What to Do When You Are Shy
On Thursday, I go to school again. One student has a very interesting question. She says, “I am very shy when I have to speak English. Can you help me? I don’t want to be so shy.”
Our teacher says, “It is true that when we use foreign languages, it is natural that we are shy. We do something what we don’t know perfectly. The possibility of making a mistake is very high.
I was also very shy when I learnt foreign languages. I remember well how I was afraid to make a mistake. When I made a mistake, I felt stupid and sometimes my face was red.
Now, it is different. I use languages for communication. I care only about communication. You know that I am learning Spanish these days. Sometimes I make a mistake but it can’t stop me from using Spanish. It is true that sometimes I still feel shy when I have to speak Spanish. Sometimes my face is red but I don’t care much about it. It is a natural human feeling and it is always a short moment. I continue using Spanish because I know that only by using it I can be better.
I also try to see things as they are. I am a student and I am on the way to good Spanish. It is not possible to jump many levels in one day. The beginner can’t be a perfect speaker in one hour.
I also see what I mean to people around me. When I already speak some Spanish, I have a value to people who speak Spanish. You can see the same. When you already speak some English, you can have a conversation with other people in English. That’s great. Look at what you already know. You know 2000 words. You have already gone from 0 to 2000 words. Be happy for it.
Some students have a feeling that to know English means to be able to speak like a native speaker, to have perfect pronunciation, perfect grammar, and speak perfectly without any mistakes. They think that if they are not doing that, they don’t know English. They are shy because they are not perfect.
These students are very hard on themselves. And it is not necessary. You are great because you already speak some English. Continue working on your English and your shyness can step by step go away.”
I like what our teacher tell us. I am also sometimes shy. I know that I have to practise speaking a lot but in some situations, I don’t want to look stupid and I don’t speak as much as I can. I decide to be more brave in these situations and use them to practise more.
Then one student says, “Sometimes I want to say something but I don’t know the word which I want to say. Then I stop and I don’t know what to do. In these situation, I feel very stupid. Then the next time when I can speak English, I don’t want to speak because I don’t want to be in this stupid situation again. Can you help me with this?”
Our teacher says, “When you start to speak English, you have to prepare for one thing. It is a situation when you don’t know a word which you want to say. In such a situation, you have to learn how to describe the word. This ability is very important when you learn a new language. You need to learn this ability. You need to train how to express ideas with the vocabulary which you have. For example, you don’t know how to say the word “key”. You can describe it as a small thing for opening a door.
You also describe words in your native language but usually you don’t know it. If you don’t know the word for some thing, you simply describe it to the other person so that the other person understands what it is. You can do the same thing in English, but you really need to train this ability. Thinking aloud is a very good technique to use when you want to be able to describe well. Use thinking aloud every day and your ability to describe things can be better.”
You can learn English only when you use English. It is OK to be shy but it can’t stop you from using English.