Fear of Speaking

How do you get over your fear of speaking? At the risk of sounding dramatic, I’m kind of terrified. :slight_smile: I’m at that stage of learning where the easy stuff is too easy and anything else is too hard so I’ve been watching a whole lot of YouTube videos that are Spanish learning videos (like Easy Spanish and Spanish Playground). I haven’t been importing them all into LingQ because the formatting is such a mess, for those who will go look at my stats and say I’m not doing enough ;). Although when I have cleaned up the formatting on my own, I actually do learn a lot of words. And I do love LingQ. I also do Pimsleur daily just because I already had it and it’s easy when I’m walking, cooking, cleaning, working out.

Anyway, I live in Mexico but there are a lot of expats so a lot of the Mexicans also speak English and want to practice their English. I have Mexican friends who say they will help me practice, but I don’t want to only rely on them. When I do speak Spanish to a non-English speaking Mexican then they speed talk back at me and I turn into a deaf mute. Haha! I get anxiety and it’s all over with so telling them to slow down doesn’t really help at this point. So many times I leave the conversation knowing exactly what I could have said, but I don’t in the moment. I’ve been thinking of signing up with Italki, but I’m not sure if I’m at a level where I could even carry on a simple conversation (except in my head!). I feel like if I don’t force myself though, I’ll never speak even though I really, really want to!


Yeah there is definitely a problem that tons of folks piggy back on you to practice their English.

It’s kind of a chicken or egg, but you have to go through the awkward stage before you will improve.

If they speed talk say “por favor, habla mas lentamente”.
If they don’t cooperate that particular individual is a lost cause.

If you can get a language exchange partner that will work for free but there is risk that it will end up being a free English lesson only.

A paid tutor on italki or preply is probably the best bet: make it clear all you want to do is chat and you don’t want grammar lessons.


You can start by recording your own voice using your phone.
Just speak about simple things:

  • about who you are
  • what you like
  • walk around the house and describe waht you see
  • describe a photograph
    Relisten and retry. Add something new.
    This way you get used to hearing yourself making mistakes (without shame).

Then find somebody who is patient enough to listen how you start talking.
Meet that person every two weeks, prepare something simple to speak about and make progress. Don’t bother about the …eeeehms. This is just natural. Your language partner will understand you need time to find words.

Later on you will be able to talk to native speakers more spontaneously.


I’d been avoiding speaking as well until about 5-6 weeks ago when I decided I needed to get out of my comfort zone. I would avoid trying to speak with a friend at first unless they’re very close and don’t mind effectively being your tutor. Of course I don’t know you, your level, or your friends who want to help so maybe its not really an issue and you can simply ask them to slow down and repeat.

I would also avoid trying to use exchange apps like Tandem or Hello Talk, at least at first, as my experience is that the stronger shared language dominates exchanges. It seems hard to find an exchange partner patient enough at a lower speaking level.

What I can recommend is getting a tutor to build some initial confidence and momentum. You are paying them so they will adjust to whatever level you are at. There is no anxiety if you can’t carry on even a simple conversation, they will help you get to that point.


Concur with this: a tutor is paid to listen. Just make sure you don’t get a tutor that wants to “teach you” and instead is into just being a conversation partner.

I’ve had an experience where the tutor got angry at me because I just wanted to chat in broken Russian when they wanted to teach me Russian grammar instead.


I dont find any tutors when I go at the tutor tab. I am doing it wrong?

@Blair1385 Icelandic got added recently as a study language and at the moment there are no tutors available for that language.


How do you find this type of tutor who doesn’t want to teach you grammar?

I spell it out for them:
“PS I’m not interested in taking a formal course, I just want to learn conversational Spanish and want a conversation partner. The most important thing is that the partner is patient and willing to wait even if I struggle. I would appreciate notes at the end if you have ideas but again I don’t want to do a formal class. If you can accomodate that, awesome. If you can’t, that’s unfortunate. Either way let me know. Looking forward to hearing back.”

Just essentially communicate up-front so there’s no guessing and no disappointment.


As someone mentioned. Record your audio…or better yet. Record a video of yourself speaking.

I’ve suggested this in the past. I did also watch this video I found this morning which has a pretty good suggestion to try out.

The title of the video is one I always hate. You’re not going to achieve fluency in 30 days. However, I think the content of the video is very helpful.

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Interesting process. Thanks!

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I had this kind of feeling. Once I had done a lot of writing, mesage with tandem partners, broken words with friends, I decided it was time to start real talking. After my first class on italki the fear vanished. I took a tutor just to talk and correct my mistakes. It was a good experience e I was better than I expected. There is a lot of teachers on italki for begginers. Try one of them and change if you dont like it. I sugest you start with 30 minute classes


@suzmax I will share my two-cents…

It is my belief that the feeling of terror may be based on a couple issues in the psychological dimension. So, it may be that you are simply mentally “wired” to be more of perfectionist; it might be that you are particularly sensitive to embarrassment; it might be that you have an insecurity that you are attempting to defend (by isolating yourself). I don’t know what it is. And while I can’t provide a thesis on the topic, I’ll suggest that it may be that there is a kind of “story” you are unconsciously telling yourself or there is some “standard” you have unconsciously set for yourself which may be a bit too high.

Now, when I say “story,” I’m talking about a tangible fiction. Let me explain… The dollar bill you have in your pocket is just printed paper - it does not have any real value in and of itself. However, collectively, as a society, we have convinced ourselves of a “story” that says the dollar bill DOES have value. Dollar bills used to be backed by gold, but not any more. So, almost by magic, the dollar bill suddenly has value simply because we all decided it that it did. Now, you can actually buy things with that dollar bill which you wouldn’t be able to do with a similarly-sized piece of tissue paper. So, let me translate this thought to address your current dilemma…

So, one secret to getting-over the terror is to convince yourself of a different “story.” I know this sounds bananas, but give it a try. The story can be whatever convinces you to move forward. Maybe you think of the discomfort of embarrassment caused by making mistakes while speaking as being a little like the the discomfort of fasting to loose weight or the discomfort of burning in your muscles when you’re body-building. It is some short-term, ephemeral “pain” that you have to endure in order to be more muscular / more slim. You’ll only have to make the mistake of confusing “ser” vs “estar” a few number of times before you get it. Indeed, the very act of making the mistake is what solidifies the difference in your mind. Now, when you think about someone thinking less of you because you made a mistake - you can actually feel sorry for THEM since… How is a body-builder supposed to get bigger if they don’t push thru the pain of an intense workout? Try telling yourself a different “story” and see if that helps.

In a parallel plane, if the issue is that you’ve set a standard which is too high for you to reach, consider creating (in your mind) a supportive alter-ego / inner-voice who is kind and encouraging of you, who dismisses the negative-talk that the standard-bearer is spouting. Indeed, maybe this new, supportive alter-ego personality will come to your defense and “yell” at the standard-bearer personality, asking them things like, “How do you expect her to get better at bicycling if she never gets on a bike; you Bozo!” Haha

Try tactics like this and see if they prove helpful. :slight_smile:


Thank you for your insight Eric. You hit the nail on the head when you said, “it might be that you are particularly sensitive to embarrassment; it might be that you have an insecurity that you are attempting to defend (by isolating yourself).” You have no idea how true this is for my situation. Yes, I’m also too hard on myself and set unrealistic standards, but I don’t believe that’s it in this situation. It’s much more about the other. I will definitely work on trying to tell myself a different story.

I did jump off the deep end and I had my first Italki session today. My tutor said my Spanish level is higher than my confidence. True! So we will be working on conversation and I will continue with my comprehensible input.


Thanks Marcus. I had my first Italki session today. I wouldn’t say I was better than I expected or that my fear has vanished, but I do feel better about it going forward. I was so so nervous but I know I’ll improve once I get over some of my initial fear and get in the groove.


I love this idea about recording myself. Thank you!

Thank you. I did my first Italki session today. I was super nervous but it wasn’t horrible. :slight_smile: He knows I like learning with comprehensible input vs. grammar lessons and we are going to practice conversation.


Right on!

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Awesome. Keep on doing it!
I find that every session I do with a speaker there is always one or two “memories” that come out of it that clear some things up for me and I always remember them after that. One standout with Russian is I was using the two words for “now” interchangeably but my tutor told me (in russian via a lot of circumlocation and using simple words) that the one “citchas” means now correctly but “tepeer” actually means “now that [something else has happened]” instead of “now”…

I think ultimately just talking to folks who are fluent gets you some feedback which over time levels you up.

And yeah you’re probably better than you think you are.

I’m personally beating myself up about Russian cases but my pronunciation is epic and the rest of my grammar is epic so I should go easier on myself.