Very few foreign language learners did not suffer from the jitters when they had to speak the language for the first time. Inside the classroom, the situation is different because you are among fellow students and your language instructor. The level of fear when you have to try speaking the language in front of native speakers is different and varies from person to person.
For an English speaker, Chinese is one of the most difficult languages to learn. Rather than spend time and money and take a staff away from his or her work to learn the language, it is better for businesses and institutions to work with professionals for translation services, for accuracy and high quality of translation.
However, this does not mean that you should abandon your desire to learn Chinese, because is it a beautiful language.
Your fluency in the language will not happen overnight. So you have to prepare for this day from the time you decide to learn Chinese. Here are some tips on how to overcome your fear of speaking Chinese (for the first time).
Commit to memory the reason/s why you’ve chosen to learn Chinese. This will help you overcome your fear of speaking it later. Is it for business, like you were chosen to learn the language by your office or you want to be employed by a Chinese firm or maybe because you have to conduct business with Chinese-owned companies?
Is your reason personal, academic or is it because you love learning languages? If you have a goal, then you will not fail.
This means that you should resolve to think and speak Chinese only. While you are attending classes, you have to be firm with yourself. Speak the language in class and with fellow students. Limit your use of English if it is manageable and listen to Chinese music, and attempt to read books and magazines in Chinese. Learn from watching Chinese movies.
Speak the words and phrases that you’ve learned starting on the first day. Try them out while you’re still in class, so that your instructor can point out if you’ve made a mistake. You’ll be able to have a firmer grasp on those tricky Chinese words quickly. You will also be able to spot your mistakes early. You can make corrections and adjustments so you’ll be able to avoid them later.
One other thing you must do is to strengthen and broaden your vocabulary by using new words. You must not stick only to the words that you know because that will definitely limit your knowledge.
You can build confidence and fluency, which will help you to overcome your fear by making mistakes. Do not be afraid of mistakes because that is the way to learn. To boost your confidence and receive critical but constructive feedback, find someone who can help. It can be your language instructor or a friend who speaks the language. Tell them that you want them to honestly point out your mistakes, how to avoid them and how you can improve.
Accept the fact that you are bound to make mistakes when speaking a language that is not familiar to you. Consider them as you are making progress. If you are committing mistakes and not making efforts to correct them, you are not improving.
Aside from having a person who speaks the language point out your mistakes and help you improve, supplement your classroom learning with some tools. If your problem is recalling some words, find a great flashcard program. You can buy flashcards or download them online.
Chinese is a tonal language and has its own sounds, cadence and intonation. Build your confidence to speak the language by getting the sounds right.
If you frequently encounter trouble with word choice, diction and grammar, there are many audio and video programs available that you can view and listen to. Watching Chinese movies (without subs) and listening to Chinese music can help you with diction, grammar and intonation.
The foundation for learning is in the pronunciation. You cannot ignore this because as a tonal language, a difference in tone can mean a difference in meaning.
When it comes to pronunciation though, it is best to rely on feedback personally from friends and teachers. It can be the hardest part of learning Chinese. While repetition can become boring, it is a great way to learn. As you repeatedly pronounce the words, you will get the hang of it and commit them to memory at the same time.
In the image below, you can see the example “ma,” which has a different meaning based on its intonation.
Overcoming your fear of speaking Chinese is difficult. Be assured that even seasoned speakers get nervous before they start their speech. However, since you have committed to learn the language, plan to get ready and meet the challenge. Finding a good teacher is valuable. But you should also practice constantly so you do not forget what you have learned.
Continue talking with your friends and teachers in Chinese and immerse yourself in the language. Put Chinese labels on items inside your home so you’ll see them every day. Enjoy the learning and look forward to your ultimate goal – to speak Chinese without fear.
We’d like to help! Grab our free Chinese Survival Crash Course, full of free PDFs and audio files to get you started.
Sean Patrick Hopwood is a language polyglot and a language enthusiast. His goal in life is to bring world peace through education, tolerance, and cultural awareness. He is also the President and Founder at Day Translations, Inc., an interpretation and certified translation services company.
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