Learning to speak a foreign language and confidence do not seem like concepts that belong together. If you are learning German and someone asks you to speak in German, the only time you are likely to feel confident in your abilities is if that person does not speak German. From the different pronunciations to the intimidating articles, there is so much to consider that speaking in German makes most of us very self conscious.
The best way to learn to speak German is to learn to speak with confidence. Being shy about it makes it much harder to learn. Of course, it is easy to say, "Stop being concerned about making mistakes and just speak," but it is not nearly so easy to do. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to build the confidence you need to boost your German language learning.
Don't Wait to Speak - Find a Native Speaker
The best people to teach you a new language are native speakers. They are also the people who make you feel a lot more self-conscious because they are going to know when you are wrong.
Instead of using this as a reason to avoid speaking, use the opportunity to talk with a native speaker to bump your German understanding up to the next level. One of the reasons you can quickly find a German native speaker is that they don't allow their lack of knowledge of English to keep them from speaking in English.
Speaking with someone who exhibits some degree of confidence can actually help you to get over your own shyness. It is also incredibly easy to find a language partner today with several apps that make it easy to find a native speaker seeking a language partner to improve their English.
Time Your Conversations
Finding a language partner is the first step. Native German speakers usually are not shy about speaking in English, exuding a confidence that is enviable. It is easy to get comfortable speaking with the native German speaker in English. Since your partner seems to be comfortable, you get lulled into sticking to speaking only in English.
This is why it is important to establish a time frame for speaking in each language. If you only have 10 minutes to talk, evenly divide the time between English speaking and German speaking. Your German language partner will definitely help you to stick to the time constraints because he or she is going to want to be in their comfort zone for some of the conversation. Just as you are more than happy to relax in your knowledge of English and will correct them, your partner will enjoy getting to relax in German to help you.
Learn a Few Phrases and Practice Them
Repetition is actually key, and all languages have a few key phrases that you will use. Introductions are handy year round, but learning holiday greetings and phrases is more exciting and during the right time of year or event, you will get plenty of opportunity to use these phrases.
There is a reason why classes, apps, and all other language learning tools teach students to use introductory phrases because you can start to use them immediately. This encourages you to start speaking as soon as you start learning the language.
Don't Be Shy - Mistakes Are Your Best Tool
Another thing that is easy to say, but not quite so easy to do, getting over being shy and self-conscious doesn't happen overnight. The desire to not look foolish prevents a lot of people from speaking a new language.
When learning German though, those mistakes are your best tools. The best time to make mistakes is when you are speaking with a native speaker because the corrections are much more memorable. They also tend to give you an explanation for why it is wrong.
Slow and Steady Is Fine
You should start talking as soon as you start learning German, but that doesn't mean rush ahead and try to learn more than you can actually retain. Learning a language is not a race, it's a skill, similar to learning to play a new instrument.
If you are taking a class, you can feel like you are making progress by your grade on the tests. However, the real way to gauge your progress is your comfort level. If you are speaking German and are less self-conscious, that means you are focusing on the language instead of on trying to speak German.
When you are more comfortable with speaking, you will be more confident as you learn.
Focus on Your Words, Not Your Accent
A mistake that most people make when they are learning a new language is in imitating the accents associated with the language. Pronouncing the words correctly is important (pronouncing a word incorrectly can change the meaning), but that is not the same as trying to sound like a native.
Confidence is not built by having the right accent. You are more likely to be mistaken for a native speaker when you are able to speak the language with confidence than if you are imitating a particular accent.
Use Words You Know to Express Your Ideas
It definitely takes time to build up a substantial vocabulary. Trying to come up with the perfect word is a distraction that will also reduce your confidence in your ability to speak German.
Don't break down and start speaking English to ask what word you need. Keep using German to ask what word you need. Or better yet, use your existing vocabulary to say what you want to say. You don't need one specific word most of the time. By being more flexible in your vocabulary, you will get a better familiarity with the language.
Don't Be Afraid to Be Confident
Confidence is a great tool for learning any skill, but this is particularly true when learning a new language. The confidence you exude is noticeable as you speak. People you are talking to will feel that confidence and usually that means they will want to talk to you again.
This is not the same thing as being cocky or conceited. You want to be confident without being overbearing. For example, you don't want to argue with a native speaker or someone who is a more advanced speaker. If you think something was said or written incorrectly, ask. They will either acknowledge that you are right or they can explain why you are wrong. Take this gracefully, even demonstrating that you have learned by working what you have learned into a different example. This will show that you are interested in learning and that the correction is another memorable lesson.