I'm excited to roll out a new blog series for those of you who want to learn a new language. My first blog is on how you can work on improving your speaking proficiency by gaining confidence when you speak. It's simpler than you realize! Just check out my three easy tips!
1. Actually start speaking. Many people tend to freeze up. They are so focused on speaking correctly that they just can't even say one word without feat thaty what they're saying is wrong. I used to tell my English students in Peru to "vomitar las palabras." I didn't have any better way to explain to them in Spanish what they needed to do, so basically, I told them to “vomit their words.” They'd always laugh because it was such a direct, and gross, way to explain what to do, but they got the point. I wasn't savvy enough in Spanish at the time to describe in less graphic detail for them to just start speaking no matter if what they said was wrong or right. The other person you're trying to communicate with will try their best to understand what you're saying. Think of how many times we in the U.S. have met someone who doesn't speak English well but is trying to communicate with us. We try our best to understand them without judgment. That's exactly what another person will do in the target language we're trying to speak in.
2. Practice with a female native speaker. My male students agree with this advice. We women tend to have the emotional intelligence, including patience, to want and try to understand another person trying to communicate with us. I noticed that in Mexico and Peru, older men tended to get frustrated with me more quickly when I was speaking in Spanish with them. They couldn't understand my accent, and if my grammar or vocabulary was off, they wouldn't have the patience to work with me. Not like a woman would, at least. It was such a relief when the person I was trying to communicate with actually got what I was saying no matter how jumbled it came across to them.
3. Realize that you are coming across as intelligent no matter what. Many of my students worry that because they can't speak their target language as well as their native one that they aren't being seen as intelligent as they actually are. The thing is, these students are doing just that, coming across as intelligent with the topics they're trying to discuss, non-verbal communication they're using, engagement with the other speaker, and other cues that make it obvious to me, and whoever they're speaking with, that they are super smart. It's obvious that their target language isn't their native one, and that's ok. They're trying. So even if you're not speaking grammatically correct, you're trying, and that's all that matters.
Check out my video for more tips!
I hope these tips help relieve some anxiety about speaking. You can improve your speaking proficiency, just by doing that, speaking. So get to it!