I’ve written before about how speaking anxiety is a common phenomenon in any setting where people engage in public speaking activities, but especially in the foreign language classroom because students feel self-conscious about making errors or not making sense at all. In my previous post I wrote about what we as instructors can do. Here are a few tips for students to manage and reduce their speaking anxiety.
When the most anxious students approach you about their fear to speak in class, here is what you can tell them: Speaking in interactions with others or in front of a larger group has to happen in order to build your oral skills in the target language. I as your teacher will do my best to provide other venues for you to talk (like asynchronous speaking homework with Extempore), but to feel less self-conscious about speaking to others in the target language, here’s what you can do:
1. Use self-talk. Choose a part of your day when no one is listening and describe what you are doing in the target language (I’m going to brush my teeth, I need a tooth brush, water, and I don’t know how to say tooth paste, I may look it up later). It doesn’t matter whether your grammar is good or not, or whether you’re at the level of just listing words rather than forming complete sentences. What matters is that your brain does the work of retrieving the words you need and transforming them into target language structures.
2. Create a support group. Form a mini conversation group (maximum 3 people) with other shy people in your class or with friends who also take a class in the target language. Get together once a week to just talk. Again, don’t worry at all about grammar. If all of you are in the same classroom, you can use this time to do homework in the target language.
3. Let others know. When paired in class with a student you have never worked with, let him or her know that you are super anxious to speak in the target language, but that you will do your best to complete the task. Believe me, most people will be supportive and understanding, and they will not judge how you sound or what mistakes you make (chances are they’re also experiencing some speaking anxiety).
4. Hear yourself. Listen to the recordings from your oral homework in the target language. You may realize that you don’t sound so different from other students in the classroom, which will boost your confidence and lessen your anxiety.
5. Build your vocabulary. Many times the insecurity feelings underlying our speaking anxiety come from a gap in our abilities. Practicing with vocabulary building activities outside of class is a great way to increase your knowledge base and stop feeling like you lack the words to speak. Search for vocabulary building apps for your specific target language.
One last piece of advice: seeking out speaking opportunities will desensitize (reduce) your communication apprehension and will give you much needed speaking practice, and, we all know, practice makes perfect.
There are many ways this can be built into speaking practice. Below, we have linked you to 29 FREE speaking activities that can be directly applied to help that anxious student! Just click the image below.