Nervous speaking Spanish? You are not alone!

Simple strategies for overcoming anxiety when speaking another language with native speakers


Feel nervous when speaking to a native speaker of the language you are desperate to master and become fluent in? I did, and so do thousands of other language learners.

I just did a short survey (as in I asked some ex-pat friends some questions) about what is ONE factor in their Spanish language learning they wanted me to help them with.

Anxiety? Is this how you feel?  Photo Credit


“I know I know the word for ‘ham’ but my mind sort of goes blank and then I feel stupid and just point and want to scurry away.”

“I tried to ask if she had any children herself but just caved in. Nothing came into my head and she just left. I could have chatted with her more if I had broken the ice.”

So there you have it…It wasn’t  dreaded verb endings; it wasn’t the ‘pluscuamperfecto’ tense; it wasn’t even the infamous subjunctive (which gets a lot of bad press and often gives Spanish a bad name) or the difference between SER and ESTAR  (You can read more about that HERE: Difference between SER and ESTAR.

Unanimously, they all felt that their biggest obstacle to their improving their Spanish was how to overcome their nervousness when speaking face-to-face with a native Spanish speaker.

This took me back to my first months in Spain when I arrived with an arsenal of verb tenses and conjugations but was white with fear trying to buy a loaf of bread to make a sandwich.

Read my hungry story here. Does learning Spanish grammar help you get a sandwich?

Ironically,  to improve your new-language speaking skills, speaking to a native speaker is the best, THE BEST, way of improving your skills. (Why otherwise would you be learning another language? Just asking)


Simple strategies for overcoming anxiety when speaking another language with native speakers

  • Know that this only happens with your FIRST  foreign language. When (if) you learn another language, you probably won’t even remember any of this anxiety.
  • Talk to yourself as much as you can in your target language (the language you are learning) to accustom yourself to your ‘new voice’. This will make you feel less uncomfortable when you are
  • Prepare a basic opening line similar to: “I’m sorry I don’t speak Spanish very well (or another language)  but I want to practice.”

 –Lo siento. No hablo español muy bien pero quiero practicar–.

You could pre-empt any communication with this sentence. According to one of my students, Susan, this opening sentence advises a potential communicator that you WANT to proceed in Spanish, rather than revert to English (even though this might be easier for both parties if your interlocutor (the person you’re speaking to ) knows English better than you know their language.

  • Try to find at least ONE native speaker you can confide in and ADMIT you are nervous when you speak in their language and would like them to help you overcome this anxiety you feel. If they want to help, you could explain what you need from them: to speak more slowly, give you time to think and answer, etc.
  • Repeat as a mantra:  “I’m not stupid, I know my own language very well, thank you.  I’m only learning another language.”


Forget about your shy, reticent self and embrace the moment. If you’re serious about learning another language, it’s about being serious about communicating with others.

Any of these strategies worked for you?

  • Please leave any other strategies you have found about overcoming fear in the comments below.
  • SIGN UP FOR A FREE HANDBOOK ON “FOCUS ON SER” for a clear explanation of the use of the Spanish verb SER (TO BE)  in the box to the right of the page.
  • E-mail me for any help with Spanish at:

  • Share this article with anyone who you know might be interested in Spanish or language learning in general.

See here about how I feel that  learning another language is like learning to drive 

I really hope this helps …


  1. I had a friend who went to Mexico and his phrase was, “Háblame como si soy un niño.” He said it worked for him, but I wondered if people were laughing at him. What do you think?


    1. Hi Sherron0…It really DOES work!!
      It’s wonderful that your friend used this same technique and it worked for him. In fact I think that using the “Soy un niño” idea would perhaps get a bit more of a laugh, difusing the situation even more.
      So really I imagine the Mexicans he was talking to were most likely laughing WITH him and certainly not AT him.
      Saludos. Marie.

      Liked by 1 person

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