How to Overcome Shyness When Learning a New Language

Let’s face it - it takes guts to learn a new language.

You will be pushed out of your comfort zone and this can feel quite intimidating for people who are shy by nature. However, being shy or introverted doesn’t mean you have to put your dreams of learning a new language on hold.  

In fact, many timid people have successfully become fluent in a foreign language. It just takes baby steps to build on your confidence.

You might feel comfortable learning from grammar books but eventually, you're going to have to be courageous enough to go out there and communicate with others.

At Lingopie, we know how valuable it is to know a second or third language. Our mission is to make language learning easy and accessible to everyone.

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So, how can you overcome your shyness to meet your goals? Today, we have put together some tips on how you can boost your confidence.

Why do we often feel shy when learning a new language?

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The first thing to note is that it is completely normal to feel scared or shy when you are learning a new language. If you have ever frozen mid-conversation when a native speaker asked you a question in their language, you are not alone.

In fact, this happens to pretty much everyone when in the process of learning a new skill. There are usually two reasons why people feel shy when speaking in a new language:

Fear of making mistakes

The fear of making mistakes is a language learner’s worst enemy. So many people worry if their pronunciation is correct, if they used the right tense, or if they have forgotten a word or phrase.

Then there is the fear of looking and sounding stupid in front of other people. This is especially common for people with perfectionist personality traits. Funnily enough, making mistakes is often one of the best ways to improve your language skills.

Feeling as though you don’t know enough grammar or vocabulary to hold a conversation

Another reason people may feel shy is that they're worried they don’t know enough words to hold a decent conversation.  

It can feel intimidating to speak to natives, especially when you are just starting your language learning journey and forget basic vocabulary or don’t know how to conjugate verbs. This can tempt you to not even try at all!

How to Be More Confident When Speaking a Foreign Language

You’ve heard it many times before: the best way to beat fear is to take a step closer towards it.

So, how can you take baby steps to overcome your shyness? We have put together a list of things you can do on your own as well as a list of things you can do with other people.

Things you can do on your own to build your confidence when speaking a foreign language

  • Practice speaking to yourself in front of the mirror first
  • Start listening to podcasts and audiobooks - and watch TV!
  • Think about what the worst case scenario would actually be!

Practice speaking to yourself in front of the mirror first

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Sounds weird, right? But it works. If you don’t feel ready to go out and start talking to other people in a foreign language, you can start practicing by yourself.

Find a mirror and say some words or phrases out loud to yourself. It will probably feel awkward at first, but it is great for practicing pronunciation and getting used to the sound of your own voice!

Many people don’t like listening to the sound of their own voices, and your confidence is bound to take a hit when you think your voice is the equivalent of nails on a chalkboard.

Try doing this for 10 minutes a day for achieving the best results.

Start listening to podcasts and audiobooks - and watch TV!

Listening to podcasts and watching TV shows or movies in your target language are some of the best ways to build on your vocabulary.

You can do this on your way to work, while cooking, or simply by having a binge watching session on Lingopie.

It is useful to familiarize yourself with the way the language sounds when spoken by natives and to really focus on the pronunciation. You can also learn lots of idiomatic expressions and slang words by watching TV series.

Try to make your learning as proactive as possible by repeating out loud what has been said and looking up any unknown words. If you find this proactive approach useful, try learning a new language on YouTube.

Also, do try to read books or small texts in the target language as much as possible (to further expand your vocabulary and knowledge).

And, if you want the best of both worlds, why not learn with audiobooks?

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Think about what the worst case scenario would actually be!

So you’re shy because you don’t like to make mistakes, but what would really be the worst case scenario? What really is the worst thing that could happen? People laughing at you?

One thing I have realized is that people really aren’t as mean as we make them out to be. In fact, I find that people appreciate the effort put into learning their language rather than looking down on us for doing it badly.

Making an attempt to learn a new language shows a certain level of respect for the culture.

Mistakes are inevitable and they end up being some of the greatest teachers. So make sure to celebrate your small achievements and be patient with yourself. Good things take time.

Things you can do with other people to build your confidence when speaking a foreign language

  • Find yourself a language conversation partner
  • Find a one-on-one tutor
  • If you can, travel to a country where your target language is spoken

Find yourself a language conversation partner

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This is one of the best ways to get over shyness.

For example, if you are trying to learn French, you could find a French exchange partner.

Your partner will be trying to learn the language you speak (English, in this case), and you will be learning their language (French). If you plan a 30-minute session, you could do 15 minutes speaking French and the other 15 minutes speaking English.

It can feel less embarrassing because you are both in the same boat, making mistakes along the way. Tandem and MyLanguageExchange are good websites to start off with.

Find a one-on-one tutor

There are so many benefits to working with a private tutor, and you will get fast results because the focus is on only you.

Before starting with a tutor, you can discuss your shyness and your tutor can take it into account when planning your lessons.

Most tutors will understand how you feel because a lot of them were in exactly the same place as you when they were learning a new language.

There is also less pressure than if you were in a classroom setting - you will feel less afraid to make mistakes! If you want to try out a lesson with a private tutor, Lingopie has a range of excellent tutors to help you out.

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If you can, travel to a country where your target language is spoken

Of course this isn’t always possible, but if you do get the opportunity, it is a wonderful idea to travel to a country where your target language is spoken.

This is how you will be fully exposed to the language and you will be forced out of your comfort zone. Try to go to places where you will be encouraged to speak in the target language.

For example, go to an Italian restaurant and order your meal in Italian. Or maybe you can go to an exercise class (yoga class etc.) where you will have to listen to the instructions in the target language.

Overcoming Foreign Language Anxiety - Summing It Up!

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So, there are a few things you can do to improve your shyness when learning a new language:

  1. You may feel more comfortable taking steps on your own at first: practicing speaking out loud in front of the mirror as well as actively watching TV shows and movies are very good ways to start improving your confidence.
  2. As you become less shy, you might want to find yourself a language exchange partner or a private language tutor.
  3. Whatever you decide to do, don’t give up!

If you ever feel like you are losing hope, just think about the feeling of accomplishment you will have when you are finally able to communicate with foreigners in your target language.

And of course, don’t forget to keep up your language TV watching with Lingopie daily.

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