Cat got your tongue?
You just want to relax, have a good time and chat with Spanish-speaking friends—but you get hopelessly tongue-tied.
That’s the xenoglossophobia acting up.
Did that sound even worse than you imagined? Well, don’t worry—that’s not the name of a horrific, body-ravaging disease.
Let me explain. You’ve taken classes and you’ve practiced at home, but how do you fare when it comes to speaking with natives?
You may find that when you’re face-to-face with a native Spanish speaker, you’re so nervous that you can’t even utter a “¿Cómo estás?” let alone actually carry a conversation.
That, my friend, is xenoglossophobia.
Most language learners will at some point experience it—a feeling of unease, anxiety, worry or apprehension when using a foreign language. You may feel afraid of making a mistake, stress over not being able to speak quickly enough or worry that you won’t understand the responses.
If this is you, don’t fret. You aren’t alone.
When this fear bubbles up, you may feel tempted to bite your tongue and wait to speak next time when you’ve had more time to practice. But, if you’re serious about learning Spanish, then you don’t want to miss any opportunity to speak.
Below are 16 tips to help beat your fear and boost your confidence in your Spanish-speaking abilities.
How to Master Spanish Pronunciation
If you want to become a Spanish-speaking master, you’re going to have to first master pronunciation.
Perhaps the reason you’re so afraid to speak is that you have a strong accent. Or, because you aren’t sure you’re saying certain words correctly.
The good news is, mastering Spanish pronunciation isn’t difficult.
While there are many dialects and accents throughout Spain, Latin America and other Spanish-speaking locations, there are a few basic rules that all countries follow.
Spanish is a phonetic language, which makes speaking a snap.
Phonetic languages allow learners to learn each letter’s individual sound. Once you know the particular sounds, it’s easy to sound out any word.
Do you remember learning how to read when you were a child? Chances are you sounded words out, letter by letter. Spanish language learners can do that very same thing with absolute success.
When you’re practicing speaking Spanish, watch out for the special pronunciation marks that are used, particularly tildes and accent marks.
A tilde is that funny squiggle you see in a few words that have an N in them. The tilde over the N turns an ordinary N into a different-sounding letter.
That’s right, the tilde gives an ordinary N a pronunciation superpower so it’ll sound different from any ordinary N.
Also, Spanish uses accent marks.
They may look menacing, but they’re very helpful!
The thing to remember with Spanish accent marks is that they show us where to put the stress in a word when we speak. Wherever the accent mark appears is the point of stress.
So place the stress on the syllable that includes an accent mark and you’ll be good to go!
How to Speak Spanish with Confidence: 21 Ways to Beat Your Fear and Just Start Speaking
1. Take Spanish Classes
Taking Spanish courses in person is one of the quickest ways to learn and practice new vocabulary. To boost your confidence and increase your learning, refrain from speaking any language other than Spanish during class, even if you feel tempted to ask a question in your native tongue.
You might also consider taking one-on-one lessons if you’d like a little extra attention during class. You can search for Spanish classes and conversation groups in your local area with meetup.com or consider taking a Skype lesson if there aren’t any classes being offered near you.
To find an online Spanish tutor, Verbling is a great place to start the search. You can filter by all the important things, like availability, price and region.
2. Watch Movies and Telenovelas
Watching movies and telenovelas in Spanish is a great way to familiarize yourself with conversational dialogue. Even if you’re a beginner, you should still be able to pick up a wealth of information from visual cues and body language.
You might also try watching with subtitles to help improve your understanding. The more you watch, the more you’ll become familiar with the accent and tone of voice commonly used in Spanish. The more Spanish you hear, the more confident you’ll be when it comes time for you to speak.
FluentU is one great place to watch authentic videos with subtitles.
Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the Spanish language and culture over time. You’ll learn Spanish as it’s actually spoken by real people.
FluentU has a wide variety of videos topics, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive transcripts. You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used.
Plus, if you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can add it to a vocab list.
Review a complete interactive transcript under the Dialogue tab, and find words and phrases listed under Vocab.
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s robust learning engine. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It'll even remind you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re studying with the same video.
3. Listen to Music and Sing in Spanish
Have you ever noticed that it’s much easier for your brain to remember something when put to a song? To help increase your vocabulary and to better familiarize yourself with the language, start listening to music in Spanish as much as possible.
Listen with the lyrics in front of you so you can sing along. Try memorizing the lyrics and practice speaking them as well as singing them. Doing this won’t only prove to be an enjoyable practice, but it’ll also help boost your confidence and make you feel more comfortable speaking in Spanish.
You can watch music videos in Spanish on FluentU or create your own Spanish music station on Pandora or Spotify.
4. Start Thinking in Spanish
There’s no doubt about it, once you can successfully think in Spanish, you’ll find that your confidence in your speaking ability will drastically increase. It’s easy to feel nervous when you find yourself stumbling for words and thinking too long about what to say next.
In the early stages of learning a language, you have to translate what you want to say in your head before you speak, which can make it difficult to carry a conversation at a regular pace. Fortunately, this process gets easier the more you’re exposed to the language. Eventually, you’ll find yourself able to think in Spanish without having to translate first.
To move this process along, try making comments to yourself in Spanish throughout the day, even if it’s simple commentary (i.e. La playa es bonita, Hace fresco or Tengo hambre).
You might also consider keeping a daily journal in Spanish. By writing down your daily thoughts in Spanish, you’ll start to train your brain to think in Spanish as well as your native language.
5. Read out Loud
Another effective way to boost your Spanish speaking confidence is to start reading to yourself out loud in Spanish. Try waiting until after you’ve finished a paragraph before you look up any words.
In doing so, you’ll allow the words to flow out of your mouth more naturally, which will help you prepare for the authentic flow of a real conversation. Try reading books, magazines or newspapers in Spanish. You can also find many Spanish websites and blogs online as well.
If you’re up to the challenge, try reading the world news in Spanish from El Tiempo.
6. Record Yourself Speaking Spanish
Try recording yourself having a conversation or reading in Spanish. By recording yourself and playing it back, you’ll have a chance to hear what you sound like and notice if there’s any room for improvement. Consider recording yourself on a regular basis so you can track your progress.
7. Get a Language Buddy
Having a language partner to practice with will encourage and inspire you to start speaking more. You can practice with another language learner so you feel more comfortable making mistakes or try practicing with a native speaker who can help correct you. Don’t be shy when speaking with native speakers.
Most people will be glad you have taken an interest in their language, so they’ll likely be patient and won’t mind slowing down the pace a bit for you. If you don’t know someone to practice with, try finding a partner using italki.
And we already did discuss hiring a private tutor earlier, so it that’s something you’re interested in, you can look for a private Spanish tutor on this platform as well.
8. Educate Yourself on Common Mistakes
Most anxieties and insecurities are due to a lack of understanding and awareness of the Spanish language. If you familiarize yourself with the common mistakes Spanish language learners make, you’ll feel more knowledgeable and thus more comfortable when speaking.
For starters, brush up on the differences between por and para as well as ser and estar, and don’t forget to study the subjunctive.
9. Learn New Vocabulary Every Single Day
It’s hard to feel confident speaking in Spanish if you don’t have a strong vocabulary. Help increase your confidence by making it a point to learn new Spanish words every single day.
You can learn new words simply by reading a book or magazine and looking up the unfamiliar words you come across. You might also consider using flashcards to help you remember new words and phrases.
10. Adopt a Beginner’s Mindset
When learning anything new, it’s best to adopt a beginner’s mindset. Maintain a positive attitude and eagerness to learn no matter how difficult the process becomes for you.
Make friends with failure and accept that mistakes are part of the process. If you’ve never made a mistake, then you’ve never tried anything new.
11. Have Ready-made Phrases to Use in Conversation
Try the phrasebook approach and have ready-made phrases available in your mind for you to use at the drop of the hat. Consider studying common and useful Spanish phrases that you may find useful in daily conversation and activities.
You could also, quite literally, take the phrasebook approach and buy yourself a Spanish phrasebook. You already know about Lonely Planet—they make a killer Spanish phrasebook, and you could even opt for one with an extra feature like audio files or app access.
12. Listen Carefully (Especially to Native Speakers)
If you want to increase your speaking confidence, start listening attentively, particularly to native speakers. By listening carefully, you’ll learn how to use words correctly, become familiar with slang terms and get a feel for what a natural Spanish accent sounds like. A general rule of thumb is: The more you listen, the better you’ll speak!
13. Use Alcohol (in Moderation) to Calm Your Nerves
You might find yourself to be a bit more courageous after a glass of wine or a pint of beer. An alcoholic drink or two (in moderation) may be just the boost you need to help you feel confident enough to speak despite any fear or embarrassment. Go out with a few Spanish-speaking friends and loosen up!
Having a nice glass of wine with a Spanish-speaking friend is a great way to relax and practice your language skills at the same time.
And if you don’t drink, no worries!
There are tons more ways to calm your nerves before diving into a Spanish conversation—like meditating, loosening up by jamming out to some Spanish music or simply hanging out with a close Spanish-speaking friend in a relaxed, non-public setting.
14. Immerse Yourself in Spanish
Sometimes the best way to increase your confidence is to put yourself in a situation where you have no other choice but to put yourself out there and go for it. If you immerse yourself in a Spanish-speaking country, you’ll find that you have no choice but to speak Spanish in certain situations.
While you may feel scared silly the first few times you ask for directions, after a while it’ll become second nature to you. You’ll feel your confidence start to soar.
If you aren’t able to move or travel to a Spanish-speaking country, try joining a Spanish-speaking community in your local area or find a comparable online network such as My Language Exchange.
15. Practice, Practice, Practice
Be persistent. Practice may not make perfect, but it certainly makes progress. There’s no doubt that the more experienced you are at something, the more confident you’ll feel doing it. Make it a habit to practice Spanish every single day and, within a few short weeks or months, you’ll be a poised and confident speaker.
16. Just Say Something Already!
The sooner you face your fear and start talking, the sooner you’ll improve. It’s that simple.
17. Become a Stealthy Speaker By Learning to Shadow
Learn how to speak Spanish by becoming a proficient shadowing learner. You might feel like a spy in a Spanish drama series (I know I did when I first tried this!) but it’s a great method for powering up speaking skills—and it’s a lot of fun, too!
Shadowing—also called “parroting”—is a language learning technique that encourages speaking right from the beginning stages of learning. The trick is to repeat what you hear immediately after you hear it. Don’t be concerned with getting everything “right”—just repeat and watch your skills grow!
FluentU is an ideal resource for shadowing materials. The authentic video clips, movie trailers, news and inspirational talks provide engaging, interesting and short bursts of Spanish learning. All of which make for great shadowing materials!
18. Join a Spanish-Speaking Social Club
There are as many types of clubs as there are personalities. Some of us like sports clubs. Others, gaming clubs or special-interest clubs. Painting, drama, dancing—all of those activities have clubs associated with them.
It makes sense to join a club, have some fun, form new friendships and become a confident Spanish conversationalist. The key here is to locate a club that speaks primarily in Spanish. It’s not terribly hard to do if you check out university or library club listings.
But if that’s not possible, why not consider forming your own club?
Paint, sing, participate in a Spanish play—the benefits are endless when you get together with other Spanish language speakers and learners.
Estreno Contemporary Spanish Plays offers many plays to get you started! And if you’re thinking about dancing, why not peruse the 50 Hot Spanish Party Songs to get moving!
19. Your Phone Is Your BFF—Use It All the Time
Let’s be real here: we don’t leave home without our BFFs.
No, I’m not talking about your childhood friend—I’m referencing that bit of technology that’s either in your purse, backpack or hand 24/7. If you’re like me, your phone is nearby even when you’re at home.
With such a close buddy constantly at your side, it would be silly not to use this to your advantage. Load it with Spanish language apps and you’ll be able to fill every spare minute with learning.
Think about translation and travel apps that would be super beneficial. Then, if you decide to take a trip you’ll have language skills as well as the advantage of knowing which sights to check out!
If you need to know how to speak Spanish fluently, just give yourself opportunities to speak. Use that phone, get speaking and learning time in and see what a difference it makes.
20. Don’t Try to Be Fancy
I know, we all want to impress others—and ourselves!—with some slick language skills.
But if you want to become fluent and speak with confidence, stick with basic conversational skills (or whichever skills are appropriate for your level).
It’s essential to get those foundational skills down before you move on, such as getting your verb conjugations on point. Conjuguemos is a super resource for conjugation practice!
Next, make sure you’re conscious of the simple grammar rules when you speak. And lastly, build a super core vocabulary that you can draw from during your chit chats with Spanish friends.
Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of the basics when we’re learning how to speak Spanish. But it’s those basic skills that allow us to become fluent!
21. Have a Love Affair with Spanish Culture
Speaking Spanish with ease is so much more enjoyable if you’re enthusiastic about all things Spanish. That means you should learn about the culture as well as the language—which is a fabulously exciting adventure!
Spanish cultures are steeped in amazing historical facts, have made incredible artistic contributions to the global collective and showcase some of the most beautiful places on earth.
Fostering a closeness with the culture makes understanding the language easier, and since we want to learn about what we love, I suggest falling in love with Spanish culture.
You’ll learn so much and your language skills will show that Spanish isn’t just a language you speak, but a love affair you’ve cultivated!
What are you waiting for? Start speaking!
Brittany Tackett, MA is a freelance writer, tutor, transformational life coach, world traveler and Spanish language enthusiast. She took her first Spanish course at the age of 14 and has been fascinated with the language and culture ever since. Learn more about Brittany and her services on her website.
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