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Hello everyone! Every time I am trying to learn a new language I often find myself in a position where I am afraid to mispronounce certain words and so I do not always engage in conversations as much as I should! What are your thoughts on this? Any advice to overcome this anxiety?

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I have the same problem as you do. I am also anxious in conversing in a new language. But my technique is just to speak it anyway. As I speak, I try to also remember the rules. Should I mispronounce it, you can just say that you are just starting to learn the language, and that you are asking for their understanding. For me, that only applies to new friends. I also ask for feedback so I can learn.

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My first step in learning a language is learning pronunciation (along with the script). I learn it for the phonemes, words and sentences. By the time I'm through with that, I usually know several hundred words and many  sentence patterns, so I'm ready to start talking. This is about 2-4 months in. So when I start talking to natives, my pronunciation is quite good. Of course I sometimes mispronounce, but it's usually with words I don't know.

Honestly, I don't understand wanting to talk to a native before even being able to pronounce their language. I'm not judging you, but I wouldn't want to be that native speaker.

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Hello everyone! Every time I am trying to learn a new language I often find myself in a position where I am afraid to mispronounce certain words and so I do not always engage in conversations as much as I should! What are your thoughts on this? Any advice to overcome this anxiety?

I also have the same anxiety. But for me to overcome this, I go to dictionary websites or apps so that I can hear how it should be pronounced. If I still can't get my tongue to pronounce properly, I go to youtube for a little further help and keep hitting the replay button until I memorize it and practice it for a few times. I do this with my siblings and sometimes with my close friends so they can easily point out where I'm doing it wrong and right.

Edited by blikkael
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I never experienced any anxiety whatsoever when I tried talking to an African friend of mine in college. He's very fluent in Spanish and since I'm a student of the Spanish language, I asked him if I could practice my grammar and pronunciation with him. I was comfortable speaking with him and he was very accommodating. I also told him beforehand that I was a beginner and he understood right away that I'll commit mistakes which he simply corrected right faster thus helping me learn after. I guess the moral of the story here is that you just have to be honest and tell them that you're still not well-versed in the language, in order to prevent yourself from being anxious when you're talking to a native speaker.

Edited by thenextGeek
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Anxiety can be hard, but if you try to look at it as an adventure and not a task that you have to do, it can became so much more easier. I know you must heard it so many times, but you should not be worry about pronunciation first.

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I have felt a certain amount of anxiety when speaking to people that don't seem to be friendly or reachable. It just seems like they really just don't want you to bother them and it´s as if you are standing in front of them with a mouth full of teeth. I normally don't think to much about it and just try to talk. After all it's not as if you are speaking your first language, but if you do make a mistake and they happen to make fun of you, be assured that they are in the wrong, not you.

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This is my worst nightmare in language learning, and I suspect that's what holds me back more than anything. I always learn how to write way faster than I can speak a language. No matter what I do, I just clam up and become shy and tongue tied, even if I know what to say. It doesn't even matter how friendly and accommodating the people around me are. I think it stems from some of the people here's attitudes. When I was at university learning French, my class mates derived great pleasure from poking fun at people speaking poor French and making mistakes, ribbing them for days on end and I hated it as it put me under the spotlight. It gave me a complex, and I think that stuck! 

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It may help to try to find a partner to practice with over the internet. I think there are some sites where you can interact over Skype or possibly the site itself.  Or, at the beginning of the conversation, tell the person with whom you are speaking that you are having trouble with some pronunciation.  When you realize that the other person knows you are not being offensive, you are just learning the language, some of the anxiety may fade.

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I know that feeling. But making a mistake is fine! Sometimes I'm not sure how to pronounce a few English words, but it doesn't stop me from communicating. If you have to make a mistake, then make it. Take a risk. If they fix your pronunciation, then good, At least now you know. They won't judge you or anything like that. It's not your native language. It would be very rude if they did.

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You just have to find someone who will make you feel at ease to practice with. Then you become less shy to speak another language in front of other people. Most people will see that you are struggling, but they will be happy that you are attempting to speak with them in their native tongue! No worries! 

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I usually have some basic words and phrases down by the time I get to speak to natives.

And if I mispronounce something? Well, that's great! Because then the native will correct me and I know what to focus on - i.e. I discover where I'm messing up. This leads to gradual improvement.

Trying and failing will lead to gradual improvement. Doing nothing will lead to nothing. If you don't use the language - even if it's just a single word - you are practicing nothing and so you won't improve.

So just jump into it head first! Whatever happens you will learn and handle it better the next time around!

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Practice makes better! Learn how a particular word is being pronounced first whenever you're in doubt. See how it's use in a phrase and sentence. Pay attention to stresses and intonations. Watch English movies and dramas too. You'll soon find yourself able to speak words as they're spoken by native speakers.

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  • 1 month later...

How I got over that is that I went for it and if I failed (sadly) someone's going to correct me when I mess up so in the end even if I practice day and night they're gonna be some words that I mess up on, so I'm just gonna have to deal with the fact that I won't get everything right. In the end, nobody's perfect... So yeah... Just dive head first into failure, cause not trying is the same as quitting...  

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It is perfectly OK to mispronounce a language you are trying to learn, or to mix words up. Just think about the fact that you are still learning the language, you don`t have to be perfect right from the start. And also, if you speak to a native and he sees that you are trying to speak his language the best you can, most of the time, they will be really friendly towards you anyway and surely they won`t get offended or laugh at you because of this.

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I think a big part of people getting nervous, is the fear of making mistakes. But like some of the members said here, there really is no shame in making mistakes, and people are usually very accommodating.  I believe we also put ourselves under unnecessary pressure all the time, which will add to the nerves. I like the idea of getting a grasp of the basic words by way of building a foundation for your learning process, before adding the more difficult words and phrases. I'll also need to take this onboard myself, because I have exactly the same problem!

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Well, I just always bear in mind that I should really start somewhere even if it would mean a lot of blunders for me speaking the language. Anyway, I reckon native speakers of the language I'm learning will surely forgive me for mispronouncing their words. I'd love for them to correct me so that I would learn. I ask colleagues or friends to do so. Just this morning at work, I greeted a French work mate Bonjour! But when she just looked at me, I asked her matter of factly if I did not say it right. She said I did but she was just a bit spaced out. Lol! So I asked her Cava? And she did say something about not feeling upbeat but I've already forgotten it. :mellow: 

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