Why are people afraid to speak English?
For some years now I’ve asked myself this question, especially because, as a teacher, my main goal is to help people who study English and want to speak but simply can’t. But why is that? One of the reasons is fear. Fear of failure. Fear of forgetting a preposition, of misconjugating a verb, but especially the fear of looking stupid in front of a native speaker.
But why are we so afraid? Haven’t we embarrassed ourselves enough in one lifetime to know that people just don’t care? And that after five minutes people will be laughing about something else?
Another important aspect is that if you think you’re making mistakes when speaking English, you know a lot more than many people who haven’t even bothered to learn other languages; it means you’re bolder, you think faster and you have more access to culture in general than before you started studying. Score!
If that’s not enough to make you think twice before letting fear stop you, check out this data from a poll conducted by Babbel:
- 1.3 billion people in the world speak English
- 360 million people are native speakers of English (English is their first language)
This means that the chances of you speaking English to someone who’s just as fluent or even less fluent than you are way higher than you chatting with a native speaker.
And this means that, even if the person does indeed have a higher level of English than you do, they’ve struggled with the same things, so they’ll be more patient and understanding with your mistakes.
Fear is the only thing stopping you from trying because you probably already have the means to speak.
I’ll always fight tooth and nail to defend the idea that, more important than memorizing verb charts and not needing to use a dictionary, is to feel free from your own limitations and express yourself as well as you can, until the day you can do it as well as you want.