How to Overcome Your Fear of Speaking Publicly in a Foreign Language
Have you ever wanted to speak to someone or go some place, but fear held you back? Most likely your answer is yes; I know mine is. Speaking publicly—especially in a foreign language—can be unnerving. In 2013, I participated in Toastmasters International and gave 13 speeches in 6 months. At the beginning, I was terrified. My hands shook, my heart raced, and I was afraid of making mistakes. I quickly learned that my fears could either hold me back or propel me forward. I chose to face my fears by giving my speeches no matter how nervous I became.
Here are some tips on how to face your fears and speak a foreign language with courage and determination. Whether you are speaking with someone one-on-one, in a small group, or presenting in front of several people, there are things you can do to minimize fear and maximize success.
1. Prepare and role play
This can be a fun activity. Preparing means setting time aside to structure your speech or presentation. We often do this naturally in our imaginations. Using pen and paper, a word processor, or a website that has a dialogue you can work off of, create a scenario. Some great websites include Easy Conversations for Beginners, Series of Intermediate Dialogues, and Advanced Dialogues.
Once you’ve created your scenario and drafted the lines that you’ll say, practice with a friend, family member, or record yourself using your smartphone or camera. The more you practice the better you’ll get. Using a recording device and playing it back allows you to evaluate your speaking. You’ll notice areas where you can improve. You can even share this recording with your private Verbling teacher. They can point out strengths and provide feedback on what can be improved.
2. Let go of perfectionism
To speak without fear we have to stop chasing perfection. No one is perfect, not even me, and I’m a native English speaker. Speaking naturally means being true to our personalities and intellect. We are all human and will stumble over a word or two on occasion. Let your heart, mind, and soul shine through with every word you say. Behind every brilliant smile is a brilliant mind. I know you have both. Let others see those things, too. People respect authenticity and determination. You can do it!
3. Beware of filler words
When we’re nervous and anxious we often speak without thinking and, by doing so, use filler words to fill in the gaps in otherwise normal speech. Every language has filler words, not just English! Some of the most common filler words in English include okay, right, you know, um, ah, uh, and like. If you’d like to see filler words in action, here is an example video by Matt Maron, a communication and business coach.
How do you eliminate these unnecessary words? You speak slowly and thoughtfully. You want to sound confident, natural, and concise. The greatest public speakers take their time when speaking. Even when faced with time constraints, they still prepare, only include the most important information, and include pauses to allow their speaking to sound natural. You too can sound like this with practice. I’ve created a Public Speaking Package on Verbling to work on all of these elements. You can excel at public speaking—even in a foreign language!
About the Author:
Jackie Johnson has been teaching on Verbling since February 2015. She’s taught hundreds of private classes with students from all over the world. Jackie is dedicated to helping her students develop confidence in speaking, reading, and writing in English. In addition, Jackie is a holistic counselor and life coach. Her lessons encompass these two professional aspects, as well. Jackie is passionate and committed to supporting, encouraging, and teaching her students how to thrive in life.
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