A lot of learners feel very stressed when they're speaking English, for a number of different reasons.
You might feel that you're making a lot of mistakes and you're afraid of looking bad in front of a native speaker. Or, you might feel that the other person will judge you because of your poor English or your foreign accent. Or you might feel frustrated because you're not able to express the things that you want to say in English,
It's important to know that this is completely normal. I have gone through this when I've learned to speak foreign languages and it can be very frustrating, especially when you feel very anxious because you're not able to relax and speak confidently.
In this post, I want to talk about some of the things you can do to alleviate this problem and speak English more confidently.
Practise in advance
The first thing that you can do is try to practise speaking in English in certain situations in advance. For example, you could practice answers to the questions that people ask you a lot, like where you're from and what you do for a living etc.
If you know that you have to do something in English, such as a job interview, or an exam, you would practise the answers to questions that you would expect, and would make you more confident, before you get into that situation.
Know and accept that you won't speak so well at the beginning
Know and accept that you will be less good when you're speaking with a native speaker at the beginning. This is because you're always going to be a bit nervous at the start. It's always going to be more difficult than speaking in a classroom or with a teacher who is very accepting of all your mistakes.
Don't think about being 'perfect'
A lot of people are very nervous because they are perfectionists - they always want to be perfect and are afraid of making mistakes. It's okay to make mistakes, and you can always learn from them.
Speak more slowly than you normally would
Try to speak a little bit slower than you normally would, because when you're nervous, you often will speak more quickly, and the quicker you speak, the easier it is to make mistakes. So if you slow down, it's easier to speak more confidently and you won't make so many mistakes.
Remember that the other person is probably not judging you
Remember that normally, when you're speaking English with a native speaker, they're not going to be judging you for your mistakes, and they're not going to be thinking about your accent and pronunciation.
Often, when we're learning English, we think about these issues a lot. But when you're actually in a conversation with somebody, they're going to be listening to what you're actually saying, rather than how you're saying it - they're not going to be analyzing all your mistakes.
Try to think about the conversation in a different way. Most people who you're speaking English to probably can't speak your native language, so they would be very happy that you're speaking English to them. They're not going to care about your mistakes as much as you. If you think about it like this, you might feel more relaxed.
Move on from bad experiences
Sometimes when you're practising English or when you're speaking to a native speaker, you could have a bad experience. The other person might not understand what you say, or they might not understand a word that you've used. So it's important just try to move on, and not take it personally. A lot of people get very disheartened when they make a mistake and the other person can't understand. But it's important to move on and learn from this kind of mistake.
Try to have shorter conversations at first
Another thing that you can do is to try to have shorter conversations when you first start speaking English with native speakers.
Make it your goal to have a two-minute or a five-minute conversation. Ask the person some questions, answer their questions, have a short conversation and then say, "Okay, I need to go now. It's been nice to speak to you." And don't give yourself so much pressure. Build up over time.
You can't lift a really heavy weight the first time, you need to build up to it. Speaking English is the same - you need to practise over time. The more you practice, the easier it will be to have longer conversations.
Remember any compliment you receive
Try to remember any compliment that somebody has given you about speaking English. Don't focus on when people point out your mistakes or say that they can't understand - take that as a learning experience and move on.
Remember when people say, "Wow, you're really good at English" or "You speak English really well," and use this as an encouragement for you to keep speaking English, and to feel motivated about your English learning.
Keep practising, because success breeds success
When you feel nervous about something or you're feeling anxious about something, people often give you advice like "have a glass of water," "take it slowly", or "calm down."
And for me, none of this advice really works. If I feel stressed, then somebody telling me to calm down or drink a glass of water is not going to help that much. I'm still going to feel stressed.
One example is when I was learning to drive. I felt really nervous. And when I first started driving, people telling me "Don't be stressed" didn't really help at all.
What actually helped was practice. The more you speak English, the better you will get and more confident you will get. I know that you can do it, and I know that you can learn to speak English more fluently and more confidently. I like to say that "success breeds success" - if you've done something and you've done well at it or you've been successful, then you will become more confident, so the more you speak English, the more good experiences you will have, and the more confident you will be.
But you do need to practice and get over your fears. So get out there, practise more English, and I know that you're going to become more confident as you go!