Speak with Confidence: How to Stop Feeling Embarrassed about Your German
Feeling embarrassed of your German?
I know that stupid feeling of deciding to say nothing rather than being embarrassed. And although you are so motivated and passionate to learn the language and demonstrate your efforts, in that moment of a real life conversation when you are among these fast speakers, it feels like you’ve forgotten all of your vocabulary and the words just don’t come out of your mouth. So you prefer to say nothing.
Anybody recognize themselves? (My hand raised.)
Very few people haven’t been in this situation before. Or at least they are great pretenders.
Most of us (especially adult learners) really worry about how we’re going to be perceived by others and certainly don’t want to look like “this idiot who needs 5 minutes to bring out a one line sentence”.
So it feels embarrassing and annoying at the same time; because on the one hand we would so much like to act normally and show people who we really are (nice, funny, thoughtful, intelligent, interesting, …).
On the other hand, we’re worried that we look childish, stupid, quiet, unsocial, slow and just completely the opposite of who we really are. Or at least we think we do.
There are thousands of reasons for that
I certainly felt like this when I first started to speak in German, English and Russian for a variety of reasons:
- I learned the language using non-communicative methods
- I was self-conscious because I learned on my own and wasn’t sure about the right pronunciation
- I had the perfect native pronunciation, but was inventing words that didn’t exist.
It wasn’t until I became a German teacher hat I realized how important it is to be proud of what you know. In fact, my strong wish to help my students overcome this initial language embarrassment made me want to act on my own advice.
So this is…
What I did in order to overcome my initial embarrassment
There are 2 things that I experienced personally that will actually help you to start communicating more easily.
1. “Fake it until you become it”
Inspired by Amy Cuddy’s great TED talk (which you can watch here), I learned two universal truths:
1. You have to accept that the initial discomfort is part of the journey.
2. Discomfort (or being out of your comfort zone) can be overcome only with courage.
It’s like riding a rollercoaster. You know that it’s going to be scary and you go for the adrenalin.
It’s like climbing a mountain. You know you’ll be sweaty and tired, but the view from the top and the feeling of accomplishment is gonna be worth it.
It’s like having a baby. You know it’s gonna be hard and challenging, but you’ll be sooo proud of the final result.
So take a deep breath, accept that discomfort and keep telling yourself:
Let’s go for the adrenalin.
It’s gonna be worth it.
I’ll be sooo proud of the final result.
2. “Shine bright like a diamond”
Annette, a student of mine, shared a great story about a colleague of hers who just arrived in Germany two weeks ago and was trying to speak or at least say the couple of phrases she knew in German.
Annette thought: “Wow, she’s been here for such a short period of time and is sooo proud of the couple of words she can say; and I've been learning German for 3 years am still avoiding speaking to Germans in German.”
My response to this:
“It’s time to stop feeling embarrassed and START TO SHINE BRIGHT LIKE A DIAMOND”.
This is 20.5 % of Germany’s population!
And we are not talking about all the visitors and hundreds of thousands of foreigners who come for business, study or work.
So, as you may or may not have noticed yet, you with your foreign accent are absolutely not alone in this mixing pot of multi-culti
What you can do about it?
Be proud of who you are and the efforts you are putting into learning the language and learning from the culture.
Because language and intercultural skills are some of those things that you don’t just do for yourself.
There are other things you can do for yourself, but learning a foreign language is a skill that is there to connect you with others.
So shine bright with your skills, efforts and struggles. Because you know what Germans appreciate most: when someone puts the effort to do something.
And you know what they don’t tolerate at all: Lazy people!
While it is ok to SOMETIMES fall back into English, don’t miss a chance to shine with your German, demonstrating how hard you’re trying.
The more you try, the easier it will get.
Speak German and become an inspiration for the others around you.
I'm proud of you!