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  • Writer's pictureSKEI Team

Motivation Monday: Speak German without fear!

Are you afraid of speaking German? That's a matter of the head!

Some people can have a short conversation with native German speakers right away with a lot of confidence and fun, even if they only have a small vocabulary. For many of us, however, these first contacts can be very stressful. But that's absolutely no reason to judge yourself, because many German learners feel the same way and, above all, it doesn't last forever!

Here are the best tips on how to overcome your fear of speaking.

Accept your fear

Are you really afraid of speaking in a foreign language? No! It's usually just the fear of making a mistake, failing or looking stupid.If you have ever spoken very strangely in your mother tongue out of fear during an exam or at an important meeting with your boss, then you already know: If you had calmed down in time, you could definitely have performed better!

Anxiety is always counterproductive, it blocks your brain's ability to properly perform its normal tasks, such as processing the information or producing various reactions in real time.

If you hear unfamiliar words in the process and the speech rate of the person you are talking to is far too fast, you will get the feeling that you are not following at all.

In order to relax, take a deep breath, sort yourself out and remember that no one expects you to speak perfect German if it is not your mother tongue!

Analyse the problem

If you are not a polyglot or a professional interpreter, you are not used to dealing with a foreign language. It is normal that your brain needs time to perceive and understand the new vocabulary, translate words in your head, think of an appropriate answer and formulate it in the foreign language. This is a task that requires high brain power and a lot of training.

How can you take the pressure off yourself? Take your time and try not to answer directly. Instead of focusing all your time on formulating the answer while the other person is still talking, free yourself from that and really listen to what the other person is saying. Then take a moment to find appropriate words for the answer.

Train your listening comprehension

If you are just starting to learn German, get ready for the fact that you will not understand many words in conversation at all. Do regular practice in your everyday life by listening to podcasts, radio and audio books, watching TV or actively listening to other people. You can improve your pronunciation and vocabulary just by listening all the time. You can find more tips on practising listening comprehension in our blog post "Improving listening comprehension in everyday life".

Get rid of your perfectionism

How often have you heard that every beginning is hard? That masters are made, not born? That mistakes are absolutely normal? Have you seriously thought about these words of wisdom and internalised them? Apparently, repeating them is never enough to convince yourself. No one can speak a language fluently right away! At first, everyone speaks incorrectly, comparable to a toddler learning his or her mother tongue. The sooner you start speaking, the sooner you can feel at home in that language.

It is certainly frustrating to make mistakes, but in the end comes the reward - when you can speak quite authentically in that language.

Smile, laugh, think positive

A bit of self-irony and humour never hurts if you are not yet able to communicate perfectly in German.

Think about how a native speaker feels when you have a hard time speaking and seem frustrated and self-critical. Most of the time, this only leads to people wanting to leave you alone and to break off the conversation or to switch directly to English, for example, so as not to have to torture you any further.

It would have a different effect if you showed joy, fun and interest in speaking and did not take yourself too seriously. Your "awkwardness" would be more likely to elicit a lot of sympathy and empathy from your counterpart and give you opportunities to continue the conversation. After all, most native speakers are happy when you make the effort to speak their language, especially when they see you enjoying it!

Start with one conversation partner

It would be a challenge to dive straight into a conversation with a whole group of native speakers, understanding several people at once and responding accordingly. One-to-one conversations are always much easier! You can practise it first with a coach or friend from the German course and then have your first experiences with other people who are very familiar with the language before you start talking to a irst conversations in German with strangers, as well as the strangers themselves, often become the best memories because they are so important!

Do not adapt to the pace of the speaker

Start with one conversation partnerarly at the beginning - this usually leads automatically to your counterpart adapting to your pace. Even if the person you are talking to has no experience in speaking to a non-native speaker and makes it difficult for you, never be ashamed to politely ask him/her to speak a little slower - a change of perspective does no harm! The speaker might also learn something from this.

Don't take it personally

Some people are patient and understanding and some impatient or inconsiderate. Unfortunately, not everyone will always appreciate that you are trying to speak their language. Don't be discouraged by this, most of the time it is not your problem. There could be other reasons why the conversation is not going well that you cannot guess at the moment.

Strengthen your self-confidence through simple conversations

There are many conversations in everyday life that happen again and again and follow a similar pattern: When you are asked how you are doing or where you are from, when you order food in a restaurant or shop at the bakery. Take advantage of the opportunity as a customer: These interlocutors will probably be very patient because they also want to sell you something! Don't think in too complicated ways, repeat the same phrases in every conversation and enjoy your small successes before you can move on to other topics.

Take advantage of your situation

If you already live in Germany, it's a huge advantage that other language learners abroad don't have. Your stay in Germany is without question a unique opportunity to encounter a lively, authentic, modern language that can only be learned so extensively and accurately in the surrounding area. Take advantage of this excellent opportunity, go out and start speaking!

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