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Overcoming the "Speaking Block"

Updated: Jan 28, 2021

So many learners have the so-called "speaking block," which they describe as being able to understand the language, but not speak it. 😕

Usually, these are intermediate or advanced learners who feel that, although they can understand and read the language (for the most part), something stops them from finding the words to state their thoughts aloud.

Can you relate?

If you’re one of those people who’s struggling to find the words to speak, then let me give you a promise: If you do what I recommend in this article, you will overcome your speaking block in a month or a month and a half max. All it requires is approximately 30 minutes of your time, five days a week. 👍

Are you up for the challenge? 🚀

What causes the speaking block?

Before diving into practical solutions, it's important to understand what causes this so-called "speaking block."

The sad truth is that it all actually stems from your experience learning foreign languages in school; and it's all related to how we are programmed to feel about making mistakes.

How, you ask? Well, think about how languages are taught in school and with other traditional methods. Their method is to teach you to avoid mistakes—your grades depend wholly on the number of mistakes on your tests.

Why is this an issue? 🤔

This is a huge problem. Even though language is a natural part of each of us, we are programmed to believe that if I make mistakes and don't speak "properly," then I'm not worthy of speaking the language at all.

This idea is so powerful. Just think about it for a moment. What the school system did was make you believe that maybe “one day in the future,” you will be worthy of speaking the language—but not yet, because you're still making mistakes.

This is so unnatural

Now think about growing up and "learning" your own mother tongue. You weren't punished for making mistakes. Perhaps your parents corrected your words and sentences when they heard you say something incorrectly, but you were never labeled or made to feel unworthy.

Why? Because making mistakes is the only way to learn—it's the most natural thing ever.

And I can assure you that any serial language-learner will tell you that not being afraid to make mistakes is one of their main keys to success. That goes for me, too!

What can you do to overcome this?

The first step in overcoming the speaking block is understanding where it comes from. Now you understand that it is not your fault. The speaking block was programmed into you by the school system and other traditional methods that labeled you with grades that tamped you down even if you were brave enough to try using the language.

The good news is that it's possible to reprogram that in a fairly short amount of time. In the same way that psychologists reprogram people who are afraid of flying or snakes or heights, we can help to reprogram your mind to lose the speaking block. And as I mentioned at the beginning of this article, it only takes around one to one and a half months.

It might come as a surprise to you that such a speaking block can be easily overcome with daily listening. If you haven’t yet read the article where I discuss why completing daily listening with Speakly’s special exercises is crucial, then read this blog post.

In summary, overcome the speaking block by:

➟ completing Speakly’s special exercises, which contain your target language’s most relevant words and sentences based on your level; and

➟ listening to one exercise for 5 – 7 days in a row. A single listening per day is enough, but two repetitions per day are better!

But how does daily listening affect your speaking block? It doesn't sound right, does it?

As I mentioned before, the speaking block actually comes from a deep fear of making mistakes. Based on studies, it's nothing more than that. Even though you know the words and sentences, you won't say them out loud because you may make a mistake and embarrass yourself. That's it. 💁‍♂️

But how does repetitive daily listening fix that? To answer that, think about the two following cases.

➟ In the first case, you listen to a new listening exercise each day. Or you watch a foreign movie daily.

➟ In the second case, you listen to a single Speakly listening exercise for 5 – 7 days in a row (or better still, twice per day).

Now ask yourself: What message are you giving yourself while doing these things? 👆

I can guarantee that in the first case, you will just reinforce your insecurity and thus the speaking block because when you constantly give yourself new information, you’ll always feel like you don't understand. This method ends up strengthening the speaking block because all of that feeds your insecurities.

In the second case of repetitive listening, you will do the exact opposite. You will program your brain to believe that you are wired to understand the language and you will thus dismantle the insecurities related to making mistakes.

I can't stress enough how vast the effect of such daily repetitive listening is. I see it with Speakly learners every single day; such daily listening is the key for most people to overcome their speaking block and be able to communicate in their target language.

💎 As an additional trick, I always recommend that learners start memorizing whole sentences and paragraphs in the listening exercises as well. And it's actually easy to do.

When you have already listened to a single exercise 7 – 8 times, then its sentences start to stick into your memory. When this happens, take the opportunity to memorize whole phrases and paragraphs, pause the exercise, and try to repeat them out loud with your own voice. This is something that I enjoy doing a lot when learning different languages in Speakly. Try it as well! 😉

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