I’m certain that everyone learning a language feels uncomfortable most of the time when they are trying to express themselves, especially at the start. How can we build up our confidence and stop
I am currently learning Spanish and feel as though I am at an intermediate level at the moment; however, I still feel very frustrated and still feel embarrassment when I am trying to communicate in Spanish instead of English. It is not the fact that I have a limited vocabulary or that I have a hard time fluidly speaking a thought… it is more the fact that I am unable to appear at my usual intelligence level when I am speaking in Spanish.
I know I am speaking like a caveman, like an uneducated person, mispronouncing words, mixing up grammar, speaking in the wrong tenses etc. etc. However, this is part of the process of learning how to use the language that you have learned and deliver it to the person you are speaking with. It is so different speaking a new language compared to writing, reading or hearing it!
During a chat with one of my favorite language exchange partners, I expressed the emotions I was experiencing when I try to communicate in my target language, particularly about feeling ‘stupid’ so often. Feeling like I was a 3 year old child again that could not understand what is being said to me or being able to speak what I am thinking with ease.
My friend said he also felt very stupid speaking in English. He was not confident that people could understand what he was saying and was not always able to understand what is being said to him all of the time. Furthermore, he believed other people viewed him as being stupid while he spoke English.
This is when I realized my perception of his English skills versus his view of his own English skills were completely different!
- I know my friend is extremely intelligent, capable of a level of thinking most of us can only aspire to have for brief moments of time.
- I am impressed with how well he can speak in English about complicated topics. Even though it is still slower than a native, the vocabulary is impressive.
- I can usually understand everything he says to me the first time. The grammar or conjugations of the verbs might be in the wrong form but I can hear the root of the word and know exactly what he is trying to say.
- If anyone sees him as being stupid because he cannot speak a new second language quickly, the person making that judgement is stupid!
- If the person that he is speaking with cannot understand what he is saying, the other person is simply not trying to understand.
After I stated these points to my friend, he naturally felt more confident for the moment. He also gave a piece of advice to me which was to enjoy the entire process of the journey while learning a new language.
The truth is you cannot appreciate how far you have come in your journey without experiencing the frustrations and challenges along the way. You will feel much more pride and success from your accomplishments after experiencing the challenges along the way to your final goal.
I have noticed that most people I meet who have decided to learn a new language are generally very smart and skilled people. For this group of people, learning English is just one of the elements they are improving in their lives as part of many different goals and dreams they have. Look at the other people around you and see how many are content with only existing day to day…work, eat, sleep, visit with friends etc. Welcome to the club of awesome people in this world! The ones that aspire to be better and live an amazing life.
We all have an ego. For me, the belief of having a high intelligence level is my most valued asset. Learning a language is like a kick to the ego every time I try to use it. Rather than letting my ego protect itself from being beat up everyday and stop my progression, I take every moment I feel stupid and turn it to motivation to be better next time I speak my new language!