Emotional block in conversation with mother tongue people

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Super Member
Joined: 01.01.2017
Pending moderation

Hello,
I am writing to ask you if you have special strategies to overcome the emotional block that occurs when dealing with a conversation in a foreign language, with someone who is mother tongue - even on the phone.
I think it's not just me.
It happens to work - and it is a nuisance, as if I suddenly forgot words and grammatical rules, - and sometimes even on other occasions.
Thank you all for the attention, and for the suggestions that will eventually arrive

BD

Leader of the Balkan Squad
Joined: 14.10.2016

Would you mind being more specific/giving an example of this phenomenon? I think I know what you mean, but I'm not 100% sure

Joined: 09.04.2017

I think what Berny Devlin is referring to is, no matter how well you know a language, when you have to converse with native speakers, you pretty much shut down. And you forget everything - we briefly discussed this on another forum post.

If this is what they are referring to, I have the same problem.

Editor
Joined: 16.02.2016

You have to tell yourself that the native speaker will appreciate you speaking in their tongue and will expect mistakes, and your mistakes will be OK. The more you do this, and the more your treat the situation as normal and non-special, the easier it becomes. I used to shut down when somebody spoke British English to me (not with American). In order to solve this, I used to imagine many dialogues and scenarios in my head with British speakers, acting them out, playing both sides, doing the greetings, etc.
It helped me, but I don't know if this is the kind of answer you expected.

Leader of the Balkan Squad
Joined: 14.10.2016

It depends on the language for me. For example, I'm perfectly fine when I'm conversing with others in French or Greek, but when I'm speaking Mandarin to native speakers, it gets to be difficult, because my accent is probably deplorable to them.

Super Member
Joined: 13.11.2014

I like what Fantasy said, that tends to help me a lot. Still though I find this to be problematic, even with close friends. Usually I'll start speaking and if I get a "what did you say?" I will lose my confidence and switch back to English just because it's easier. So I really think it depends on who you're speaking to and how much experience they have speaking with foreigners. For example, as an English teacher I'm used to different accents and I can generally assume what the other person is trying to communicate even if the grammar or syntax is lacking. Try to find supportive people to talk with. Try not to take it too seriously.

Father
Joined: 16.11.2015

Take a deep breath - smile - and let your brain relax and your tounge continue.

Super Member
Joined: 01.01.2017

Opulence: you described exactly my problem. There are lot of years that I' ve been studying English, but I can't overcome this trouble...

Super Member
Joined: 01.01.2017

Fantasy: it may be part of the problem. I'm not relaxed, I consider a conversation with a mother tongue as a special occasion, where I don't want to fail, I don't accept to fail, in my unconscious.

Joined: 09.04.2017

Berny, I'm the same way. I'm afraid of making mistakes in front of natives too. My friends are really good about it, and tell me that mistakes are ok, but what if it's a more formal situation like a job interview? That always scares me.

The funny thing is though, when I studied Ferman I had no problem speaking German with my friends in austria and Germany.

Moderator of the Balkans :)
Joined: 07.12.2012

The best advice I can give you as someone having exactly the same struggles a few years ago (and it took me around half a year to overcome them) - accept you'll make mistakes and just speak. As far as the other person understands you, you're fine. The natives (or at least from my own experience with British people) will make an effort to understand you, if they want to have a conversation with you, even if it means repeating the same thing three times. Accept that this is the only way to improve - with the time you'll become more confident, fluent and will even start catching up your mistakes (and others' too).

Also, be easy on yourself and start with people you know better, before jumping on to strangers. What preoccupies you - is it pronunciation, is it grammar, is it vocabulary? A really good exercise for polishing pronunciation is to read out loud for some time every day - I used to do that when I first came to live in the UK, and it made me a lot more confident, so try it, if you have never done it. Good luck!

Super Member
Joined: 01.01.2017

CherryCrush: thank you for your advice, sure I will tray it. My problem is more about words and certain constructs, not my pronunciation.
I do not remember, when I need them.
Also consider that I work with people from the USA, UK, India, and several European countries, who often know English very well - and yet they have different pronunciations, sometimes I just do not understand because they 'run'. They do not make the effort to talk slowly to make them understandable - if they do not repeat it again - they take it for granted. And it is frustrating for me...

Super Member
Joined: 01.01.2017

Steve Repa: in fact I try to control anxiety with a method similar to yours, and at least I can say some words. But I'm not fluent.

Super Member
Joined: 01.01.2017

Bap19891: I think you're right, I take it all too seriously. It's because it's about work, and not always at work there are supportive people .

Super Member
Joined: 01.01.2017

Fantasy: Probably if I had more opportunities to speak out of work would be easier, and I would be able to consider mother-tongue conversations as normal circumstances. With more experience, I should improve. For now, I don't see great results...

Editor
Joined: 16.02.2016

I think the only thing you need to work on is the attitude toward failure. Any new situation might be stressful, and you're not expected to perform in a new situation (for instance giving a lecture) as relaxed and as good as someone who has done it several times. I had similar problems because I've always been an idealist, but I found out, at least in the university context, that those who are courageous to put their work out there with the all the limitations, progress much faster than others. I suggest the following TED talk on vulnerability:
https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCvmsMzlF7o

an a follow-up of that on shame:
https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_listening_to_shame
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psN1DORYYV0

Editor
Joined: 16.02.2016

And about the problem with fast speakers, it's a good idea to ask them to slow down:
"I'm sorry, could you please slow down so that I can understand you clearly?"

Great results will come through practice. Add 1 hour of passive listening into you daily schedule and listen to podcasts and audio material related to the field. Repeat common phrases and sentences many times so that they become fixed in your brain and automatic to an extent.

Super Member
Joined: 01.01.2017

Thank you very much for your suggestions and for the links - I'm starting to open them now. Have a nice day!

Senior Member
Joined: 19.03.2016

No shame, no gain. Just do the foreign language. There will always be one native to nag around but there will eventually be lots of joys with new skills and contacts also . Feel the shame of making mistakes. Then you know you will be the winner of this game.

Super Member
Joined: 01.01.2017

Many thanks! I wish I would feel just so, free to making mistakes, free to learn, without be judged. First of all, my mind is to be convinced...
Ciao e ancora grazie!

Senior Member
Joined: 19.03.2016

( Ho Alfa Romeo!)
As I wrote there will always be a native that is nagging about mistakes. So be! He she is speaking his/ her own language. Easy to nag. As long as you are doing the foreign language, you are the True winner! And there will be a thousand natives that appreciate your skills.
Go ahead! I have decided it is my way of speaking any language, not the native way.
No shame, no gain!

Slavic chrzan
Joined: 16.06.2013

I think that practice makes perfect. When I used to live in the Czech Republic, the my Czech friends wanted to speak with me in English but I refused and insisted to speak in broken Czech with them. They understood and so many weird phrases were uttered that still make us laugh till today. I mean, you can't learn the foreign language without making any mistakes. It's normal and natural and if your language partner doesn't understand it and makes fun of you (friendly jokes excluded of course), maybe you will need to change that partner.

Also, don't let one stupid native to discourage you from learning the language.

Super Member
Joined: 01.01.2017

Thanks Niko. For the time being I have not yet had the chance of working abroad or working abroad long enough to be able to really practice full immersion type. I realize that often more than the bad judgment of somebody else, you are doing bad self-discouragement. Good evening from Italy ps: I really like your logo!

Slavic chrzan
Joined: 16.06.2013

Hey. Regular smile

Thanks for the logo. Made it myself Regular smile Regular smile Regular smile

Anyway, I didn't had such opportunities to work abroad too tbh but I used the power of internet and social media to contact with native speakers. There are a lot of websites where you could practice for free. facebook is the biggest of them. You could find a lot of language practice groups over there. I believe that the best feature of the modern world is that we have the power to connect with each other and Italy is a country where you could find native speakers of different kinds of languages. You just need to find them, take a deep breath and let your mouth do the trick. I know it can be scary and discouraging, I had a similar issue with Greeks and Germans but with the time I found the right people and I have a feeling you will be able to manage too.

Maybe for Czech it helped that I am Bulgarian and we have similar mindsets and it's easier to talk with Czechs for me. Plus, the Czech language is easier for me than for an English native for example (don't get me wrong, Czech is still hard as hell).

Right now I am thinking to start learning Polish, 'cuz I have a lot of friends from Poland... but we'll see. One language at a time Regular smile

You will manage. Don't let the bad natives to discourage you. There are a plenty of those but there are plenty of good natives too Regular smile

Editor and cheeky nitpicker
Joined: 14.09.2013

My first experience was to be dumped in the middle of Berlin with exactly zero French speakers around1. Survival instinct did the job for me.

Now seriously, soon as you find an interlocutor willing to help, all these worries about sounding like an idiot or embarrassing yourself should vanish as if by magic.
People usually like to be helpful, unless adverse circumstances (pressure at work, mostly) gnaw at them and spoil their mood.
You're actually doing them a favour, allowing them to show care and kindness in exchange for no more than a bit of their time.

  • 1. At the time the only means of talking to a Frenchman was plain old immobile phone, and that was not cheap either for a little student. Those were the days...
Super Member
Joined: 01.01.2017

Grazie infinite! Perhaps are you an artist, have you studied design or graphic?
I don't use Facebook, for a lot of reasons included that I don't want that Mr. Zuckerberg enrich with my data without any effort on his part .It is a very superficial world from the little I have understood and attended, the hard to have true contacts, the easier to harass. I prefer spaces like this, or as you say, I'll have to look for some forums. I also have little time to devote to studying languages. I was almost thinking about pointing to a method ... the Pimsleur, they say it works, but it costs a lot of money. I have not decided yet.
About Czech, maybe I know the only one of them being out of the reach of languages. It's been in Italy for a long time and still has a lot of problems, sometimes it gives you the impression that you do not understand when you talk to her. Yet he understands and a little talk about Russian, Bulgarian, Slovak, Croatian ... in return is quite a landslide with English and German. I grew up with the myth of the Slavs with the gift of languages, for me it was a surprise. I'm a little consoled ... Good day!
And if you decide to study Italian, I'm here, if you need material, links to start...

Super Member
Joined: 01.01.2017

You are perfectly right. In fact my problems arrive mostly at works, where I'm surrounded by English mother tongue - a lot of Americans among them - who literally 'run' when they are speaking. Without any care for foreign audience.

Editor and cheeky nitpicker
Joined: 14.09.2013

Been there, done that.

I worked in the UK for nearly a year, and it was just the usual shitty problems as in France or about anywhere in this globalized world of ours : power struggles, money struggles, ego struggles, productivist crap, corporate bullshit, etc. I had to cope with a couple of jerks placed in roles that consisted of killing me (symbolically of course. What do you think we were, savages?), becoming an utter jerk myself in the process, naturally.

Luckily that was only a minor aspect of my job profile. I only felt about 10% of an utter jerk, nothing a couple of beers can't cure. My appalling French accent was just one weapon among many at their disposal to try and get the better of me. Actually, my accent was the least of my worries. I only worked on it to the point of being able to order crisps in a pub and mostly get the expected flavour.

The rest of the time, I found half a dozen colleagues who were put in places where mutual hostility was not considered a job requirement, and we got along pretty well.