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Public Speaking in a foreign language
According to research carried out by Chapman University in Irvine, California, Americans’ biggest fear above 8-legged creepy crawlies and other common phobias, is public speaking.
To use its official term, glossophobia, sufferers experience symptoms like sweaty palms, increased heartbeat and rapid breathing. These classic signs tap into our natural “fight or flight” response in life-threatening situations.
This reaction to public speaking is a common issue we often witness with language learners. Business people who feel at ease communicating via email may break out into a sweat when speaking in a second language, often irrespective of their competence level.
Why is it so scary? Many say they fear making mistakes and looking inadequate in front of colleagues or native speakers. They feel judged and evaluated, as speaking is much more intimate than writing.
Not showcasing your skills
These fears are limiting. Many people simplify their language to feel “safe”. When they avoid the use of more complex phrases they run the risk of being misunderstood. On a personal level this is a potential waste of talent and under-selling of an individual’s true ability. From a company’s point of view, if an employee’s performance is hesitant or unclear, it could affect interactions with clients or colleagues.
Your worst fear can become your greatest strength
Greatness comes from facing a fear and redirecting its energy. As author Susan Jeffers says, “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” Anxious speakers are tempted to avoid using English in meetings or pass up opportunities to attend important conferences. Strength comes from confronting the monster in the closet and, as we know, the monster is actually never there when you look! Once they have stepped out of their comfort zone, learners can realise their true potential.
Now, what’s the next step? In practical terms, how can you channel your anxiety into increased confidence and improve your speaking skills? Check out tomorrow’s post for some valuable advice!