Are You Insecure About Your English?

TOEFL SpeakingSpeaking for prolonged periods of time in your second language requires a lot of effort. When you are speaking with native speakers, whose conversation seems effortless, you may notice that you are engaged in a tremendous amount of cognitive work.

You are straining to listen carefully and when you speak you are trying to balance accuracy and fluency. And you may feel what Koreans call ‘눈치’ or ‘noon-Chee’ – that unmistakable feeling that others are making judgments about your speaking ability, and thus, about you as a person.

Most EFL/ESL speakers consider themselves to be in a perpetual state of learning. They say things like ‘my English is not very good’.

When students give themselves permission to become English ‘users’ and stop thinking of themselves as English ‘learners’ they make a tremendous stride towards greater self-confidence.

Speaking a second language means entering an unnatural state. It means experiencing discomfort. Mature speakers of English as a foreign or second language realize how to control that discomfort. That’s really when a learner becomes a user.

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3 Replies to “Are You Insecure About Your English?”

  1. whenever i take a conversation with foreigner, i also feel that what if i have a mistake in grammer or order.So i totally understand this article. because i have a little feeling abou self consious in conversation class.
    i think that’s beause there are problems in korean education system
    we are not familiar with speaking personal opinions in school class.
    it was korean education that teacher gave a craming imformation to our brain
    so i think it also affects in conversation like free style class
    it is very interesting article to me .
    beause most of the korean students have 눈치 and very shy in speaking english unfamiliar situation

    1. Minseung, 눈치 is a reality in Korea. The fact that it spills over into the language learning classroom is too bad. Good teachers will try to create learning environments that minimize embarrassment and anxiety, but it really is up to each student to stop worrying so much about making mistakes. If you concentrate on being sincere and communicating meaning you will have successful encounters with others. On the other hand, if you are constantly doubting your own language skills and the quality of your grammar, you will likely fail in your attempt to have a conversation. This is not because you can’t speak, it’s because you can’t listen–you are too absorbed with your own performance. Great conversations happen because people listen, not because they speak perfectly.

  2. When i read this article, i just feel that it is my story. Until now, i have an some kind of obsession about non-mistake conversation. As you said, it is nature that i can make some mistakes and feel uncomfortable. I should take this for granted from now on. At first it is hard for me, but i’ll try and try and try. Someday when i overcome this obsession, i think i can speak english fluently.

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