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Any tips for a shy person?

I'd love to have a conversation with an English native speaker, but all I can do right now is sending texts or rarely audios. I really want to have the courage to talk, but I rarely do. I did it a couple of times and my heart was beating out of my chest! I did mistakes having the right answer in mind, I heard my pronunciation was not how it generally is but I couldn't help myself and the more I noticed it the more I panicked and performed even worse. I was angry with myself. I'm starting to think it's a sort of "performance anxiety", I don't know. Any suggestions to overcome this fear?

July 11, 2017



I'm a quiet and shy person. Sometimes it's difficult for me to speak in my native language of English, especially when I am in crowds or around people I don't know. I understand how you feel.

I know it's really hard to do, but the only way to break through this fear is to go ahead and speak English. The more you do it the easier it will get. The last time I went to Montreal, I decided it was time to break through my fear of speaking French; so I forced myself to do simple things. For example, when we would go to a restaurant I would ask for a table in French. It wasn't a lot, just one sentence. At a coffee shop I first let them know in English that I wanted to try to order in French, so they actually helped me say the words. Then next time at a coffee shop I told them I was learning French and that I wanted to try to order in French. They were always glad to listen and help. I also found out that it was good practice to ask questions I already knew the answer to. For example, I would find the washroom in a store and then go ask someone in the store where the washroom was. It didn't take long, and it started to be fun. A lot of the fear went away. People are generally happy when you try to speak their language, and they like to help you.

I don't know the level of your spoken English, but I'm impressed with your written English skills. Do you think it would be helpful if you were able to read out loud to a native English speaker?
For example, you could read the paragraph that you wrote. I know it's not an actual conversation, but it may help you build confidence in speaking to a native speaker. Once you are comfortable with that, maybe you could add some questions for the native speaker to ask you when you are done reading. Then you can practice so you are ready to answer. If you can find someone who is patient and willing to work with you, I think you will gain confidence over time and soon be able to start having conversations without too much fear.

I think the most important thing is that you start speaking in whatever way is most comfortable for you.

Best wishes!


Thank you for sharing your experience, I really appreciate it :) and you were so brave! The last few times I went abroad I forced myself too... it was easier though, because I was with my ex who was an extrovert guy, so he usually talked for both of us - unless I had a different opinion or he needed some help. Again, thank you! You were supportive and you gave me some great advice. I'll do my best to overcome this fear... I won't give up!


Traveling with an extrovert has probably not made it easier for you to speak!

I have a feeling you will speak more in your future travels! :-)


You're probably right! I meant I wasn't forced to step out of my comfort zone, so it was easier to enjoy the conversation. Thanks for trying to give me so much confidence :)


Exactly! AND I have complete confidence in you!


Your English writing seems to be very good, so how bad could your English speaking possibly be? I bet it is very good.


It is not strange to have the language fluency skewed towards certain sub-skills at the expense of others, depending on the learning approach (written versus conversation exercises). But in LarkaFenrir's case, it is possible that she will speak well if she can only overcome shyness, as it can overwhelm the brain and prevent it from constructing proper sentences, and may be misunderstood as lack of spoken fluency.


Unfortunately you're right... besides when I started to learn it at school, my learning method was mainly passive - watching movies and tv shows on a daily basis without subtitles and reading some books, articles etc. However, I had some chances to write - reviews, chatting with native speakers and so on, but I never had a proper chat due to my shyness. I really hope you're right on the last part too! ;)


Thanks for you compliment, I'm flattered! Even though I still have a lot to learn :)

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There are already some remarkable tips in the discussion, so I'll try to give my contribution by examining the question from a wider angle. I'm an ex-shy, my voice stuttered and faltered a lot and my heart used to skip a bit or two when meeting someone new, but I'm way more relaxed and carefree now, so hear me out, my words may be helpful.

Life is short, and shyness is not something you want to carry with you on your personal journey. It's a burden that robs you of splendid moments of connection with other people. Arguably, the most effective way to get rid of it passes through self-acceptance. Since that fear of others' judgment actually comes from your internalized judgment, realizing that you deserve way more lenient verdicts from your personal tribunal for trying to improve yourself is key to a better life. In other words: it's fine to be insecure and quirky among people, no big deal, so don't get mad at yourself for trying to communicate with others the way you do: begin to feel proud instead. Be also aware that all people are a bit insecure - yes, even those native speakers you're talking to are afraid to make stupid errors in front of you. Most people struggle daily with intrusive thoughts of inadequacy and self-doubt, just like you. So next time you make a silly mistake, have a good laugh, pat yourself on the back, and remember everyone is on the same boat as you are. No one expects you to be a flawless C2 english speaker after all, and if they do - that is, if they make you feel uncomfortable to the point of you fearing their judgment - you may consider letting this person go, even with a loud "f**k off" if that's needed. People who make you feel inadequate will never help you grow in life.

It takes patience, effort and even a bit of soul-searching, but by the time the idea of self-acceptance has fully grown in your mind, your shyness will have gone away, and you'll realize you have earned much more than just that. Buona fortuna in Inghilterra, e buona vita.


This is a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing this.


the more you try the better you get, never let the fear of making an mistake keep you from achieving your goal. so keep going!


I hope so! Thank you for your support :) indeed, I don't want to give up so easily!


Good question! Yes, you will make mistakes, and it is part of the experience. Try to accept or even embrace that you will mess up while you are learning. I recognize that you and all of us language learners are doing a very bold thing when saying something in a language we don't really know yet. And for you, with shyness, even more bold. Good work!

My motto: "Learning a language is an exercise in both boldness and humility."


Thank you! Indeed, I'm not scared of them... I think we have to make mistakes, because we basically learn from them. Thank you for your support :) and I really like your motto!


Is it a quotation (your motto)?


I have a similar problem with my target languages - it's so intimidating to actually talk with strangers! I suggest knowing what you want to talk about, kind of planning what you want to say beforehand. Maybe try talking about it in front of a mirror or to stuffed animals or somethings silly like that. :D Also, explain to the speaker that you are learning English, and they'll understand and probably be less likely to laugh at you. And, if they do laugh at you, laugh along! Sometimes my mistakes can be pretty funny. :)


Indeed it is! Thanks for your suggestions, I really appreciate them :) especially the one involving stuffed animals haha they're going to be so mad at me! ;) mine are as well! I remember when I was talking to a friend of mine... she's Finnish and she was explaining me that her last name means "beach"... well I leave it to your imagination XD


First, start by saying everything out loud as you're going through the Duolingo lessons. Don't wait for the mic to promt you to speak.

Then, start speaking to stuffed animals or photographs, etc in your home. Make up their part of the conversation and respond.

As your listening comprehension improves, start watching movies or listening to podcasts/radio programs. Again, pick out something they say and respond, as if you're having a conversation. Do this intermittently. The conversation doesn't have to be a whole one. Just learning how to reply to random things is helpful.

Next, jump in and be gentle with yourself when you make mistakes. What helped me was having a language partner who could speak both of the languages I spoke. We had mixed langauge conversations. Sometimes, we would be using two different languages even within the same sentence. There was no pressure to say a whole sentences in the target language, only as much as I could remember quickly enough.

From there, it evolved. I found myself speaking more and more in my target language, and more comfortably.

Good luck! :)


First of all, remind yourself that you are learning. You will make mistakes. Don't let that stop you! Take a deep breath, and relax. You can and will do this. Remind yourself that it takes time to become fluent and completely confident with a new language. This fear is perfectly normal. If you find yourself becoming anxious, take a breather, and walk away. Use positive reinforcement for yourself instead of getting angry. You are still learning. You aren't a professional. Everyone makes mistakes. The more you practice, the more confident you will be in yourself. Practice with someone you trust, someone you are comfortable with. You will be AMAZING!!!!! Best of luck.


Thanks for your advice! You're right I'm still learning and even when I'll get (hopefully!) more confident I will be still learning. Thanks again for your kind words and support and good luck to you too :)


Put yourself in a monolingual environment. This can be difficult for English speakers learning another language as English is so widely learnt, but it will be much easier for an English-learner as so many English-speakers are monolingual—find English-speaking learners who are just beginning to try to learn whatever your native language is and who want a language exchange; so long as they are at a low level in the language they want to learn, you will end up having to speak English to them a lot, which will increase your confidence at it; what's more, they'll be grateful for it, which provides the positive feedback to overcome anxiety.
Once you get bored with this, you should have more confidence to talk to more selectively-chosen people about things you actually want to talk about.


I'm trying to! I'm using English as my daily first choice and I'm planning to move to England, but I wish I could get better at speaking before doing so. Thanks for your tips! They could be really useful :)


I found that attending classes where I had to speak in German really helped to boost my confidence - maybe that would be an option for you to try?


Sure, why not? Thanks for sharing your experience with me! :D and for following me :)


Absolutely no problem - always interested in following the stories of fellow language enthusiasts!


Thanks! I'm glad I had the guts to write on Duolingo... otherwise I wouldn't have met so many kind people ^^


I was always told to just go out and take the risk, no matter how things will turn out.

In real life, I'm a very socially awkward person and have embarrassed myself trying to speak French on multiple occasions. These moments have negatively influenced me so much that I only try to speak French to myself, which won't do much for me. Being shy and reserved is a curse, but I think to fight your fears is to understand that you will not be perfect. No one expects perfect English from you. Also, when you try to speak, don't put so much effort into creating huge, elaborate statements. Starting small and building on you skills may be the best in order to get better.

I'm not sure if these tips are helpful, since I'm not the best with giving advice... But, I wish you great luck in speaking English. I believe you'll be fine, in the end. ^ ^


I experienced the same increase in anxiety over some instances. I agree with your advice to start small. When my friend and I started practicing, we didn't try to do everything in Spanish and Japanese. We would just insert vocabulary and such from whichever language came to us throughout our conversation. Slowly but surely, our target languages became more prominent in our discussions, with English usage reducing over time. :)


Yes, the same thing happened to me first time I tried to speak French. I was terrified... although I attempted after only 2 weeks of learning. I don't regret it though. For me, it worked to just keep doing it, and my fear gradually went. You don't have to think so much either... no one is judging you. Also, you can never learn to speak without doing it... B2 level is impressive though... further than me in French! Am sure with more practice, you can do.


After only two weeks? That's so bold, you must be proud! Thanks for your compliment :) I think I was only lucky because we learn English at school since we're young, so we're exposed to the language whether we like it or not haha - even though it's really different when we have to use it in "real life" situations... it could also be the reason I feel judged, thinking about it. Thanks again, you can do it as well :) good luck!


Thank you. Yes, it was very scary after only 2 weeks... although after 3-4 weeks of learning, I still spoke terribly but at least my fear had gone. To be honest I think the same thing would've happened no matter when I'd have started. I think this part of speaking can only be done by speaking.


The more you do it, the better you'll get! If you wanna talk to me or anyone else here, I'm sure that especially with this context, that they wouldn't judge you.


I really hope so! I really have to force myself to face this fear. And aw, that's so nice of you! I still have to feel confident enough right now, but I'll probably add my Skype contact in my info :)


Sure! Take it easy. Just know that it's simply a matter of getting used to it, as everybody who speaks a second language will know. It might be super awkward at first, but it's better to experience that and get it over with, then it's a matter of practice.


laugh with new words

with friends and family

helps confidence

in learning

a new language




Hey there! I know exactly where you're coming from because I have had the same problem. Many times I think in the language I want to use but I'm terrified to open my mouth and speak it! I have a friend who is the same way with English. He speaks and understands very well but he's very shy and can hardly say a couple of words, when I know he is more than capable of having a conversation with me.

For example, Spanish is my 3rd language and sometimes when I need to speak it, I "freeze"-- do you know what I mean? I tense up and suddenly the words that were so clear in my head become jumbled in my mouth... It's a terrible feeling.

I have had many people tell me that my Spanish is great when I actually relax and just speak it. And to be clear: your English is amazing!

I used to start mumbling or just refuse to talk in my third language (and sometimes I still do) but I've mostly gotten over it. I was terrible! I simply would not speak. One of my Colombian friends has actually yelled at me a couple of times for my fear of speaking in Spanish -- Come on! Say something! Talk to me in Spanish! You said you would! And I would groan and mumble and change the subject. Until...

It suddenly dawned on me (while I was translating for and helping a bunch of Spanish speakers who don't speak English) that there's nothing to be afraid of! People won't laugh at you. And if they do, their opinion doesn't matter anyways. Do your best! Native speakers are usually super appreciative of the fact that you're working hard to learn their language so they give you extra grace to make mistakes. Everyone I have talked to has been thrilled to help me learn.

Don't be afraid to talk -- open your mouth and let it come out! Pretty soon you'll sound fluent. I know a Colombian who, the first time I met him, would hardly say 2 words to me in English. Now he's fluent. He kept trying, made lots of mistakes, but he wasn't shy!


A place where you can overcome and learn your language is a chat/drawing game from people all over the world called:


It is a free site and I myself play it and meet people all around and become friends!



what is your native language? (update: sorry, your profile says it clearly: Italian)

Sounds kinda familiar to me :-)

Why has it to be an English native speaker?
Anyone who has been training English as a 2nd language for years and is pretty advanced, fluent and has reached a good conversational level should be "good to go with"?!?

Personally I did not follow the "Speak from day 1" rule (I read about it on a Polyglot blog) for my Portuguese learning, so sadly to say, I still don't speak Portuguese after 245 days (and I have not tried italki stuff yet).
And there are still so many grammar skills unfinished...

I repeat TTS audio from answers on DuoLingo and Memrise loudly, but I guess that this does not count for "fast IRC chat writing ("talking")" and "being able to speak", that is to try to put learned vocabulary ("recall") and grammar together and build actively longer and nested sentences?!?

A real English booster in 2005 however for me was a full-time business / advanced English course at Berlitz (full day) where different teachers requested us to speak and ask questions daily in class.
Here are some thoughts about local "language exchange (table) meetups" which I found in my city recently: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/20450828$comment_id=23172254

I think that first conversations with a real teacher probably are the better ones, as bad / stressful experiences may make your situation even worse and put you even more further away from your "active speaking challenge".
I believe in the beginning you would need positive experience.
So maybe something "scripted" (with a little presentation / topic word / lesson help) from a teacher is the better thing to get your first positive experiences instead of online/offline talk and "language exchange groups"?

On the other side:
As you write in the English language quite well and you have already progressed to the DuoLingo level 23, why not just jump into cold water and give it a try on Skype (I would not make too high goals; the higher the goal is, the easier you can fail it)?

How good do you perform on live (IRC) chats?


You have a good english and you will overcome me if I participate with me in a dialogue.Take a deep breath and go on.You will win !


Never be angry with yourself. Remember that we are all different, so you have to respect how you are. Take baby steps to talking with others, being a little more outgoing with each step down the road. As others have said, your written English makes you look like a native English speaker, so I'm sure anybody talking with you would be impressed.

Perhaps finding a native speaker to practice with who is learning another language can help a little with your shyness because that person can be empathetic to your anxiety of speaking a foreign language. If there was a way to chat here, I'd gladly practice with you. I know I certainly need help with my Italian! :)


I am extremely shy, and I know exactly how you feel. It is really difficult to speak a foreign language for the first time. It gets easier. I am always very anxious when I have to speak a foreign language for the first time with new people. Most people are very supportive when you try to speak to them. They don't notice that the grammar and pronunciation are not very good. They are just happy that you are using their language. It's still hard though. I like to practice speaking to myself before I try to say things to other people. I find that helps.

When I was in Japan, the staff in coffee shops used to correct my pronunciation of coffee almost every time I ordered. Once a staff member corrected me 5 times before she would get my order. I still don't know what I was saying wrong, but after a year or so they stopped correcting me, so I guess my pronunciation got better. I didn't stop going to coffee shops, and after a while I could laugh about it.

The first time I tried to speak Arabic, the other person didn't understand me, and they laughed. I didn't try to speak again for years. I regret that. If I had tried again, I am sure my Arabic would be much better. I know my Arabic grammar and pronunciation are horrible, but people understand me. When I speak to people for the first time, they understand me and they don't laugh, but it takes a while before I can speak.

Anyway, I just want to say, keep trying. Try not to let your shyness get in the way of your learning.


I have the same issue with shyness.
I'm learning Spanish and Italian, and although there are no Italian speakers I know of in my area, there are many Spanish speakers, but I have been too shy to talk with any despite the fact that I know probably close to 3,000 words in Spanish.
Your English writing is good. In fact if you had not told us we would not have known you were not a native English speaker.

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