Anxiety /æŋˈzajəti/ noun
The fear or nervousness that something (usually bad) might happen.

At some point, I have asked all my English-language students the question, Does your English improve when you’ve had a few (alcoholic) drinks?

The answer is always a definite YES!

Of course is does; a few single-malt scotches or a couple of pints of Guinness, and my terrible Russian/French/Spanish becomes quite a bit better.

There’s even research on the subject. British and Dutch researchers conducted a study, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, that demonstrates that people really do speak more fluently after a low dose of alcohol — even when they don’t think so themselves.

The phenomenon is known as language anxiety. Language anxiety is the fear that we have of making mistakes, having people laugh at us, having teachers shout at us, losing our status in our group, and/or failing to be perfect. There are two separate parts of being fluent in English: knowing and doing. While you can’t “do” English if you don’t know it, you can definitely know English but not be able to do it. I’ve seen this situation a lot.

My observations are from students who have spent years memorizing, repeating, and studying complicated grammar structures (most of which they will never use). And yet they freeze when it’s time to speak in English, especially with a native-speaker. Language anxiety is a huge obstacle to people becoming fluent in English because there is no point knowing English if you can’t do it.


Who suffers from English Language Anxiety?


First of all, it depends on your personality: extroverts suffer less than introverts. But it also depends on other factors: women suffer less than men (most cultures teach women to be comfortable admitting to not knowing something but teach men to feel like they have to know everything), younger people suffer less than older people, and easy-going people suffer less than perfectionists. Basically, everybody but a handful of people suffer from language anxiety…

How To Overcome English Language Anxiety


As wonderful as it might sound, having all of your English lessons in a pub isn’t very practical. But there are some things you can do to make sure your English program effectively tackles this very real problem:

1. With the exception of the first few months of studying English (Beginner/pre-A1), ALL of your English study should be conducted only in English. Unfortunately, most English teachers are too lazy to do this.

2. A stress-free, encouraging, and inclusive classroom environment. This usually occurs in private English-language programs, but I have walked out of classroom observations at schools and universities because the teacher was angry and abusive to students. Losers like these need to be fired.

3. Daily English-speaking practice. If you want to overcome language anxiety (and improve your pronunciation and rhythms), you should speak English every day. The more you do it, the easier it will become. When your brain finally realizes that there are no real consequences to making mistakes, you’ll make great progress in your English speaking abilities. Part of my Ideal English Fluency Program involves daily conversations with speaking partners.

4. Exposure to native-speakers as early as possible. While almost all students have a degree of language anxiety speaking English in general, they have “language terror” when it comes to speaking with a native speaker. The only way to overcome this problem is to start speaking with native-English speakers as early in your English program as possible.

5. Mix it up. Daily English-speaking practice with native and non-native speakers is essential, but you must speak with as many different people as possible. If you only have one or two speaking partners and the same teacher, you will probably find yourself with a common problem: you overcome language anxiety with these people, but you still freak out and freeze up when trying to speak to someone new. The more people you speak English with, the more likely you are to get over language anxiety. One of the effective aspects of my Ideal English Fluency Program is that we rotate our native-speaking mentors.

So there you have it. Incorporate these suggestions, and you will see a great improvement in the speaking part of you English fluency journey. And if your interested in a non-traditional but highly-effective way to become fluent in English, check out my Fluency Program.