HomeQ&AI am scared to speak Spanish aloud?

I am scared to speak Spanish aloud?

13
votes

I absolutely love everything about Spanish. I would consider myself advanced, not yet fluent. I have several online friends who speak Spanish and I speak with them daily. I have some friends in person who speak Spanish and I also write notes back and forth with them. However, for some reason I have an irrational fear of speaking aloud to Native Spanish speakers. I know it is not a good thing because I will have more advanced written and reading skills than listening or speaking, considering I only speak Spanish alone, singing songs, etc. and have no one to correct me when doing so. I have no problem speaking Spanish to those who are of equal-knowledge or lesser knowledge of the language as I, but I am afraid that a native will either laugh at me or make fun of my mistakes, or they will reply to me in a very fast, slurred, slang speech and I will not be able to understand their answer and feel insecure. I was at one of my best friends house today who is Mexican. I heard Spanish all day long and was happy because I understood most of what I heard. She has a little sister who I just adore, and I would love to talk to her (and I know it is good language practice to speak to young children) but I can't seem to get over my irrational fear. I was just wondering if anyone else has had this problem and could help me overcome it?

15221 views
updated AGO 21, 2010
edited by SavviVague
posted by SavviVague

17 Answers

9
votes

You have an irrational fear because you're not speaking and you're not speaking because you have an irrational fear. You'll never break the cycle if you don't force yourself to speak. You're losing the benefit of receiving feedback from the native Spanish speakers, and you're losing the benefit of actual use of the language, something you can't buy with any amount of money. You can read and write Spanish till the cows come home, but that will not help you master speaking the language. Being in a real conversation that is dynamic and 'alive' will stimulate your brain and you'll be training your sub-conscious to be able to dynamically compose sentences without even thinking about it. The last skill you're going to aquire is listening to spoken Spanish and being able to parse those language sounds into coherent thought and then being able to respond to those thoughts in a dynamic fashion. That only comes with a lot of practice with real people.

I go to places where Latinos are and I start conversations. I used to be scared too, but I'm telling you, after a few conversations and some wonderful feedback, the fear begins to subside. Last year I spoke at my church (a Hispanic congregation) entirely in Spanish for 20 minutes. When it hits you that people are understanding what you are saying, the lights come on and you realize that, "hey, I can do this". Since that day, I have never feared again.

updated MAY 25, 2012
posted by Jack-OBrien
í Felicidades Jack ! í Es muy impresionante que has hablado por tanto tiempo en Español ...bien hecho ! - FELIZ77, JUL 12, 2010
¡Gracias! En verdad fue un hito para mí. - Jack-OBrien, JUL 12, 2010
9
votes

Hola,

Here is the best advice I can think of. Find someone among your Spanish speaking friends who speaks little or no English, but wants to learn. Have closed door tutoring sessions with them and in no time you'll be speaking Spanish as you are teaching someone else to speak English. cool smile

updated AGO 22, 2010
posted by canicos
Sounds like some very good advice to me 1 - FELIZ77, JUL 12, 2010
Ideal solution if you have such a friend. - fontanero, JUL 12, 2010
I was just going to suggest this... Nothing like being with someone who doesn't speak English to get you to speak Spanish. I was hanging with a friend who speaks no real English (knows a few words here and there). We spent a few hours together... - kerflop, JUL 12, 2010
I have to say, I learned more in those two hours than any two hours of self study or speaking with English native Spanish speakers. Good luck and get out there and speak Spanish. - kerflop, JUL 12, 2010
8
votes

Imagine everyone naked? No, that's for public speaking.

Seriously, people will think it's wonderful that you're making the effort to learn the language. They will not make fun of you. They will be very appreciative and helpful. It sounds like you already understand the language at a reasonably high level. They may very well talk too quickly, or use slang you don't understand, assuming you know more than you do. Just say, "Mas despacio, por favor." or, "No entiendo. ¿Qué quiere decir esa palabra?" I would be shocked if they didn't bend over backwards to help you.

I can't encourage you enough to just try it. Good luck.

updated AGO 21, 2010
posted by KevinB
Thank you for your reply. I think that is what I will just have to do... just try it. I am pretty sure that is the only way I will get over it. Everytime there is an opportunity for me to use my knowledge and I don't, I regret it for a long time afterward - SavviVague, JUL 11, 2010
Good advice. - fontanero, JUL 12, 2010
7
votes

I feel for you so much. I haven't had very much opportunity so far, but I find that I can get a complete mental block, failing to recall barely even one word of Spanish. It's almost like having a panic attack I think. I know that the few native speakers I see will never laugh at me, that they will only be helpful, that they love to hear me speak it - I can sit and compose (limited!) practice sentences in my head by myself, I watch my soap every day and understand a pleasing amount of what they say, I'm reading a bestseller and not having too much trouble with it.

Sometimes I want to pick myself up by the scruff of the neck and shake myself. :(

It does improve somewhat once I actually start though, I am lucky to have at least some contact with native speakers. I am feeling a little panicky just thinking about it!

I find that even though in theory I 'know' much more Spanish than either French or Arabic, it's still not at the front of the queue in my language department yet. I was the same with Arabic, however when in the UAE I was quite often in a situation where I really had to speak Arabic because I would be alone with a woman in labour who only spoke Arabic, nobody else listening, nobody who could do better than me. I feel for me that could be a key point but I don't know why. I don't think I'm vain or proud. Oh dear I could go on and on....

I think I'll just have to persevere and persevere. I'm thinking that after a couple more years the words will just have to come to me faster.

Remember though.. link text

What's the worst that could happen???

updated AGO 22, 2010
posted by galsally
I hope you're a midwife. - fontanero, JUL 12, 2010
I am indeed lol. - galsally, JUL 13, 2010
I react exactly the same way ,but not in any other language , it frustrates the pants off me, i just do not Know why. - ray76, JUL 13, 2010
Great video! - sanlee, AGO 21, 2010
6
votes

Hello SavviVague:

This is very common. Almost anyone who is learning Spanish has that same fear, including myself.

I think the trick to overcoming the fear, or any fear for that matter, is to face the fear head on.

You said that your are advanced, what do you have to fear, but fear itself, as Mr. Roosevelt once said.

Try joining the Skype Chat. This is a great way to speak out loud, and you don’t have to worry about making a mistake.

Everyone there is either learning Spanish or English, and everyone (except Heidita of course) makes mistakes.

After you are talking to others in Spanish, the fear just seems to go away.

updated JUL 13, 2010
posted by Rolest
3
votes

Hi, I am inviting you to our weekly skype chats which take place on Saturdays, you can only listen in if you wish for the first time, but it is the only way,,,you must trywink

Please read this.

updated JUL 13, 2010
posted by 00494d19
I will have to be a vampire sometime- not so bad for me as I am already an owl, but I worry about waking the family as our house is pretty small. :/ - galsally, JUL 13, 2010
3
votes

Hi SavviVague,

Your question really struck a chord with me, taking me way back to university.

As I had had one-on-one Spanish lessons for a few years, my level of Spanish was pretty good. However, although there were quite a few native Spanish speakers taking Spanish, I had a native-speaking boyfriend and one of my room-mates was a Spaniard, I just could not bring myself to speak with them in Spanish as I was too terrified of making a mistake.

With hindsight, part of the problem was that I was just horrendously shy in those days anyway though, as I soon made a large group of friends, that clearly wasn't the main problem. It's probably that I am a perfectionist and, while one can fairly easily edit mistakes on paper, with spoken language it's otherwise, it's out there and either it's right or it isn't. I still cringe a bit when I've said something in Spanish, or another language, and I realise as soon as I've said it that it wasn't quite right or it wasn't as beautifully expressed as it might have been but, you know, in English we sometimes say something and for whatever reason, the words just get all mixed up, but it really doesn't matter. Either we try the sentence again, with brain in gear, or we move on, knowing that the other people will have understood anyway.

Moving on a few decades, what got me over the problem was necessity. I found myself in parts of Spain where people speak very little English so if I wanted to communicate, there really was very little choice: I had to speak in Spanish. After a day or two, I really did not have a problem any longer. The relief on people's faces when I spoke Spanish was amazing to see. Whether people correct you or not depends both on the individual and the circumstances, and that's fine. Now I just get on with it and consequently have had some weird and wonderful conversations with people. The fantastic thing is that you get a different insight when you actually have conversations with people in their own language.

So, I really urge you not to miss the opportunities that I missed. Many of the suggestions above are excellent but I particularly like Canicos's suggestion of finding someone who needs to learn English. Not that people do anyway, but there is no way that he / she is going to laugh at you, being in exactly the same boat. Otherwise, perhaps you could go to a Spanish-speaking area and see what happens.

I really do empathise with you but I would urge you to find a way that allows you to move past your fear. The benefits are so rewarding, especially given your level of written Spanish.

Relax and enjoy your journey.

updated JUL 13, 2010
posted by peregrinamaria
2
votes

Feel the fear and do it anyway.

You're never going to feel comfortable speaking Spanish if you never do it! You can study your whole life until you're fluent and you'll still be terrified of speaking if you never open your mouth.

Why not try getting a native tutor on Skype? It's their job to teach you and they wouldn't laugh at you, and eventually you'll feel more comfortable.

As for people laughing at you... Do you laugh at foreign people who are learning English when they say something stupid? Sure you do. The mistakes are funny and it's amusing to make them - but we're not actually laughing at the person, just the mistake, and they learn quickly and don't make the same mistake again, and we admire their guts for trying.

updated JUL 13, 2010
posted by --Jen--
You are so clever , I know you are one hundred and three years old, and I bet your on the aged pension , you can;t fool me old lady - ray76, JUL 13, 2010
2
votes

I saw this same fear among some of my EFL students when I was teaching in Russia at Novosibirsk State University. These were people who otherwise were quite confident. And as others have already mentioned here, it was the fear of making mistakes with strangers. They knew me and the other students in class, so there was no fear. I don't know if it worked, but many times I would tell them that strangers (natives) would immediately realize that English was not their own language and would then be more tolerant - especially anyplace where there is a large number of foreigners.

Your Spanish will not be expected to be perfect, so fear not. It's OK to make mistakes.

updated JUL 13, 2010
posted by 005faa61
I have no fear of making mistakes it is just that my voice box will not do what it is told it just goes on strike, - ray76, JUL 13, 2010
2
votes

I really, really appreciate ALL of your help and suggestions. My confidence has already boosted and I am very eager to speak to them...being said, I know have an etiquette question-- How soon can I ask if it is okay for me to go back over to her house? hahaa

updated JUL 13, 2010
posted by SavviVague
Delighted that we may have been of some help. You mean that you're not back over there already?? Strike while the iron is hot! Good luck, Savvi. - peregrinamaria, JUL 13, 2010
2
votes

I have the same fear...(of speaking to natives or people at a higher level) and if anything, mine is so much worse! When I was younger I used to have many Hispanic friends. I would love to speak and learn... I would initiate conversations in Spanish and ask tons of questions. They were all very happy to help me and we had a great time. Over the years I lost that confidence somehow to the point where I don't even speak to my fiance (who is a native) in Spanish.

We now live in Mexico and still I have the same problem. I have been here a year and a half and I do not speak to anybody. I may go to the store and ask only for the things I need, saying please and thank you but nothing more. I have made only one friend here this whole time. I would chat with her online in Spanish all of the time, but one day she called me, and she could speak English... so... I had no reason to speak Spanish with her.

She invited me to her church a few weeks back... and as usual, maybe 10 words came out of my mouth in that 5 hrs. (there was a service and after we ate and socialized while the soccer game was on...) It would have been a wonderful opportunity for me to talk. They all knew my problem so they just put me with a group of people to give me a little "nudge" to start speaking.

I have to say... like most of the people are telling you, you have to face it head on. I know once I do that my fear will start to disappear. It is just that first step that is the hardest. I decided to join the Skype chats and I have been to a few already. I started Speaking a little bit. I found it is easier to speak to a group than it is to speak one on one. Slowly I am starting to lose that fear and I find myself wanting to practice more... but still in the back of my head I have that same fear that holds me back. I think the more I keep going with the chats the better it will get.

I really hope you overcome this fear! I wish you the best of luck. :D

updated JUL 12, 2010
posted by NikkiLR
2
votes

There are lots of great suggestions here, but I thought I might add one more. I'm a bit shy, so walking up to a complete stranger and starting a conversation in Spanish isn't really my thing, but I've noticed that people who speak Spanish will talk to you (and many are in fact very eager to) if they know you speak Spanish, even a little bit. You don't need to wear a sign. The other day I was flying and I always take a book on the plane with me. I happened to be reading a book called Los Planetas: la verdadera historia by Jesús Llorente about a Spanish band called Los Planetas, so I brought it along and opened it on the plane. I wasn't even thinking about talking to someone when the woman in the seat next to me asked me if I spoke Spanish. I told her I did and we had a nice conversation. Anyway, the moral of the story is, people like to talk, especially in their native language, and if they think you speak their native language, many are outgoing enough to start up a conversation and happy to put up with any mistakes you may make.

updated JUL 12, 2010
edited by MacFadden
posted by MacFadden
So very true. These little 'encounters' like this are some of the best experiences for me. - Jack-OBrien, JUL 12, 2010
2
votes

If you went to a professional to deal with this irrational fear they would tell you to expose yourself to the things that make you anxious in small graded steps.

The skype chat would be good. There is a beginners group and you can listen to me make a fool of myself and laugh about it. The next step would be for you to take a jab at it. Just a word or two would be enough.The sooner you realized your anxiety is greater than what actually occurs by small steps it will melt away.Everyone is learning there so they are encouraging and understanding.

If a dog can try to speak at all,anyone can.

updated JUL 12, 2010
posted by nizhoni1
lol - Deanski, JUL 12, 2010
1
vote

Hi. I'm a native Spanish speaker.

I could see you want to improve your Spanish, well I would like to practise English. So, my Skype ID is

giselleavellaneda

Let's work on that! Anyone is invited to chat or talk with me! Greetings, Giselle

updated AGO 22, 2010
posted by spanish-native
1
vote

I am a beginner and I know that feeling. I am going through it now. I can only encourage you to push through the fear. They say that chatting is the hardest skill to develop since you have to think on the spot. On the organized chats, there are questions or topics that help you to gather your thoughts. Still, it is one of those things that you just have to jump into. Sometimes, I may not be able to say much of anything at all, but I am trying. When I went to the chiropractor last week, he was so excited that I was taking Spanish, that we spoke it for almost the entire visit. I was amazed. But, I am still putting sentences together and not quite ready for stories.

updated AGO 22, 2010
posted by sanlee
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