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Speak Confident English as a Second Language

January 17, 2018 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

If you’re struggling to speak confident English… don’t worry. You’re not alone. In this article, I explain why you fear speaking English, and what to do.

Speaking Confident English – The Reality

It’s hard enough to learn English.

But when you’re not a confident English speaker?

… it’s even harder.

Many people find this hard to believe, but I’m not a naturally confident person. I have Asperger’s, and have always struggled with social situations and have always been a shy and introverted person. And even though English is my first language, it wasn’t until I learned my second (Japanese) that I learned to be a confident English Speaker.

When I wrote Mater English FAST, I was limited to how much I could include in the book. So I decided to stick closely to the topic of how to Master English as an intermediate to advanced English learner. And MEF accomplished this—and continues to—beautifully. The vast majority of people reported excellent results. But—and this is a big BUT—a few people struggled more than others. And always for the same reason. Even though they learned… they didn’t have English conversation confidence. Simply put, their own way of thinking was working against them. The principles taught in MEF only work if you do them… but if you’re always filled with fear and questioning yourself? Well, it’s unlikely you’ll take the action needed.

English Conversation Confidence

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how good you are at speaking English. If you aren’t confident when you speak, you won’t sound good. For some people, confidence comes naturally. Probably a result of their upbringing. For others (like me!!) confidence doesn’t come naturally.

For years I was terrified of speaking to people because I always ended up feeling like an idiot. Now, I now know this is because I’m autistic (it’s only fairly recently I had my formal diagnosis) and there’s a good reason why I don’t pick up on the same social cues as most people… but the point is, even I was able to learn how to speak confidently in conversation, AND in a second language (Japanese in my case).

And that’s the good news is: even if you’re shy, introverted or have screwed up conversations in the past… or even if you’re autistic like me… with a little time and effort you can learn to speak confident English.

The bad news is, it’s going to be uncomfortable as hell.

Painful even.

But then, so is pretty much everything worth doing.

Look, if you want to speak English confidently? Be more confident in your everyday life? It’s likely you’re going to need to make changes to the way that you think and behave.

Simply put, you’re going to need to change the way you think about speaking English. And the place to start is with the “three fears” of speaking English.

The Three Fears of Confident English Speaking

Lack of confidence in general, and with English comes down three basic fears:

  • The Fear of failure.
  • The Fear of rejection.
  • And the Fear of embarrassment.

Lack of confidence can always be linked to these fears. So to truly speak confident English, you have to overcome them… or at least to be aware of them and not let them get in the way.

How do we do this?

First, by knowing what they are, and why we carry them.

Why do we have these three basic fears?

To be human means to fear. After all, fear is designed to protect us. The fear you feel when speaking English comes from the way we’ve evolved as a species. Go back 10,000 years and fear is what kept us alive. People who weren’t afraid died quickly. They were killed by wild animals never passed on their genes. On the other hand, people who were wary survived. Their genes WERE passed on.

We no longer have to worry about sabertooth tigers and wild animals killing us (well, not unless you’re Steve Irwin anyway). Despite this, we kept the fear. Even though the risk is no longer there. But why does that affect your English speaking?

It’s simple, really. As I talk about in my Small Talk Superhero course, human beings also developed as group animals. The group meant survival. But in order for a group to function and survive the dangerous world, people IN the group needed to be similar. One person with crazy ideas about bringing a sabertooth tiger home and keeping it as a pet could get the entire group killed. So people who were different? They were kicked out. And people who were kicked out of their group didn’t last long. The result of this now is that we naturally want to “fit in” to groups. And we’ve retained the fears related to losing the group: failure, rejection and embarrassment.

Unfortunately, these fears have no real use anymore and they just hold us back.
But simply knowing that they are a natural part of human nature makes them easier to overcome.

Now, a detailed discussion of these fears, how to identify them in our everyday lives and how to crush them is beyond the scope of the article (it’s already long enough!), but luckily I have a book about that:

Speak confident EnglishFearless Fluency

Fearless Fluency, Speak English with Extraordinary Confidence will show you how to take the English you’ve already learned, and use it confidently in the real world.

This isn’t about surface level stuff… we go very deep into language learning psychology, and I challenge the way you think about English. There’s an excellent chance I will offend you at least once (but probably many times) by challenging your beliefs. But those beliefs—which are likely false—need to be challenged.

Pay attention, apply the lessons I share, and your confidence will grow.

One more thing: Fearless Fluency fills the gap in my other book, Master English FAST by showing you how to override your thoughts and get on with using English.

You don’t need to have read MEF to benefit from this book. Anything that is essential to know in order to use Fearless Fluency is repeated here, too. Obviously, it’s better you read both books; but again, it’s not necessary.

Right now Fearless Fluency is only available on Kindle, and you can (and should) grab yourself a copy here.

Julian Northbrook
The Language Punk

P.S. If you’ve got Kindle Unlimited… you can even read Fearless Fluency for free – just go here.


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