Overcoming the Fear of Speaking

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        “Think in English;” “Just start speaking, the rest comes by itself,” “No matter what you say, just talk.” This is common advice among friends when it comes to overcoming our fear of speaking. But how right is it?

         Let’s start by emphasizing the importance of teaching the basics of non-verbal communication and don’t forget to assert both their posture and eye contact. I remember when I was a novice instructor and one of the top educators came in the teacher’s room. It was only me and him. He started talking about international affairs and I was frozen; I wanted to give a good impression. However, I could only mutter: “Really?” “Don’t tell me.” “Yeah, I know what you mean.” Sounds familiar? You are not alone.

         Below is a list of some useful tips you can provide your students with to help them improve their speaking skills and, hopefully, overcome their fear of speaking. Besides, perhaps (why not) you could take advantage of them yourself to better your own speaking abilities.

  1. Have different listening input sources: songs, podcasts, films, TV series. This will allow you not only to feel more confident about your accent and pronunciation but also to learn new vocabulary.
  2. Slow down! There is no need to speak very fast. The slower, the better.
  3. Paraphrase. If you do not know a word, try another way of saying it. Not being that accurate is not going to make you look silly.
  4. If you don’t understand something, ask for clarification. A simple request such as: “Can you say that again, please?” “So what you mean is…..” will do wonders.
  5. Avoid answering only with a YES or NO. Always add a few details or ask follow-up questions.
  6. Speak in English as often as you can. Sounds much easier when you say it. Speak with friends, send them recorded messages via WhatsApp or videos, change the settings of your phone and/or email, in a word: incorporate English to your daily activities!
  7. Use some chunks. Get familiar with functional language and use these phrases when you feel it is the right moment.

         Keep in mind that you are having a conversation, not taking an exam! The more you enjoy speaking and sharing your viewpoints, the easier it will become. Take one step at the time!

What about you?

What do you do to improve your speaking skills?

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