Do you often feel nervous when speaking English?
Are you wondering how to speak English confidently?
Today I’ll tell you my top tips for improving your confidence when speaking English.
Why it’s important to improve your confidence to speak English
Before I share the practical tips, here are three reasons why it’s important to improve your confidence about your English.
One is that if you’re not confident, if you think your English is bad, then it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy – that means having the idea that your English is bad will make it come true. But if you adopt a more positive and confident attitude, then your English will actually get better faster.
The second reason is that when you can speak English confidently, you actually appear to be more fluent, even if your English isn’t perfect yet! Being confident makes any mistakes less noticeable, and other people will trust you more and enjoy talking with you more.
And the third reason it’s important to improve your confidence is simply that being confident feels good! When you’re confident, you can use your English without fear and without being so nervous. You feel strong and comfortable speaking English – and again, this isn’t only for advanced students – you can improve your confidence at any English level.
All right, so how can you do it? How can you become more confident when speaking English?
These are the most important things: three of them are mental exercises, things you need to believe in your mind, and three are physical exercises, things you do with your body.
Let’s start with the mental aspects.
#1 – Focus on the positive, not the negative
The first thing is to improve your attitude. DON’T think or say things like “My English is so bad” or “I know I’m making lots of mistakes” or “I’ll never be good at English.” Those negative beliefs will make you less confident.
Instead, think positive thoughts like: “I already know some English, and I’m learning more and improving every day!” or think about your successes and strong points, like “Yesterday I learned 5 new words” or “Today I said three sentences with great pronunciation!” When you focus on positive things, your confidence will improve.
#2 – Understand that most mistakes aren’t so serious
The second tip is to understand that most mistakes don’t matter very much. If you’re always worrying about mistakes, then you’ll feel nervous about your English.
But the truth is that when we’re speaking, most people won’t notice if you use the wrong preposition or if your pronunciation is a little bit off. So relax and don’t put so much pressure on yourself to be perfect. Yes, you want to correct your errors over time, but most mistakes aren’t nearly as terrible as you imagine.
#3 – Imagine yourself being a confident English speaker who you admire
The third tip is something a little different and creative, and that is to think about a confident English speaker who you admire – maybe it’s a celebrity, or a TV news presenter, or maybe it’s your English teacher. Think about someone who speaks GREAT English and then imagine or pretend that you ARE that person.
Let’s say your person is Barack Obama. Next time you’re going to speak English and you’re nervous, pretend you are Barack Obama. Would he look down at the floor and speak quietly with lots of hesitations? No! He’d look the other person in the eye and speak calmly and confidently. Sometimes imagining yourself as someone you admire, someone who is a confident English speaker, can help you act that way during a conversation.
Those were our three tips regarding your mindset – focus on positive thoughts, not negative ones; understand that most mistakes aren’t so serious; and imagine yourself being a confident English speaker.
#4 – Stand up straight, make eye contact, smile, and breathe!
Now here are three practical, physical tips for improving your confidence.
One involves what you do with your body when you’re speaking English, and that is to stand up straight or sit up straight, make eye contact, smile, and remember to breathe. Your “body language” – that means the position of your body and what you’re doing with your body – has an effect on your confidence.
So when you act confidently with your body by having good posture and making eye contact, and when you relax your face by smiling and breathing, this will make your spoken English more confident and comfortable as well.
#5 – Practice as much as possible
The next tip is to practice, practice, practice. The more you practice something, not only do you get better, but you also get more confident.
When I first started recording audio and video lessons, I was really nervous! You could hear it in my voice – I was tense and insecure. But now that I’ve practiced a lot and I’ve recorded hundreds of lessons, I don’t feel nervous at all anymore. I feel confident.
So it’s important to get as much speaking practice as possible. If you only speak English once a week for a couple minutes in English class, then it’s going to take a long time to build up your confidence! Look for other opportunities to practice your speaking…
#6 – Practice in low-pressure situations to build confidence
…and that leads us into the final tip, which is to practice in low-pressure situations before using your English in high-pressure situations.
What do I mean by this?
Examples of high-pressure situations are speaking English during a job interview, or giving a presentation in English to a lot of people, or talking on the phone when you can’t see the other person so it’s harder to have a conversation.
If you want to speak confidently in those difficult situations, first you need to build confidence by speaking English in low-pressure situations. Here are a couple examples of low-pressure situations.
1) Practicing reading English out loud. You can do it by yourself, and this helps you train your pronunciation and simply “get used to” speaking English (without the pressure of a real conversation).
2) You can also practice speaking spontaneously by yourself. You can look at a list of discussion questions, imagine that someone is asking you the question, and respond by speaking. This helps you train the ability to express your ideas in English – again, without the pressure of a real conversation. Nobody’s listening to you, so you can practice without being nervous!
3) Practice speaking with another person in a casual situation. For example, practice with a friend, or through a language exchange website. This will help you build your confidence inside a real conversation, but it’s a relaxed and casual conversation – nothing bad will happen if you make a mistake.
So let’s review our final three tips for building confidence: use confident body language, breathe, smile, and make eye contact; practice as much as possible; and practice in low-pressure situations like speaking by yourself or speaking casually with a friend.
If you do these things, then your confidence will improve! I believe that you can learn to speak confident English, because I’ve seen many of my students become more confident by taking my lessons and practicing these tips.
That’s all for today, but if you want to learn more from me, come join one of my English courses. They have clear and practical lessons that will help you learn vocabulary, phrases, grammar, pronunciation, idioms, and much more.