Conquer Your Fear of Making Mistakes when Speaking English!

by Robby on November 27, 2010

If you’re a foreign English speaker – there’s a 90% chance you are because you’re reading my blog! – you’re most likely familiar with anxiety of making mistakes when speaking English.

You know – it’s the feeling when you’d gladly say something when chatting in English with someone, but you hold it inside because you’re not sure you’ll get it right.

In the most extreme cases you might even be avoiding communication only not to experience embarrassment and humiliation! That’s when it gets really serious because no matter how badly you fear making mistakes, you’re not going to improve your spoken English simply because you’re not speaking enough :!:

So how to deal with this anxiety and how to overcome your fear of making mistakes?

Watch the video above and you’ll find out how to change your mindset when it comes to making mistakes; alternatively you can read this video’s script below!

Fear of Making Mistakes Feeds on Itself!

I think that the majority of foreign English speakers have to admit that FEAR of making mistakes when speaking English is one of the main factors inhibiting our spoken English fluency.

We all can definitely remember situations when we’ve made a mistake when speaking or attempting to speak, and that has made us feel insecure, embarrassed and ashamed of our level of spoken English.

The more similar situations we encounter, the more conscious we become, and fear of making mistakes constantly feeds on itself. So what initially shows up only as moments of slight embarrassment can grow into a proper speech anxiety, and you can start avoiding contacting other English speaking people to avoid those embarrassing situations :shock:

And this is where it gets serious. While being a bit confused and making an odd mistake here and there is absolutely normal, those foreign English speakers who are constantly worried about making mistakes have their English improvement seriously impeded; in other words – they find it hard to enjoy themselves when speaking English.

Where This Fear Comes From?

So where does this fear of making mistakes come from and why it’s so prevalent among foreign English speakers?

I think there are a couple of reasons for that, and the biggest of them goes back to your school days when you studied English sitting behind a desk.

Just think about this – at school you are aiming to achieve good grades, so every mistake you make downgrades your assessment in your English teacher’s eyes. While generally students are encouraged to speak and express themselves, at the same time your knowledge is constantly assessed and checked against the existing standards.

Such system works pretty well in exact subjects such as Math, and similar, where you are literally required to memorize formulas and to able to perform certain calculations whereby making a mistake would result in a wrong answer.

English speaking is a completely different matter altogether, I would rather put English is the same subject category with Arts and Music because when you learn a language it’s more about being able to improvise and express yourself in a unique way rather than cram something into your brain and then re-produce the very exact knowledge :!:

So in other words, I believe that the existing English teaching system at school is responsible for many foreign English speakers being way too conscious of mistakes they’re making. They feel as if they’re still sitting behind a desk in an English class and if they say something that isn’t 100% correct, they’ll get a bad grade.

Another reason for many foreign English speakers being too worried about making mistakes when speaking is their type of personality. If you aren’t very confident and you generally tend to be a bit on the shy side, you can find it very intimidating when speaking with an English speaker and making mistakes.

It’s basically down to feeling like a lesser person, and none of us like feeling that way, do we?

So if you’re one of those folks who are anxious about making mistakes, here’s what I’ll tell you.

You have to change your mindset regarding how you perceive mistakes made during a conversation!

A slip of a tongue when speaking isn’t the same as making a permanent mistake when performing some practical task. If you’re a shop assistant and you make a mistake when giving a change to your customer, it’s a real mistake.

If you make a small mistake when thanking your customer for making a purchase, it’s an entirely different matter. You can always go back and correct yourself, so you have to start looking at mistakes made during English speech in a similar way you’d regard mistakes during a musical performance.

When you sing despite not being a professional artist, it doesn’t really matter that much if you’re off tune on a couple of notes, or if your voice is a bit shaky because you’re nervous on stage. Once you’re hitting the main notes right and you carry yourself with a head held high, you’re 100% fine, and people will still be getting the song’s message, they’ll feel your heart and soul through the song.

And the same goes with speaking English. You’re not a professional English speaking artist which means that you’re not a native English speaker. But similar to what I just said about signing performance, as far as you’re smiling and being friendly and the small mistakes you make aren’t as big as to create a real communication barrier, you’re fine! ;-)

You see, the thing is that nine out of ten native English speakers and also other English speaking people in general will see much more in your English speech than just words. It’s about how you look at people; it’s about your emotions when you speak, your facial expressions, your gestures and so on :!:

And it’s not a secret that the biggest part of the message you get across to the other person consists of those components than just words.

Of course, as I said previously, if your mistakes create a real communication barrier, it does become an issue indeed, so you need to make 100% sure you’re getting the basics right, there’s no doubt about that!

But the main point of today’s lesson is that if you constantly fear making mistakes when speaking English with people, you will avoid real communication and therefore you will find it very hard to improve your communication skills!

Speaking English Is Much More Than Just Words!

There’s much more to speaking English than just being able to speak. It’s actually more about facing other people, especially people you speak with for the first time, or important people, and the related stress you’re experiencing and how it affects your verbal performance.

You may even find yourself in a strange situation when you can speak with much fewer mistakes with certain people or when you practice your spoken English with yourself.

When you go out there and face real life communication, however, you might make a whole lot more mistakes because during real communication you get stressed out a bit, or you face non-standard questions so you’re required to improvise when speaking, and it all adds up creating a brand new dimension of English speaking.

So basically if you perceive mistakes during English speech as something terrifying, as something that you make and it stays there, and you can’t correct, or as something that will definitely make others laugh about you and you’ll end up being humiliated, then you definitely have to change the way you see mistakes.

You have to start seeing them as an integral part of being a foreign English speaker, you simply have to tell yourself: “Making mistakes is normal” whenever you feel onset of fear and anxiety if there’s a prospect of speaking with someone.

But don’t think I’m condoning speaking in bad, broken English without trying to improve it. That’s not what I’m saying at all, you definitely need to work on your spoken English skills to make sure you get English grammar right and also that you use proper words and phrases and so on.

This video episode’s point was simply to make you understand that you have to IGNORE the fear of making mistakes when you speak English!

Every time you feel onset of fear when there’s a prospect of a conversation with someone in English, don’t avoid the conversation, simply jump into it as if you’re jumping in a swimming pool from a jumping board!

Robby

P.S. Are you ready to get on the fast track to spoken English fluency? Check out my English Harmony System HERE!

English Harmony System

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  • http://englishharmony.com/ Robby Kukurs

    You’re dead right Suresh – one shouldn’t be too concerned about the fact that English is their second language; instead we just have to do our best to practice, practice and practice once more – and then at some stage down the line the results are simply going to manifest themselves!

  • Suresh Kumar Talabattula

    “What is a language?”,I asked myself one day.Well the answer came from within ,just to share our thoughts,feelings,ideas we need a medium and sounds,that is language. All of us must be proud to have our own languages(mother tongues),Have we ever thought or fear that we may fail to speak,remember to deliver out fluently,the answer well be a Huge NO!Then why should we fear to speak english fluently.Remember english is never our mother tongue,But we have to learn it to survive ,to make living without struggle.
    Well it was sad and unfortunate news for non native speakers of english that one must be perfect in spoken,written english in order to secure a job in their own backyard.what to do English has become the order of the day, No No we made it so.

    We must learn english in a bilingual way ,then practice it standing in front of the mirror,one sentence should be practiced more than million times ,Just kidding !!!! as many times a s you can buddy….Just feel the language when you communicate…don’t search or remember for the meanings of the words as every word has many meanings so as long as you search for the meaning of any word it is a non ending work and will end up with a word ,so best way to understand the meaning of any word is to think of the true meaning of the word that is an acton,or thing or place ….if you practice it that way you will see a great change …sure!!!!

  • Suresh Kumar Talabattula

    Just keep learning english with the help of your mother tongue ,then practice speaking in english.

  • Sharath

    First of all “Hats off” to your efforts to fill confidence in many people’s mind. And i really appreciate your patience to reply to each and every comment sir.. I have a couple of questions 1. many a times it happens to me that when i speak to some people of the same proficiency as mine i speak fluently,but when i speak to some hi-fy English chap i stammer and blackout.what could be the possible reason? 2.I sometimes fail to concentrate both on my English and the subject which i am speaking, and fail to convey what i was supposed to. How to get over these things?

  • http://englishharmony.com/ Robby Kukurs

    No problem, just let me know if you need any more assistance! ;-)

  • tayyaba khawar

    ok i’ll work on it thak you so much

  • http://englishharmony.com/ Robby Kukurs

    OK, let’s break the issue down to smaller components.

    First of all, you’re uncomfortable speaking with others, and that’s understandable – many of us have these kind of issues.

    Secondly – I’m guessing when you’re trying to speak with others, you’re getting overwhelmed by everything that you want to say so eventually you get stuck and you can’t say anything – am I right?

    Now, you’ve got to realize it’s important to deal with the problem #2 first – and then the first one will be much easier!

    Basically you have to learn to express yourself using simple language, short sentences and the key is using ready-to-go phrases memorized for automation (so that they can be spoken instantly without thinking).

    Learn the following phrases (if you’re unsure of their meanings, look them up on thefreedictionary.com):

    * as a matter of fact,
    * to be honest with you,
    * you know what I mean,
    * … in terms of,

    memorize them, and do some self-practice in front of a mirror (you’ve got to keep doing LOTS OF IT!!!) making sure to stuff your speech with these phrases.

    Some may say they’re totally unnecessary but I bet they’ll help you to MAINTAIN THE FLOW OF SPEECH and that’s how you can kick-start your fluency.

    Basically use plenty such and similar phrases:
    http://englishharmony.com/smart-english-phrases/

    http://englishharmony.com/small-talk/

    keep sentences short, and do a lot of self-practice.

    Next step – FORCE yourself to speak with others, and make sure to keep your speech simple and to-the-point instead of trying to encompass everything you want to say in one sentence.

    I know it’s not easy, I know there’s a lot of struggling ahead of you, but believe me – if you stick with A LOT OF SELF-PRACTICE AND ALSO FORCE YOURSELF TO SPEAK WITH OTHERS (learn to be ignorant and ignore any feeling of inferiority you may have etc), you’ll eventually get there!

    Regards,

    Robby

  • tayyaba khawar

    hello sir, i can’t speak english infront of anyone can’t even with my family members i have done many thing to overcome it like speaking infront of mirror and whenever i was alone i started to speak in english but nothing happens i haven’t tell my family about this problem yet um really confuse what to do please guide me sir i am in real trouble =(

  • http://englishharmony.com/ Robby Kukurs

    Hi Sha,

    First of all – never apologize for mistakes you’re making! Judging by your writing your English is very good, you can get the message across successfully and that’s the main thing!

    Speaking of how you can stop being nervous – frequent practice is the key followed by preparation. Say for example, there’s some sort of an event coming up where you have to speak. Think of everything you’re going to say, write it all down in a form of a list and practice it with yourself to program your mind to know what you’re going to say.

    When the stress levels are high, you may find it hard to concentrate, but having gone through a prepared list will make it so much easier for your brain to stay on the track and say something sensible.

    You can indeed enhance your English by doing everything you mentioned in your comment, but nothing beats spoken practice to improve your spoken fluency, so I would definitely say that it is the key.

    Read the following articles to see what exactly I’m talking about:

    http://englishharmony.com/spoken-english-practice/ 
    http://englishharmony.com/speaking-with-yourself/ 
    http://englishharmony.com/spoken-english-topics/ 

    Regards,

    Robby

  • Sha

    Hello sir, I’m one of those people afraid in speaking in English.Well  Every time I speak this language my lips were shaking it’s like that I saw something horrible you know. I can say something but there are times that I misused some of the words .sorry If my grammar is not correct. I just have some questions, How can I avoid being so nervous especially when I’m speaking in front of a lot of people? and Is it possible that you can enhance your spoken English by watching English shows, movies and speaking/thinking in English to yourself?please help sir, I really want to be fluent. 

  • http://englishharmony.com/ Robby Kukurs

    Well…. I’d be happy to help but I’m not a psychic and I can’t tell you what mistakes YOU are making! :-))

    But if seriously – you have to be more specific and tell me what mistakes you have in mind.

    Robby

  • Teb_chiasarat

    I always worry about making mistake writing and speaking?
    What are some mistake I often make in grammar and vocabulary? Please show me and how to edit it? thanks please good luck!

  • http://englishharmony.com Robby Kukurs

    Hi Ashu,nnThanks! Remember – you’re the only one making the difference and it’s entirely up to you to make sure this information is helpful to yourself.u00a0nnSo next time you’re facing a tough conversation with somebody in English just jump into it and just ignore anyu00a0embarrassmentu00a0that might arise from making an odd mistake or hesitation!

  • ashu

    it was really great and hope will be helpful as well.n

  • Nagen123456

    nice viedo

  • http://englishharmony.com Robby Kukurs

    Exactly Kathy! The more situations you put yourself into, the more comfortable you’ll get, it’s simple as that.nnIt’s also amazing how blown out of proportion our fear usually is – when you’re in the middle of a conversation, the actual embarrassment after making a mistake is much smaller that you expected it to be.nnAnd, if you tell yourself to simply ignore those emotions (it’s also surprising how easy that is), communication becomes much, much easier!

  • kathy

    I couldn’t have said it better. I felt totally identified with your article. You’ve hit the nail on the head. That’s exactly how I feel, and yeah, I have even started avoiding communication. But you know what? I’ll leave my paranoia right know and go out there and make as many mistakes as needed.

  • http://englishharmony.com Robby Kukurs

    Thanks, much appreciated!

  • Qiaofeihong

    you rock! love your video!

  • http://englishharmony.com Robby Kukurs

    Hi Tamara,nnThanks for your comment!nnThe phrase “let’s get the buzz going” means when there’s a high visitor activity going on – lots of commenting etc.nnRegards,nnRobby

  • amara

    I like you put English with the same category as Art and Music! You are SO right! We all are as unique as our English speaking style.rnrnCan you, please, explain expression: Let’s get the buzz going!rnrnThanks!rnrnTamararn

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