When speaking a language, even the most enthusiastic people lack confidence; especially when they are asked to use this new language as a means of communication.
It has been proven that most of the time this lack of confidence is not due to absence of knowledge of the language but rather because of self-doubt.
It is understandable to feel uncomfortable when engaged in conversations with native speakers for the first times. You may wonder if you will remember all the vocabulary you’ve been learning, or if you will use the grammar correctly, or use the right verb conjugation. But, instead of letting these doubts preventing you from engaging with others, you should pay close attention to how you come across to your interlocutor.
How does low confidence influence your behaviour?
If you’re too embarrassed to use the new language, you might try to avoid the situations where you must do so. Don’t let your fear of making mistakes prevent you from enjoying these conversations with the natives where you can learn so much about their culture and themselves. Don’t miss on the opportunity of creating beautiful friendships that might last a lifetime, who knows.
Your lack of confidence might also push you to giving up learning the language by thinking that it’s a waste of time or that you will never be able to overcome your fear of speaking. When you are in this state of mind, it is easy to throw the towel and blame yourself for your failure. This might increase your low confidence and even it might permeate to other areas of your life, leading to frustration and disappointment.
Stop comparing yourself with others
Comparing yourself with others is not a good idea. You must remember that everyone retains information at a different pace.
Even though you’ve been studying the language for the same amount of time as your cousin, and her speaking ability is better than yours, it does not mean that you won’t get there eventually. Remember that the race is with yourself and no one else.
How can you improve your confidence?
Being a confident language learner is as important as mastering the four pillars of language (listening, reading, writing and speaking).
A confident language learner is the one who holds the belief that he/she can rely on his/her own capabilities.
Being confident motivates you to carry on learning the language. It encourages you to keep going.
Your confidence will also show in other areas of your life.
Here are a few tips that -if followed- will help you boost your confidence.
When you’re engaged in a conversation, your body gives away more cues than what you’re saying. So, pay attention to how you come across.
Always stand tall, relax your shoulders, avoid crossing your arms, do not fidget, do not play with your hands or your fingers, smile and maintain eye contact, look relaxed.
These will have a positive effect on your interlocutor and on yourself. The more relaxed you are, the easier it will be for you to retrieve from your memory, the words and phrases of your new language. Then, the more you succeed at communicating, the calmer you will become, and your confidence will show effortlessly, this time without having to fake it.
Speak clearly and loudly
This will have two positive effects: you will appear more confident and your interlocutor will understand you better.
One way you can get over the low confidence is by practising.
Read aloud texts in your target language. Start with materials that you are familiar with.
Read in front of a mirror, pay attention to body language. Repeat the text until you memorise it. Once more confident, practice with your spouse or a friend. You can even record yourself to track your progress.
Prepare conversation starters
Prepare conversation starters to various scenarios.
Think of what you would normally talk about. Write down as many phrases as possible related to these. Memorise and use them when engaging with others.
Surround yourself with like-minded people
Even if you are learning on your own, the internet offers a variety of communities of like-minded language learners for support and accountability.
You will notice that you are not the only one dealing with lack of confidence when speaking in a foreign language and, as studies reveal, this will boost your self-esteem.
On the other side, you might receive tips and advice on how they have overcome the very same problem and implement it.
Work with a foreign language coach
It is important to work with someone you trust.
A foreign language coach can help you address the emotional, motivational and practical side of learning a language. He/she will help you develop awareness of the conditions that influence your learning. With a coach you’ll be able to identify the negative experiences that can hinder your progress and manage your fear of speaking.
Coaching works by helping learners unearth past limiting beliefs and self-loathing.
Read stories of people who have succeeded at learning a language.
Learning a language is not easy, but it is achievable.
Reading about other’s successes will encourage and motivate you to get to the finish line. It will not be a dream anymore but a goal.
You might also discover the techniques they have used to acquire confidence and use these yourself.
Allow yourself to self-reflect
Take time to look back at all your achievements, in doing so, you will realise how far you’ve come, and this will boost your motivation.
Keep a journal
Have a journal or learning log where you write down what you’ve accomplished every day. This will help you keep things into perspective.
Remember that learning any language is a difficult task, but it is doable. At first you will need to fake your confidence, but it will become natural. And the more confidence you gain the more motivated you will be which in turn will boost more your confidence. All you need is to believe in yourself.
Do you lack confidence when speaking in your target language? Click Here for help.