Common Student Challenges – 2 – Confidence
“My grammar/ speaking/ writing etc. is bad”
“Is it? Really? Are you sure? Who told you that?” These are the questions I ask my students (or anyone) who say such things. The first point is who are you to judge your grammar, speaking etc. and who are you comparing yourself to? You are unlikely to be an expert in language assessment and comparing yourself to a native speaker is a poor choice because the result of this comparison is usually negative and if affects your confidence. So, why not compare yourself to the old you?
What you think about yourself and say to yourself is a very important and fundamental part of your existence and it affects how well you learn a language and how you perform in an English Proficiency test. So, don’t lie to yourself. Saying ‘My English is terrible’ is not true and it’s not helpful. Whenever you start to have those thoughts, you need to be aware of them, notice them, not judge them and then replace them with a more truthful and helpful thought such as ‘Every day my English gets better and better’. In fact, that is the truth because if you connect to the language daily in some way and you have the intention to learn (not just study), then your English must improve.
Confidence is a key part of language learning. Those who can simply try and talk to as many people in English at every opportunity certainly learn more quickly. So, social confidence helps to give you more opportunities to practice, and practice creates confidence. This is why many people say their English is better after drinking alcohol. Alcohol reduces inhibitions so you simply don’t care so much and you are not worried about mistakes. Actually, this is how I improved my French when I lived in France. There was a happy hour every day in ‘Le Petit Bar’. Obviously, drinking alcohol has many risks, so now that I’m a bit more mature, I wouldn’t recommend it 😉
Is it ok to be wrong, to ‘fail’?
Beware of your culture and its education system. I meet so many students, particularly from East Asia whose education systems have taught them and brainwashed them to believe that failure is bad. The problem is that when you learn another language you can only succeed if you fail a lot. So, many of these students cannot become fluent because they are too busy trying to be correct. They are focusing on accuracy. In English proficiency tests many students do not get their required score because they hesitate too much, which negatively affects their fluency and their score.
Remember that people will respect you for trying to speak another language not judge you for making mistakes. Those who do judge you negatively are not worth knowing anyway, so it’s a useful way to remove negative people from your life 😉
To succeed you must try hard, fail a lot and through that failure you will learn and become more confident.
How do you improve your confidence? You need to practice. The good news is that because language is a function of your brain, you can practice in your head when you walk along the street. You can practice making sentences; you can practice naming things you see and finding a synonym; you can practice describing the feelings of the people you see on the street; you can practice writing non-stop for 10 minutes every day. It is that simple. Think of it as a game.
Of course, you should also take every opportunity to practice. We have a couple of students who are chefs at the moment and the advice to them is to read books on food and cooking – whatever you like or love, read, listen, talk about that in English.
Practice makes confidence. Just try to enjoy it without worrying about the results. Live in the moment.