How to Overcome Foreign Language Anxiety
Learning a second language requires time and effort. And if you’re learning in a stressful environment, it’s even more work. Trying to reach fluency while battling foreign language anxiety is impossibly hard. But, what is this language learning anxiety? What are its symptoms? And most importantly, how do you avoid it?
Many learners who give up on language learning blame themselves. They think they lack the talent or skills to learn a new language. But, the truth is, it’s their learning method that failed them. Without realizing, their language learning became too stressful to continue. Here’s how you can recognize and avoid these pitfalls, and succeed with language learning.
What Causes Foreign Language Anxiety?
There are various reasons for foreign language anxiety. The fear of embarrassment, making mistakes, and causing offense can limit any learner. But, there are also outside factors that can push you to stress. We identified three common reasons for foreign language anxiety:
- Lack of praise: When you’re learning something, positive feedback is crucial. Getting told off for making mistakes only enforces performance anxiety. It limits your confidence and success.
- The classroom setting: If you’re learning in a classroom, you may experience anxiety similar to the fear of public speaking. Afraid of judgment or embarrassment, many language learners feel stressed in front of a crowd. That’s actually partially the reason why a lot of high school language classes end in failure.
- Anxious habits: When you experienced foreign language anxiety before, you’re prone to feeling it again. Perhaps your language course got so stressful you decided to drop out. The mere thought of attempting to learn again can cause you anxiety because you associated the feeling with the act of learning.
It’s important to realize that your environment doesn’t make you. Just because a stressful situation made you give up before, doesn’t mean that you can’t do it. You absolutely can. You just need the right methods to feel confident again. Learn from the stress of the past, and reach fluency without worries.
Effects of Foreign Language Anxiety
Foreign language anxiety can make you lose faith in language learning. But, it can also influence your self-esteem, confidence, and academic performance. Your language learning affects all aspects of your life, so if you’re anxious in the classroom, you’ll be anxious outside of it too.
Stressed learners participate less, become withdrawn, and risk missing out on opportunities. Overall, foreign language anxiety brings more risks to negative experiences. So, it’s important to know how you can avoid it.
Do You Suffer From Foreign Language Anxiety?
Are you worried about whether or not you might be dealing with foreign language anxiety? Here are a few questions to ask yourself. Do you…
- Dread speaking in a foreign language despite knowing enough of the language to speak?
- Feel nervous when you need to speak (shaking, increased heart rate, sweaty palms)?
- Struggle with basic speech even though you know the words?
- Go out of your way to avoid speaking?
- Constantly fear people will judge you or make fun of you when you speak?
If this sounds like you, then you probably have foreign language anxiety. But that’s okay. With the right approach, your language learning fears can be a distant memory.
Getting Over Anxiety When Speaking A New Language
Sadly, bad teaching methods are the main reasons people suffer with foreign language anxiety. Most people have some distant memory of having to fire off a freshly learned phrase in front of the class. Learning a language in school puts you on the spot, forcing you to speak in front of people, risking your self-esteem in the process. Luckily, foreign language anxiety can be fixed.
Here’s 5 strategies you can use to ease your fears around speaking a new language:
Stress can be both good or bad, depending on how you react to it. But if you put yourself under too much pressure, you’ll end up shutting down your language learning efforts. You should take your time when you speak. Don’t feel rushed or pressured to be perfect from the start.
Practice on Your Own
This is no substitute for the real thing, but talking to yourself outloud in a foreign language is much better than not talking at all. You get to practice pronunciation and remember crucial phrases and words that you’ll likely use in a conversation. If you want to get the most out of it, try recording yourself. Listening can make you more aware of what you need to improve.
Change Your Mindset
Foreign language anxiety builds on previous bad experiences, creating a negative feedback loop that can make speaking a foreign language feel impossible. You see your mistakes as failures. But they’re not the same. Making mistakes is a natural part of language learning. Embrace them. Don’t get discouraged just because you slip up or struggle with speaking.
We all have big dreams when it comes to learning a new language, but fluency doesn’t happen overnight. Realize that you’re going to stumble your way through broken bits of small conversation long before you hold your own with a native speaker for 15 minutes or more.
That’s okay. Keep practicing. As you master smaller bits of conversation, your confidence will increase and you’ll feel more confident as you tackle more complex topics.
Talk to Strangers
It’s common to worry about being judged by friends, family, and colleagues. Try practicing with strangers instead. Worst case, you mess up, feel foolish, and walk away ready to try again. Best case scenario, you make a new friend with your language learning efforts. Either way, by talking to more people, you’ll quickly get over your foreign language anxiety.
Affective Filter Hypothesis and Foreign Language Anxiety
According to the leading linguist, Stephen Krashen, there are outside variables that can affect your ability to freely learn and use a new language. Anxiety, motivation, self-confidence, and stress can all make language acquisition more difficult. This is known as the Active Filter Hypothesis.
As children, our active filter is minimal. We’re free to use language and make mistakes in the process. But as we grow older, other variables increase the strength of our internal filter. You become more self-aware and put greater value on self-esteem. Social pressures, grammar, and etiquette also play a role in using language, all strengthening your active filter.
You cannot learn a language in a stressful environment. And with a stronger active filter in play with more triggers, it can become all too easy to shut down your journey to learn a new language. Rather than speaking freely as you would if you were learning the language as a child, speaking can become a mine-field of potential “catastrophic” mistakes.
The Problem with Many Language Learning Platforms
Language learning anxiety is a big problem. But, sadly many language learning classes, apps, and platforms don’t realize the negative effects it has. A lot of apps scold you, tell you off, or make you repeat lessons if you mess up. This lack of intuition on their design makes them dangerous. You’re progressing, but the app makes you feel like you don’t.
You need a stress-free environment to learn a language successfully. If the app you’re using makes you nervous about completing your lessons perfectly, it’s no good. You need an app to nurture your foreign language knowledge.
Why Your Language Learning Environment Matters
In an ideal environment, you don’t just reach fluency. You do it fast while having fun. Avoiding foreign language anxiety is easiest if you choose the right language learning method from the start.
Imagine a perfect environment to learn a language. It’s completely stress-free, uplifting, and fun. You’re free to make mistakes without judgment and learn from them too. You don’t doubt your abilities and talent for one second. Just feel empowered, have fun, and reach fluency. That’s the best way to learn a language.
The Best Way to Deal With Foreign Language Anxiety
Often, the best way to conquer foreign language anxiety is to use a platform that makes language learning stress-free. That way, you can focus on learning and exploring a new language without the fear of judgment or failure. That’s the power of OptiLingo.
OptiLingo lets you make mistakes. Our intuitive platform doesn’t stop you every time you make a small slip-up because we understand that making mistakes is part of the journey to fluency. When you’re struggling to learn a new language, you don’t want to get held up by a language-learning program that doesn’t let anything slide…
Instead, OptiLingo provides a completely relaxed environment, so you can build confidence in your speaking abilities naturally. Don’t waste your time with platforms that shut down your language learning every time you make a mistake,
Explore the freedom of stress-free language learning with OptiLingo.