The difficulty of learning a language resides mainly in finding the courage to start expressing ourselves at any stage, from beginner to intermediate. There is always this nagging feeling that everybody around will start laughing at us the moment we open our mouth to articulate a sentence. This scenario seems to be playing on and on in our heads like a broken record, and we tend to freeze when the moment to practice what we’ve learned arises.
What happens when we let fear get hold of us?
It becomes more difficult to retrieve words and language patterns stored in your long-term memory. Your breathing becomes shallow, the sound and tone of your speech get lower, your voice becomes weak, you stop articulating making it more difficult for your interlocutor to understand, and what you didn’t want to happen occurs. The communication becomes more difficult as the fear of making mistakes, or not finding the words, increase.
Rationalise your fear.
You must be objective and see that this outcome is unrealistic. Native speakers are usually glad to see that someone is trying hard to learn their language. They are proud of the fact that it is important to you. They become more patient with a learner and at times they even encourage you.
You should relax and breathe deeply quite a few times. This will help you calm down as well as oxygenate your brain cells and allow you to retrieve the knowledge stored in your long-term memory.
We usually want to impress when learning a language. We want to give the impression that we’re more advanced than we truly are. So, we tend to speak fast. But what you don’t realise is that you’re giving the wrong signal to the person chatting with you, and they will answer back at a faster speed and suddenly, you’re lost.
Remember to always speak slowly. There’s no need to rush. When you do so, your interlocutor will follow suit. It will be easier for you to understand, you will have more time to gather your thoughts and carry on conversing.
Map out your weaknesses.
Make a mental note of where you usually get stuck during conversations. Is it because of lack of vocabulary, or because you don’t know some grammar structures or verb conjugation? Study these when you can, to prevent this communication barrier occurring next time.
Do you find it more difficult to understand what is said?
You should learn to enhance your listening abilities. Watch TV programs, listen to podcasts, etc, in French so that you can get used to the different accent and speed of real-life conversations. Try to use the shadowing technique which will help you improve comprehension, tone and accent.
When you improve your listening skills, very soon your speaking abilities will grow as well.
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