Why You Are Afraid To Speak Your Second Language With Natives – And What To Do About It

Native speakers don’t follow a script in your textbook.  You have to be able to understand a couple thousand words to be able to understand what they might say.  You need to be able to instantaneously understand them, and respond.

Some sellers of language-learning materials say that they can teach you how to converse with natives in no time.  They try to talk you out of your reluctance to speak.

Larry the Leprechaun says, “Don’t be shy!  Speak up!  You can speak to natives after 15 minutes of study!  You’ll be fluent in 90 days of study with me!”

Don’t listen to Larry.

I don’t try doing back-handsprings on concrete.  It isn’t because I lack self esteem and I need to be braver.  It isn’t because I am letting perfectionism get in my way.  It’s not because of irrational fear.  I’m no gymnast.  And I’m no fool!

If I wanted to be able to do back-handsprings on concrete I would have to train for a very long time to prepare.  Only after lots of training, would I be capable of doing it.  The way to fall and crack my head open, is to get out on the sidewalk and try to do that hard move from right now, ‘from day one.’

So, how do you train for conversing with natives? The way to prepare to speak with natives is NOT to force yourself to start conversations when you are (rightly) scared that you will fail miserably.  If trying to converse will be very hard, make you sweat, and humiliate you, don’t do it!

The way to prepare is to listen to the language and read the language.  That is way to internalize it.

You wont be prepared to converse with native speakers until you have spent hundreds of hours listening to, and reading the language.

I am not talking about using learners materials.  I am talking about consuming media for natives.

After reading and listening for some time, start to read out loud. Your mouth will get used to making the sounds. Try talking to yourself. Your mind will get used to recalling words quickly.  And don’t forgot to keep listening and reading!  When you get a chance to speak with natives, it will be no big deal.

You won’t be scared when you’re prepared

You will not speak perfectly.  You will have a foreign accent, and you will make errors.  But you will be able to comunicate.  You’ll be ready.



You can hook up with native speakers on a free app called HelloTalk.  Check out my video about the app here.




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