English learners often feel anxious and nervous when they have to speak English in front of others. This is normally because of three different fears:
Although there are English learners who need to improve their level in order to build confidence, I have met many learners who have an upper intermediate to advanced level but lack confidence especially when they need to participate in a meeting, make a presentation or give an interview in English.
In this case, it’s a mindset problem.
Going from an unconfident speaker to a confident one often involves changing your mindset, and not necessarily improving your competence level at speaking English.
It is a competence matter when you lack the necessary English level to participate in meetings, have a fluid conversation, understand what other people are saying etc. In this case, you need to focus on improving your English level.
On the other hand, if you know that in certain situations you are comfortable speaking English and expressing your thoughts, such as with your teacher, but on other occasions like participating in a meeting, you start to get nervous and forget words, then it’s a mindset issue.
So how do you improve your mindset so that you feel more confident?
Here are 3 solutions to help you build confidence in speaking English:
1: Adopt a Practice and Repetition Routine
When something becomes natural to us, like learning to ride a bike or driving a car, we begin to feel confident in doing it.
And the only way we can arrive at this ‘natural’ way of doing things, is through practice and repetition.
Well, it’s the same principle with speaking English confidently.
So when there is an English meeting coming up, write down what you might talk about as well as the answers to questions you may be asked. Then practice saying this aloud. When you feel comfortable, practice again.
The idea is to overlearn your speech. Similar to a mantra.
As well as meetings, you can do this to prepare for conversations, certain situations, like opening a bank account, job interviews, and presentations.
Of course, it’s impossible to predict exactly what you will be talking about in a future conversation or meeting. However, I’m sure if you sit down and think about what possible topics could come up—and if you practice these—you’ll no doubt feel more confident about communicating your message well and you will be less afraid of making mistakes.
2: Consciously Speak More Slowly
English learners can lose confidence if they are misunderstood, or not understood at all by the listener.
Normally they think that something is wrong with their English. In most cases though, you are either misunderstood because the listener is not accustomed to your accent, you are not prepared properly, or you are speaking too fast.
If somebody is not used to your accent, then at the beginning they could have difficulty understanding you. As well as this, when nervous you typically speak faster than normal which affects pronunciation and grammar. This for sure makes it more difficult for listeners to understand, which then affects confidence.
I therefore suggest that you take extra care in pronouncing your words and consciously speak slower.
When you see that people understand you better and don’t need to ask you to repeat something, this increases confidence.
3: Don’t Run Away from Uncomfortable Situations
Most English learners who lack confidence prefer to avoid situations where they have to speak English in front of other people.
This makes sense because it is natural for any human being to want to avoid uncomfortable situations when possible.
But guess what…you are only going to build your confidence speaking English by entering the uncomfortable zone, by putting yourself in situations which you don’t feel safe in.
The secret is to be prepared for it, and then you will overcome the challenge, which, as a consequence, transforms your confidence.
So my recommendation is to face your fears, but only when you are certain that you have prepared properly.
Learning to speak English confidently doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and you need discipline and persistence.
If you want to learn more strategies for building confidence in speaking English, download my Kindle book, How to Become a Confident English Speaker at Work. Just click on this click: https://mybook.to/ConfidentEnglishSpeakerAtWork
Written by Steven Hobson for EnglishClub January 2019
Born in England, and CELTA qualified, Steven has owned a language school in Rio de Janeiro and is currently an online business English coach. For more, visit: http://impactfulenglish.com
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