Do you dream of learning Spanish?
You have attended classes trying to learn Spanish for how many years…and yet still not confident enough to speak?
Train your brain to overcome the pain!
If I got over the fear of SPEAKING in Spanish then so can you…
My problem was I thought I sounded really weird when I spoke Spanish. Do you think you sound strange when you speak Spanish?
Well I certainly did!
It was an amazing eye opener for me when I discovered I really didn’t sound as weird to the natives as I thought!
There’s no getting away from the fact that you KNOW you sound really weird when you’re speaking Spanish and that you don’t sound like a native.
But guess what?
You really DON’T SOUND AS STRANGE TO NATIVE SPEAKERS AS YOU DO TO YOURSELF.
I discovered this small, but life-changing fact some years ago when I first arrived in this wonderful country but was still battling with my fear of sounding weird, foreign and yes, silly.
I was working in a part of Spain which had still been relatively undiscovered by British tourism or any international tourism at all ; the Basque Country (Euskadi).
This region of Spain and France comprises a part of the north-east corner of Spain and the south-west corner of France.
The only English I was speaking then was to the four-year-olds in my class as all friends were Spanish at that time.
Slowly I was able to understand what these lovely people meant when they told me my Spanish was ‘OK’ and they tried to assure me that they got my gist.
Wow! My gist.
I didn’t even get my gist myself because my Spanish sounded so bad to me.
Believe me, I was thrilled with what they said but I wouldn’t believe them for weeks.
They showed me they understood my feeble attempts because, as one Basque friend told me, she already knew lots of Spanish!
They were able to fill in the gaps when necessary and they realised when I was referring to the past even when I was using the Present Tense.
They blanked out the fact I should have used the Subjunctive Tense twice in that last sentence but they still knew what I meant.
They understood me and my abysmal pronunciation because they could work out what I was trying to say because THEY ALREADY KNEW SPANISH.
YOUR brain is not used to these different Spanish sounds you’re obliging it to make but a native Spanish speaker’s brain IS accustomed to Spanish sounds.
You WILL sound foreign, perhaps. But then the fact you are a foreigner is not a secret, is it?
What you don’t sound is WEIRD or FUNNY and definitely not SILLY.
It makes total sense.
Have faith in a native Spanish speaker to be able to decipher your utterances better than even you can yourself.
How to practise pronunciation
So how to you really get over that paralysing fear of sounding ‘funny’ to a native speaker of Spanish or of any other target language?
You know you need to practise more. You will be tired listening to advice on language learning encouraging you to practise more. But how?… and who with?… and when?
Consider how children learn
Think about how many times a child learning their mother language is going to say a word, probably dozens of times, before they are able to pronounce it correctly enough for even a stranger to understand.
You may not need so many attempts at pronouncing a new word in your target language before it will sound acceptable to another member of your target language audience. That’s great.
The fact is that a native speaker of the language you’re trying to learn will most likely understand a lot of what you try to say, as they will have a context and you may be able to aid understanding by pointing to items, giving facial expressions to help you along.
Your beginning attempts at a new language DO NOT sound as strange to a native speaker of that language as they do to you.
The obstacle for me was that I thought my new language sounded weird.
But that was because my ENGLISH brain was slow at ACCEPTING AS MINE these new sounds I was attempting to utter.
What I had to do was accustom the old grey matter to accept these new noises as being now part of my speech portfolio. I was extending my speech patterns but my brain went into denial.
My brain was actually jealous of my new friend, Spanish. Oh yes, that same old “new kid on the block” syndrome.
The perception or fear that your pronunciation or grammar doesn’t sound acceptable or good enough to a native speaker is paralysing to some of us.
It was to me!
If you can relate to this, there is a way to get over this unfounded worry and help you get the confidence you need.
1). Identify 5 or 6 items to focus on in your language learning strategy.
You choose from what you know already to get started.
Choose 6 words you’d like to get under your belt or choose 6 phrases you know would come in very useful in a conversation such as some sentences introducing yourself
2) Ascertain the appropriate physical situations
These should probably be away from anyone you know, or anyone who cares enough about you to take you straight to the doctor’s when they notice strange behaviour.
3) When you’re in position, you can begin to:
TALK TO YOURSELF
Talking to yourself in the new language will accustom all your audio connections, your mouth muscles battling to handle new positions. After only a few sessions your brain will finally to start accepting this ‘new kid’ into the playground and even end up best of friends with them.
Talk to yourself in your new language:
Ø on your ‘solo’ commute to work morning evening,
Ø while you’re doing the shopping (perhaps not a good idea, too public).
Ø in the shower,
Ø in smidgens of time you can grab at home/work (maybe not try this at work….err it depends on individual circumstances.)
Ø Be creative and fill in when YOU could find time to talk to yourself
Once you’ve identified WHAT TO DO, and WHERE TO DO IT, you could incorporate this somewhat quirky behaviour into your daily routine.
Oh, did I not mention that this system will not work if it’s performed ONCE a week?
Experiment and make a commitment and stick with it for 7 days.
See how you feel after 7 CONSECUTIVE days of just a few minutes dedicated to your new language.
In 7 days you will have given your dear brain a chance to become familiar with this new friend called Spanish (or the language of your choice).
Brain will come to terms that new friend is not a threat any longer and that you still love Brain dearly.
Brain might even come round to suggesting that you all hang out together someday.
That would be nice. Can I join you?
I hope this has helped you become more confident in you language skills
Please share this with someone you know who is learning a new language.
If you got this far, you might like to get a free copy of my first-ever e-book in PDF format, a short, handy document consisting of a beginners overview of the Spanish verb SER (to be). Click here for FOCUS ON ‘SER’ : A short summary of the basics of SER to get you started on your Spanish dream!
I would really appreciate some feedback on style and presentation of this little project I’m doing, just for fun.
Please tell me about your language learning NIGHTMARE and let me know how I can help you learn languages, but especially Spanish. You can drop a quick comment in the Comments Section below, or e-mail me directly with your problems on
I really hope this helped…
Oh god yes, I think I sound super weird whenever I say something out loud in Spanish, it’s a bit embarrassing, even when I’m alone. But yes, you’re right, practice is the key, I know that from my experience in learning other languages. 🙂
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But you don’t sound as weird as you think you do to a native speaker…thanks for commenting, Femmemia!
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