learn English.

5. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
Fear can stop you from learning English.
• Do you go to English class and think that everyone is going to make fun of you or laugh at you if you try to speak English?
• Do know all the grammar rules but struggle to have a conversation in English?
• Do you avoid speaking with native English speakers and other people that speak English better than you?
Stop being so afraid to speak English! You need to let go and relax. You need to stop thinking of the ‘What if’s…?’. Instead focus on doing and your actions. No one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. The more you do something the better you get at it. To be a better English speaker and understand more English you need to stop being afraid of making mistakes.

6. Keep Trying. Don’t Give Up.
Professional athletes practice a lot. They weren’t born professional athletes. A ton of hard work and hours went into being so good at what they do. They could never be a professional soccer or baseball player without trying. If a professional athlete stopped practicing today, their skills would get worse. They would start making mistakes. The more you practice speaking English, reading English, listening to English, and writing in English the better you will get. You won’t be able to speak English fluently tomorrow or even next month. Over time if you put in the effort, you will be more comfortable and know a lot more English.

7. Keep a small notebook… write down important phrases.
Write down entire phrases that you hear. You could write it down because you think you will use it, you learned something new, or you didn’t understand. When you look back at the notebook later you will have the whole phrase; instead of one word in isolate (alone, with no example). By writing down the entire phrase you mind remember is like that. Next time you need it, the whole phrase will come out, instead of just one word.

8. Stop Negative Self-Talk
Do you find yourself saying or thinking negative things about learning English? Such as,
• “You will never learn English.”
• “Why do I always make mistakes? I am so stupid.”
• “I never know what to say. English is so hard.”
If you do say these things to yourself, then you do have negative self-talk about learning English.
How do you fix negative self-talk?

• Recognize you are being negative.
• Rephrase or change your statement. State the negative in a different manner
Negative Self-Talk: “I will never learn English”.
Positive Self-Talk: “English is difficult but I am going to keep trying. I am sure I will get it soon.”
Being positive will help you learn English quicker.

9. Set goals- Know why you are learning English. What do you want to accomplish? Do you want to speak English fluently? Do you want to get a job speaking English? Are you going to travel to the United States? Do you need to know English for University? Do you want to learn English because all of your friends speak English? Think about why you are learning English and set some goals.
• How long will you study English?
• How will you study or learn English?
• What specifically will you do to learn English?
• How will you know when you meet your goal?
• What will happen when you meet your goal?

10. Try something new
Have been trying to learn English the same way for the last year? Three years? Seven years or more? Try something new! Change is good for you. It will help you grow.
• Try listening to English podcast.
• Take an online English class.
• Listen to music in English.
• Watch TV or news in English.
• Watch YouTube English Lessons
• Take a class from a different teacher.
• Do a language exchange online or in your city
• Find an English speaking friend (native or not)

11. Throw your textbook (or grammar book) out the window. 
Okay…. Maybe you don’t need to be so dramatic but a textbook should be used as a reference. Don’t throw it out the window; put it in the closet. An English textbook should not be your only resource when learning English. It should be there to use from time to time when you have a question or want to look up something. You need to focus on YOU. What do you need to learn? You are an individual. What you need to learn in English is different than what your neighbor, your friend and your boss need to know in English. The textbook will not change based on each individual’s needs… it is a one size fit all. Language learning is NOT one size (or way) fits all!

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