Are You Too Shy to Speak English?

Are you too shy to speak English? Cat got your tongue? Are you tongue-tied? If so, you’re probably just shy. These idioms refer to what happens when you want to speak but just can’t get your tongue around the words. Will you ever be able to speak confidently? Of course! Here are some techniques that’ll make it easier to overcome your shyness.

1. Practice out loud.

You’ve heard it before. The only way to improve is to practice. Use English frequently and out loud. Some students practice silently – having conversations only in their heads. But you need to get your mouth used to using the words – and your ear used to hearing them. You can do this anytime – in private, with friends, or through an online conversation class.

2. Plan ahead and warm up.

If you know you have to have a conversation or make a speech in English, think about what you need to say. Practice a few phrases. Get used to the sounds. Then, you’ll be prepared when you need to communicate with someone else.

3. Build confidence by going back to basics.

Shy speakers’ biggest fear is that when they DO speak they’ll sound silly or won’t be understood. So English teachers advise using simple sentence structures. Use phrases that are very basic and familiar to you. When you see that people can understand you, you’ll be ready to move on to more complex ideas. Maybe on paper you’re at an advanced level, but all that knowledge doesn’t help if you can’t speak!

4. Umm and aah.

Do what natives speakers do. If you’re not sure what to say or you forget a word, then pause and insert a verbal pause like “um”, “er”, or “ah”. It gives you a moment to think and indicates to the listener that you’re going to talk. Sometimes all you need is a few “umms” just to get a sound out of your mouth. But be careful not to rely on this too often, or it may become a nervous habit you can’t get rid of!

5. Use an online conversation class.

Online English conversation classes might be the most effective way for shy speakers to improve quickly. You can join in a teacher-led discussion with other students over the web. It’s convenient, but best of all, no one will see you blush! EF English Live is a leader in this field, offering online conversation classes with a professional native-speaking teacher every hour – 24 hours a day. Plus, the classes are small so you have lots of opportunities to speak. All you need is a computer and Internet connection. And you can try the classes for free!