Managing Speaking Anxiety

Spanish speaking anxiety
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Gestión de la ansiedad al hablar

Fear of speaking, glossophobia, is one of the most common phobias – even just in one’s native language. Leaving aside a general fear of public speaking and the question of how shy you might be, if you feel nervous when speaking Spanish, it’s probably due to a lack of confidence in your skills: you don’t feel you have the grammar, vocabulary, and/or pronunciation needed in order to express yourself.

The obvious solution is to improve your Spanish, and this site is filled with resources to help you do just that. Beyond lessons and learning, however, there are other ways to increase your confidence and feel more comfortable speaking Spanish.

We all make mistakes

First of all, you should know that most people are forgiving of mistakes in their native language. Think about it – when a non-native speaker addresses you in English, are you really thinking “what a dummy, their sentence is all out of order, and that’s the wrong verb, and the less said about their pronunciation the better”? Or do you try to meet them halfway, ignoring or perhaps mentally correcting mistakes in order to understand what they’re working so hard to say? For most of us, it’s the latter, because we appreciate the effort people make to communicate. In my experience, Spanish speakers – whether in Spain or Latin America – love hearing foreigners speak even broken Spanish. So don’t let fear of how well you speak Spanish stop you.

Prepare yourself

If you’re going to ask for directions or buy a plane ticket, think about what you want to say and how to say it beforehand. Try to anticipate what questions you might be asked and what additional information might be needed to achieve your task.

Talk about yourself

Whether you’re interested in current events, food, or travel, read about those topics and make a list of the words and phrases that crop up repeatedly. And if you find that you’re regularly getting pulled into discussions about soccer or cars, try to learn some of that vocabulary too.

Practice every chance you get

Speaking Spanish is like playing the guitar or baking cookies – the more you do it, the more comfortable it feels and the easier it gets. Join the Instituto Cervantes, hire a tutor, or place a classified ad to find someone to chat with regularly, even if they’re not fluent or native, but just another nervous Spanish speaker like you. As you practice, you’ll gradually feel more comfortable and confident.

Just do it!

Finally, just try to relax, have fun, and remember why you’re learning Spanish in the first place. It’s all about communication, so get out there and speak!

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Managing Spanish speaking anxiety

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