9 things you can do today to forget your fear of speaking English


Have you ever been left speechless despite the large number of words piling up in your head?

I very often have to deal with that kind of problem, as a high school teacher in Italy: students who tell me they cannot speak in English because they feel blocked. As a consequence they avoid speaking in the classroom, making things worse. 

Everyone wants to be on top. I don't know anyone who is happy to be wrong, to make mistakes. The desire to impress classmates generates performance anxiety that plays tricks on us because it reduces the brain's ability to process sentences and concepts.

I've been thinking a lot about how to help students who face this fear. 

Here is a short list of techniques to use:

LnT Comparing your own English level to that of other students will not work. Each student needs his/her own time, each student achieves his/her goals in different ways and at different times.

LnT Take into account you are using your vocal production system differently, Your voice could be perceived as different by your brain. It probably needs time to get used to your 'new' voice.

Try to visualize the progress you make.

Do you really think that Donald Trump is fluent in Italian. Do you think he'd do better than you?

LnT Practice. Practice. Practice.

Don't the British say: "Practice makes perfect"?

Practice singing, counting objects, rhyming, reciting short poems, tell jokes, or some theatrical piece (the more dramatic it is, the better),  ...

LnT Build a survival package.

Prepare some model sentences.

ask to repeat a concept that you did not grasp

ex Can you repeat the last concept, please? I'm struggling with it.

show you are participating to the lesson

ex. Were Shakespeare and Marlowe contemporaries?

What else did ...... write?

Study the summary of the work you are studying and anticipate what the teacher is going to say.

LnT Simplify your sentences. You are not Queen Elizabeth. Do not translate from Italian. Translation slows down your speech. Shorten your sentences. The length of sentences in English is 14 words for a written text.

For example

La famiglia di Defoe era di credo presbiteriano; egli fu mandato a scuola all'accademia di Stoke Newington, diretta da Charles Morton (in seguito vicepresidente di Harvard); qui non seguì studi classici, ma si dedicò a discipline come l'economia, la geografia e le lingue straniere.

Simplified text

Defoe's family was Presbyterian./ Defoe's family belonged to the Presbyterian church.He was educated at Stoke Newington directed by Charles Morton (future vicepresident at Harvard). He studied economy, geography and foreign languages.

LnT Make the concept you want to expose clear. Perhaps you can divide it into smaller parts?

For example

Defoe took a new literary path in 1719, around the age of 59, when he published Robinson Crusoe, a fiction novel based on several short essays that he had composed over the years. A handful of novels followed soon after-often with rogues and criminals as lead characters-including Moll Flanders, Colonel Jack, Captain Singleton, Journal of the Plague Year and his last major fiction piece, Roxana (1724).


- Defoe started his literary career in 1719. He published Robinson Crusoe when he was 59.

- Robinson Crusoe is a novel based on different articles Defoe wrote some years before.

- He then published other novels: Moll Flanders, Colonel Jack, Captain Singleton, Journal of the Plague Year and Roxana.

LnT Think in English.

And how can you do?

Here is a very simple technique. It will ask you only a little bit of perseverance.

Think in English in your head or speak to yourself (in front of the mirror). In this way you will avoid the social pressure that blocks you when you are in the classroom and you're willing to say something but you feel blocked.

Think of of some topic: the last song you listened to, for example.

List the reasons you like. Tell something you know about the singer. Describe the video you saw. Whenever you miss a word, use your phone or PC, search for it and use it immediately in a sentence.

Little by little you will begin to think in English and no longer in Italian. Guaranteed!

Resources: wordreference.com or context.reverso.net

LnT Record yourself and listen to you. It can be boring and painful in the beginning, but it is very useful to understand what you get wrong and above all to see the progress you are making.