Community Language Learning:
Overcoming Shyness for Faster Language Learning
Walkabout language learning is all about community language learning. You have to walk about in a community of language speakers and speak your new language. If shyness is problem for you, this can be an overwhelming obstacle in your foreign language program.
Shyness is something that has challenged me off and on throughout my life. As I've worked to learn new languages, I've picked up techniques to help me overcome this challenge. Here are five tips to help you face and overcome your shyness and make community language learning successful for you.
- Practice. Practice what you'll say ahead of time. This is one of the five steps of the Daily Cycle. Write out and memorize a simple dialog that you can use in many situations. It could be a dialog of simple small talk about yourself:
- where you're from,
- why you are learning this language,
- what is easy or challenging about the new language,
- what you like about this new culture.
Don't forget to seed your dialog with a few questions to get your listener to talk too. Knowing that you know your dialog well will take the edge off when you practice community language learning.
- Breathe. Armed with your dialog, you are ready to go Walkabout. Before trying your dialog on someone, take a moment to release any anxiety you feel through slow deep breathing. Slip into a restroom, sit quietly on a bench, or find a serene spot in nature. Close your eyes. Inhale deeply and exhale slowly. Focus on your breathing. The increase in oxygen will bring calm and help you get centered. It will reduce your anxiety.
- Visualize success. Before you use your dialog in community language learning setting, picture yourself in your mind's eye successfully conversing with another person. Imagine that they are open to listening to you and that your practiced dialog rolls off your tongue with ease. Imagine the surge of confidence you feel as you finish speaking and you realize that they've understood you and that you've communicated successfully. Imagine your feeling of success as you see the hard-earned results of your foreign language program.
- Focus on the other person. Recognize that people generally are more concerned about themselves and how they appear to others than they are about you. Instead of worrying about whether you are a good conversationalist or whether you have the skills to speak your new language, focus on being friendly and having a warm conversation with the other person. Smile. show interest in them.
- Relinquish perfectionism. Perhaps one of the hardest things about any foreign language program is that we quickly realize that we are far from perfect in the new language. We are like little children. I painfully recall when I was learning Swedish that my host family got very excited with my first efforts in learning Swedish. Whenever we met someone new, they would tell me to "Prata Svenska!" It reminded me of the English word "prattle: to utter or make meaningless sounds suggestive of the chatter of children, or to say in an unaffected or childish manner." And made me keenly aware of my limited ability in my new language. I had hoped to be perfect; instead I was treated like a toddler just learning to speak! Letting go of the need to be perfect and focusing instead on getting your meaning across will help you overcome barriers in community language learning.
Shyness can be a significant obstacle of your foreign language program, especially if your goal is to attain conversational skills. These steps can help you overcome barriers that may be holding your back.
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Capturing the power of your mind can help you overcome shyness. Find a quiet spot, as the woman below, and breathe deeply. It will help you relax and feel centered.
Then imagine yourself successfully conversing your new language. Try it. The results will amaze you!