How to Overcome the Fear of Speaking English (or any foreign language)

One common problem language learners often face is the fear of speaking the language they are learning in public. Why? Is it the fear of making errors that holds them back? Or, is it the fear of making a fool of oneself or of not being understood that keeps them from speaking freely without any undue embarrassment or discomfort? Being a language learner myself, I know exactly how difficult it can be to gather the courage to dare to engage in a conversation in a language other than my mother tongue. The underlying cause is probably a combination of the above-mentionned reasons. Before we get into the matter of how to overcome this problem, I would first like to emphasize the fact that there is nothing exceptional or unusual about being anxious to express oneself in a foreign language. Quite on the contrary, it is completely natural to experience timidity in such situations.

Most of us language learners know what it means to be in an „inferior“ position amongst native speakers. We may have also found ourselves in a group of non-natives with the impression of knowing less than the others, and therefore did not dare to speak. Yet, instead of grumbling about how disadvantaged we are, we, language learners, should exploit this position in order to benefit from it. Thus, to pursue the wish to improve our foreign language skills requires our inner strength, our courage, our commitment, and the spirit of championing change. It is up to us to take language learning upon ourselves to make it a personal mission.

Speaking of making language learning our personal mission, let me tell you five useful starting points on how to achieve this. This will likewise help you to overcome the fear of speaking with natives (and/or non-natives). Even if I am addressing English learners, in particular, the given advice may also apply to foreign language learners in general.

1. Learning zone vs. performance zone

While in the learning zone mistakes are to be expected, in the performance zone, mistakes should be minimized. This does, however, not mean that when you are conversing with natives that you necessarily are in the performance zone. You may precisely take advantage of this situation and turn the conversation into a learning zone. This further implies that you still do not master the language, and that the benefit from this activity should be focused on English skills improvements. In other terms, listen to your interlocutors, ask questions when something is unclear, make them repeat the words for you, tell them to slow down, and then repeat the words and expressions over and over again to let them sink in. The advantage of being in the learning zone is that you can take in as much input as possible and repeat what you have learned in peace and quiet. Once understood and integrated into your long term memory, you will be able to execute what you have learned, and do as best you can.

2. Mistakes are a source of inspiration

Most of us have probably been told since early childhood that mistakes are bad for us. You may even have been punished for committing them. This may be a shocker, but mistakes are actually good for you. However, it is how you deal with them that may generate harmful effects. This is why it is crucial to be aware of their educational force to spread the right key messages to the public: learn from errors, contemplate them and improve. Everything can be turned into a learning experience if, and only if, you are truly committed to go beyond your fears of failing. There is no such thing as failing, all you can do is to fail more beautifully next time.

3. Avoid perfectionism

Perfectionism can be a poisonous value that hinders you from evolving into something that you would like to be able to do or to be. Despite common sense, yearning for perfectionism can be dangerous and may even accomplish the opposite of what it is intended to achieve. You should give yourself some leeway to play around with the English language to speak spontaneously without controlling every single word of your speech.

4. Embrace creativity 

This leads to the importance of your creativity. Without it, you would have trouble communicating your thoughts. Creativity is an essential aspect when we speak of foreign language learning, since it helps you to be more spontaneous, and ultimately helps you to overcome the fear of speaking English in public. The more creative you get with your sentences, the greater will be your English skills improvements.

5. Speak speak speak

Speaking English in public may be very scary, since it is also the aspect that hinders you to speak English in the first place. But it is a fundamental asset that will improve your language learning. However, it is only by applying all four advices that you will achieve this last one, and finally overcome the fear of speaking English with others. Soon enough, you will see how precisely this technique may lead you to the goal you have so long yearned for: speaking the English language. Thus, speak as much and as often as you can in English. It is only by practicing that you will improve, and ultimately master it.

Take your time to read through these points, and do not worry, we will make this happen together. But to do that I need you to play your part, and make it your mission to be committed to learn English.

 

Photo by Katerina Radvanska on Unsplash

For the Curious and the Passionate: Guided Tour in English

For the curious, and the passionate, the Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern inaugurated last Friday (15.09.17) an innovative exhibition entitled „10 Americans“, celebrating the impact of Paul Klee’s works on mid-twenthieth-century U.S. art. In cooperation with the Philips Collection, Washington D.C., the exhibition provides a fresh perspective in that personal testimonies from ten selected American artists, including Jackson Pollock, Mark Tobey and Robert Motherwell, are illustrating Paul Klee’s artistic works as an impressive and important source of inspiration. It is not so much a matter of focusing on the various similarities that these works may entail as of displaying how the artists‘ method and attitude point toward a commonality of creative process. The exhibition is open to everyone and invites art lovers and passionates as well as novices to enjoy a new take on the various influences of this notable artist.

Now, to all English learners, one of the great things about the Paul Klee Museum is that guided tours are offered to the public in various languages: German, French, Italian and English. By paying a visit to this art exhibit, you may likewise kill two birds with one stone, since you will not only take pleasure from the intellectual brilliance of this great mind, but also turn the Museum visit into a learning experience. Take a look at the official website or call them to set a date: +41 31 359 01 01. Note that Zentrum Paul Klee is not the only museum to offer guided tours in English. They are often available upon request.

We highly encourage you to share your experience with us and would be happy to know your opinion on this activity. In case you would prefer to go with your fellow English students, please feel free to ask us directly in class, and together with all classmates we will organize a guided tour. The English language should not only be a means to an end, but also a tool that enables you to pursue your interest and achieve personal fulfillment.

 

Rhonda Dorsey’s Gospel Experience 2017

Gospel fans, this one’s for you!

Have you ever dreamed of a real Gospel experience? Now is your chance to be part of one. Don’t wait any longer and give us a ring until 30 September 2017. We are happy to present to you Rhonda Dorsey, an experienced and professional singer, whose wish is to share her passion with all Gospel enthusiasts. The Gospel Choir Project starts this autumn and encourages anyone who is as assiduous as we to join in on the fun this November and December – as a novice or a experienced singer. The choir will be conducted in German, the songs, however, will be in English. The course comprises various  topics, ranging from the history of Gospel to English pronunciation, rhythm, choreography, expression and performance.

Thank you for passing on the Gospel groove!

Hope to see you this autumn as one of our Gospel Choir Member or in one of our concert audiences.

 

For further information, please contact Rhonda Dorsey in person under rd-gospel.com.

 

 

The Incredible Story of How the Verb „Get“ Invaded Our Language

(AND GOT AHEAD OF EVERYONE ELSE)

 

Whether we need to get a birthday gift for our mother, get over our ex-boy/girlfriend, or are getting under our boss’s skin, expressions involving the verb get are boundless. It is one of the most exasperating words to learn as an English learner, and can quickly get very frustrating for them to simply not get what the verb get all refers to. “Madam, Madam! In the examples you have given us, what does get actually mean?”, interrupted a student. “Well, depending on these context, it can either mean to buy, to overcome or to annoy. But it can take on many more meanings. For instance, it can also be accompanied by a preposition, turning it into a phrasal verb. This changes the meaning once again.”, I replied. He sighed: “If the meaning changes depending the context and the linguistic environment, how can we possibly know all possibilities?” “Well, I believe the best thing is probably to become aware of all the uses within different situations. On that account, let me tell you a little story of this three-lettered word which will allow you to put it into practice.”

 

Once upon a time, there lived a fearless boy called Get, who was small enough to get around, and smart enough to not get caught. Already at a very young age, he started doing business with the big boys and got ahead of everyone. Before his major breakthrough, though, he had to endure stigmatizing perceptions and negative social reactions and comments. He was constantly teased for his small size, in particular by his friends, Purchase, Receive, and Capture, who by nature had all a much more imposing stature. They told him, he would never be able to live up to social standards with his meagre morphology. One day, however, wearied of the relentless mockery, he decided to prove them that he was as capable as anyone else to play in the main league. It happened so that in this same night, he gathered up all his courage to sneak out of his home to escape to the city of his dreams. It was there, where he wished to find a way to make himself a name, and be respected, at least. After long hours of walking over mountains and through valleys, he finally arrived at his destination: the World Wide Web. At the foot of the city, he looked up, and impressed by the scale of the scenery, he had to take a moment’s reflection before summoning his courage to carry on. After a few minutes, however, he was ready to take his fate in his own two hands.

The metropole was divided into various districts. The ones he was interested in had the following names: Papadj, Prepadv, and Express. The first district he entered was Papadj, where he encountered the families Adjectives and Past Participles. He quickly befriended with them and their children. Adjectives had three daughters: Adorable, Up, and Ready. Past Participle, on the other hand, had three sons: Dressed, Fixed, and Paid. While he enjoyed the company of all, there was one’s companionship he cherished in particular, namely that of Adorable. After a while, wanderlust was slowly regaining the upper hand, and Get wished to continue his journey to discover the other districts too. As much as Get cherished Adorable, this trip was something he needed to do for himself. He thus said goodbye to his new friends, but promised Adorable that when he has finished with his explorations, he will come back for her.

The next stop was the district of Prepadv. As soon as he put foot into it, a large crowd of young children gathered around him, yelling and pushing each other. He felt overwhelmed by all these new faces popping up next to him, especially since they were all fighting to get the best spot at his side. He tried to get in between them to install some order. “What is your name?” he then asked one of the youngsters. “Away,” she replied proudly. “And yours?” “Over, Sir.” “And you, what is your name?” “My name is By”. And so, one after the other shouted their name to Get: Through, Out, On, Off, In, Along, Back, Into, Around, and Ahead. After a few days of bewilderment, not knowing what they all wanted from him, he finally got it: they were not there to harm him but to support him to get around in this new place. To spend time with them all, he established a schedule, when he would meet with whom. On Mondays Get would be with Around and Ahead. On Tuesdays with Up and In. On Wednesdays with Through and Back. On Thursdays with Into and Along, and on Fridays and Saturdays with On and Off, respectively. On Sundays, however, he decided to take it easy and sleep in. The months passed, and although he got along with everyone, Get was ready to change scenery, and got in the first bus he caught sight of. This one brought him all the way down to Express.

He had heard that Express was the new place to be. Thus, as soon as he got off the bus, he was ready to get into action again. On his way to the center, he stumbled across a magnificent square full of people of all types. It was a true melting pot. First, he decided to observe the crowds: everyone was talking, dancing and laughing. Moved by what he was witnessing, he started mingling with the locals. After a few songs, he got really warmed up, and got into the dancing mood that everyone around him seemed to have too. Swaying from side to side, engaging in new conversations, he finally felt at ease, and got off on the music, too. After hours of dancing and talking, he got tired though. An older man invited him to get over here and get a load off his feet. After a while, aware of Get’s tiredness, he gently offered him a place to stay to get some shot-eye. Get happily accepted the man’s offer, and told everyone he had just met that he would get in touch with them to get together again in order to repeat such a lovely evening. He would get down with his new friends in many more such gatherings. Until one day, he would sense some tensions building up between him and some of the locals, to such an extent that they started getting down on him. Puzzled at first, he quickly got the picture: he had invaded their space and taken on too much importance within the district. He thus noted that it was time for him to move on.

However, not wanting to get back to his hometown, he got his things together, and got a taxi back to Papadj. He knew that his heart belonged in Papadj. On the way there, he was remembering his journey, and suddenly realized how lucky he had been to have met all these different people. And despite some differences with some of them, he mostly parted on good terms. As soon as he got back to Papadj, he looked for Adorable. Once he had found her, he would never leave her side again. This journey had changed him in every possible way: not only did he gain a better self-image, but he was also able to start his own consulting business, whose reputation was soon to be known worldwide. But most importantly, he had found the love of his life.

 

The story you have just heard, is an allegorical narration of how the verb get became one of the most commonly used verbs, and yet one of the most shunned ones, too. By means of these examples, you will now better understand this verb, and likewise be able to incorporate it into your discussions. But do not forget, even if sometimes you get confused by the different uses of this verb, never give up before you had a chance to get your teeth into it. According to some, you may be supposed to just get with it, despite of not getting it right away. Others may even tell you to get your act together, because you are starting to get on their nerves. To them, you may tell to get out of your face, and that you will take all the time that you need to properly understand this verb. Trust me, with a little practice, you will get the hang of it, and one day, you will reach the point where you will even get a kick out of it. However, when learning this verb, it is best to keep a sense of humor, and soon enough you will even get into the interchangeability of this captivating verb. So, keep a stiff upper lip, and get going until you start getting off on the multiple meanings it withholds.

 

Photo by Nigel Tadyanehondo on Unsplash