I’m happy to present a guest article from Polish polyglot and mnemonic learning blogger Bartosz Czekala who was gracious enough to write for LATG this piece about introverts and the anxiety some face over speaking their language to other speakers – be they native or other learners.As many who tend towards introversion – myself included – can relate to; speaking to other people especially nerve wracking.
It’s always difficult to overcome shyness when speaking a new language, but for those with more reserved personalities it can be
Bartosz has also been kind enough to offer his blogging experience with me and together we’ve been working to make tweaks and improvements to this site, and for that I sincerely thank him.
I hope you enjoy the article.
It’s not fair, is it?
It’s universally known that life is no pony ride. But being an introvert, especially in the world of language learning, can make life even more complicated. I mean, we introverts often shy away from talking with others, for various reasons. Even in our native tongues.
But chatting in a foreign language can make it extra stressful!
If you’re anything like me, you would love to be able to communicate fluently whenever needed, but without all the language courses and endless chit-chats with others.
You know how it goes. Somebody approaches you and asks you:
“It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?”
“Indeed, it is”, you say with a wide smile on your face while the little man in your head tells you get the hell out of this awkward social situation.
But it doesn’t happen. Oh no.
The conversation goes on.
“Nice weather, isn’t it?”.
And that’s the gist of the problem for us introverts; simply talking, at all, to anyone.
- If you want to improve your pronunciation, you have to talk to acquire muscle memory to utter sounds correctly.
- If you want to have a big active vocabulary, you have to talk to use it.
- If you want your speech to flow – you have to automate building grammar construction by…yep. You guessed right; by speaking.
So at least now you know what to work on!
This is also very important element of solving our problem. Typically, stress can originate from the feeling of lack of control over a particular situation.
And that’s actually great news! It means that if you determine how you can control (more less) the course of conversation, you’ll be more relaxed throughout!
And that takes us to the preparation phase.
In order to prepare yourself you need to be answer two questions:
Who and what?
- Who (will be there)?
Think about the nature of the meeting you’re going to attend and establish who will be present. Is it some work related event? Huge party organized by your friends?
Or maybe your relatives from abroad are coming to town.
Once you’ve established that, move to the next point:
- What (will you talk about)?
You definitely have to be able to introduce yourself confidently; you know, the usual stuff:
- What do you do?
- Where do you live?
- Do you enjoy your work?
- Do you have hobbies / passions?
- How did they start?
Up to this point it was a piece of cake, but now you have to really think about the potential topics could arise during your conversation.
Taking into consideration the nature of the meeting and the people who might show up. You need to be able to talk about less obvious topics that may show up during conversations.
If you feel uncomfortable talking about yourself, you might consider preparing some general questions beforehand to turn the conversation around and make it about your interlocutor.
Of course you don’t need to spend countless hours on researching potentially necessary vocabulary. I usually prepare for engagements such as these (regardless of language I’ll be using) by visiting the websites below.
They contain thousands of categorized questions in English specifically designed for speakers of other languages or non-native speakers. Simply choose the subject of interest: everything from “Judaism” or “Rock n Roll”. Start browsing the questions. The lists included on these websites – and others – will take the burden of preparation off of you.
This will give you more time to practice.
And do it as much as possible!
Ideally, you should have one or more conversational partners. You’re looking for a person with whom you feel comfortable and who can react to what you will say either as a native speaker or another learner.
If you don’t have such a person – don’t worry; you can do it on your own if you must as long as you follow one simple rule.
If you talk to yourself mentally – in your head your speech flows seamlessly, it absolutely doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to do so in a social context!
You have to talk aloud.
This way of practicing conversations is much more effective since the brain can have a harder time differentiating fiction from reality. Just imagine that you talk to someone else!
You can have a chat with yourself in front of the camera or mirror. Or you can simply talk to your pet or even a plant!
Regardless of the topic you decide to rehearse, make sure that you do it sufficient number of times. What does sufficient mean? It is sufficient when you can speak the words as naturally as possible without any major hangups.
Remember that actual conversations will be more stressful – especially for introverts – so it’s better to be as well prepared as possible.
Of course, practicing alone doesn’t guarantee you any meaningful success.
Sure, it may boost your self confidence and activate your vocabulary – which is important -but that’s not everything, is it? To truly improve your language skills, or any skills for that matter, you need to have a feedback loop.
You need to create a system that will keep on identifying your mistakes in order to better help you to eliminate them.
The easiest way (and the best way!) to receive immediate feedback is to have someone who can tell you if what you’re saying is correct or not. It doesn’t matter if it’s your friend or a tutor as long as he or she is able to improve your language skills and offer you meaningful and constructive criticism.
But can you do it on your own?
Without any doubt you could – but it’s going to be a bit more difficult.You have to push yourself. You must constantly expose yourself to your target language and keep an open mind. Don’t become too cocky; if you start believing that almost everything you’re saying is correct, you’re doomed.
In these circumstances there is less space left for improvement.
I know personally how difficult it can be overcome shyness – especially as an introvert, but it is possible. I’ve done it successfully and so can you.Have you used this method to learn on your own?
Let us know in the comments.
About the author
Bartosz Czekala is a polylgot, mnemonist and avid learner of just about everything. You can contact him through his website universeofmemory.com to get your free copy of his e-book “How to Learn Faster and Rediscover the Joy of Learning” and a 7-part mnemonics course.
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