Managing Speaking Anxiety

French speaking anxiety
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Gérer la peur de parler

Fear of speaking, glossophobia, is one of the most common phobias – even just in one’s native language. Leaving aside a general fear of public speaking and the question of how shy you might be, if you feel nervous when speaking French, it’s probably due to a lack of confidence in your skills: you don’t feel you have the grammar, vocabulary, and/or pronunciation needed in order to express yourself.

The obvious solution is to improve your French, and this site is filled with resources to help you do just that. Beyond lessons and learning, however, there are other ways to increase your confidence and feel more comfortable speaking French.

We all make mistakes

First of all, you should know that most people are forgiving of mistakes in their native language. Think about it – when a non-native speaker addresses you in English, are you really thinking “what a dummy, their sentence is all out of order, and that’s the wrong verb, and the less said about their pronunciation the better”? Or do you try to meet them halfway, ignoring or perhaps mentally correcting mistakes in order to understand what they’re working so hard to say? For most of us, it’s the latter, because we appreciate the effort people make to communicate. In my experience, the French much prefer that you speak to them in broken French, rather than being asked to speak to you in broken English – because they’re often just as anxious about their English! So don’t let fear of how well you speak French stop you.

Prepare yourself

If you’re going to ask for directions or buy a train ticket, think about what you want to say and how to say it beforehand. Try to anticipate what questions you might be asked and what additional information might be needed to achieve your task.

Talk about yourself

Whether you’re interested in current events, food, or travel, read about those topics and make a list of the words and phrases that crop up repeatedly. And if you find that you’re regularly getting pulled into discussions about tennis or movies, try to learn some of that vocabulary too.

Practice every chance you get

Speaking French is like playing the piano or making bread – the more you do it, the more comfortable it feels and the easier it gets. Join the Alliance française, hire a tutor, or place a classified ad to find someone to chat with regularly, even if they’re not fluent or native, but just another nervous French speaker like you. As you practice, you’ll gradually feel more comfortable and confident.

Just do it!

Finally, just try to relax, have fun, and remember why you’re learning French in the first place. It’s all about communication, so get out there and speak!

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Managing French speaking anxiety

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