Do you get nervous when you have to speak Spanish, even if you’ve taken months — or years — of classes or lessons? You’re not alone. Read on as Spanish tutor Emmanuel N. shares his tips for battling your nerves and becoming more confident…
When it comes to speaking a language, there are two ways of being good at it – the more scholastic way (reading, writing, and speaking all ‘by the book’) and the more layman’s way (mostly conversation-centered, using the common vernacular of a region or country). In other words, you can be good at Spanish by knowing how to do everything by the book, or you can be good at Spanish by knowing how to have real person-to-person conversations.
Most people who learn Spanish as a second language tend to be the former. Natural Spanish speakers tend to be the latter. This tends to be the pattern because people who learn Spanish as their second language tend to learn only by the book, while natural Spanish speakers learn by the book, as well, but mainly by speaking it with everyone they know. This is why I believe that people who are learning Spanish as their second language tend to be very good at it scholastically, but very subpar when it comes to natural, flowing conversations.
Speaking Spanish: Where to Start When You’re Nervous
I’m pretty certain you don’t want to dive right in and start speaking Spanish to people who are fluent, and that’s understandable. However, I do believe that when you push your limits, you learn more. Instead of speaking purely in Spanish, or with people who will speak only in Spanish, I recommend speaking ‘Spanglish‘ – a mixture of Spanish and English where you use English words when you don’t know how to say something in Spanish. Aside from that, here’s what I recommend you do:
- Have full-blown conversations in Spanglish with anyone you know who speaks a moderate amount of the language. It’s better if they know more than you.
- Try your best to speak only in Spanish with a friend or family member for a whole hour. Even if you have to translate for them, it’s alright. The important thing here is to force yourself to speak only Spanish.
- Translate all the television shows you usually watch to Spanish, and try your best to understand what they’re saying without English subtitles on.
- Speak to yourself at the end of the day (every day), and speak in Spanish as you say what you did all day. Try your best to speak only in Spanish, and look up translations only when you can’t think of the word or phrase.
Tips for Overcoming Your Shyness
Believe me, when it comes to being shy about your Spanish speaking, I know what it feels like. You’re extremely shy because you don’t have the accent or can’t really roll your Rs. You’re shy because the other person has to speak slowly for you to catch up. Or, you’re shy because you struggle to remember Spanish words on the spot and stand there embarrassed. Whatever it may be, I’ve been there and know the pain of being a shy Spanish speaker. However, the best way to get over your shyness is to practice.
- When it comes to your accent, the best way to improve is to listen to other people who are fluent in Spanish. Try your best to imitate the sound they make.
- I recommend watching television shows in Spanish or translating your favorite shows into Spanish. Listening to Spanish songs is also helpful.
I, myself, don’t have the Latino accent, but I have learned to speak Spanish effectively even though I have an absent accent. Without the accent, Spanish speakers can still understand you. It’s better to have no accent than to have the ‘butchered’ accent (where you pronounce every Spanish word incorrectly).
Why You Should Work With a Spanish Tutor
Although you might be very anxious or nervous about having a Spanish tutor, it can be extremely useful for you. As a tutor, I strongly believe in having casual, laid-back conversations in Spanish or ‘Spanglish’ for practice – it helps you get comfortable, and it eases your nerves so when I do challenge your knowledge of Spanish, you aren’t as timid. My lessons vary student to student because I know everyone is different and everyone learns differently. The main focus for shy or nervous students is to give them the confidence they need to speak Spanish proudly with anyone.
I do believe in giving homework to my students, but before you roll your eyes, my assignments are never that hard to complete. The following is normally what I would assign my shy speakers:
- Record yourself having a conversation with yourself in only Spanish.
- Record yourself reading for a few minutes from a Spanish article/book/website.
- Record yourself talking about your hobbies in English, and then translate it into Spanish.
These take no more than 10 minutes and can be pretty fun.
Ready to improve your Spanish-speaking skills? Find a Spanish language tutor in your area!
Emmanuel N. teaches Spanish online. A California State University, Fullerton graduate and native Spanish speaker, he also teaches essay writing, study skills, and singing. Learn more about Emmanuel here!
Photo by Ed Yourdon