How to Eliminate Your Self-Doubt and Get Speaking

Today I have another awesome guest post for you. Do you remember the podcast with Jade Joddle, where we talked about introversion and extroversion in language learning? I feel like Jade would love today's guest poster. This is all about how to get out of your own head and be that extrovert you HAVE to be when you want to speak another language. For me as a pretty extroverted person, that fear is weaker than for most people I see. I literally just go up to people and speak terrible Russian/Spanish/Italian. Honestly, I'm embarrassing!

Guest writer Kevin Morehouse is a language coach on a journey to make the world a more multilingual place. Raised as a monolingual English speaker in the United States, Kevin is all too familiar with the struggles of the language learner looking to go beyond English and make the leap from monoglot to polyglot. On his blog Language Hero, Kevin gives actionable tips on mindset, method, and goal-setting that can help intrepid learners escape the language learning labyrinth. You can read more of his work at Language Hero or connect with him on Twitter @Kevin_Morehouse

So let's beat that voice in your head!

get speaking language


It’s the bane of many a language learner. The idea of going up to someone and trying to communicate in a non-native language can be excessively intimidating for some. Every new opportunity to do so unleashes an unrelenting barrage of questions straight from your unconscious:

  • What if I blank out and don't know a word?
  • What if I say something wrong, or unintentionally offensive?
  • What if they laugh at me?
  • What if they can't understand me?

This is self-doubt in its purest form. By unwittingly asking yourself what would happen in the worst-case scenario, you're psyching yourself out from the possibility of success. By answering these questions, you're painting a picture of the worst-possible scenario.

And sadly, if you paint a bleak enough picture, you'll likely never go up to that person and start speaking, no matter how much experience you have.

And if you want to live out your dream of speaking a language confidently, that just won't do.

The problem isn't you, or your "talent" or how much experience you have. The problem here is that you're letting your self-doubt run your mental imagery, and thereby run the show.

We need to take back our mental imagery. Instead of imagining the worst-possible scenario before it happens, we need to change our angle of approach.

We need to go back…wards.

A New Angle on Visualization

Comedian Kyle Cease is no stranger to the paralyzing effect of negative thoughts and visualizations, known to many as performance anxiety.

In order to combat the excess worry that he would feel before going on stage, the comedian found a unique way to reapproach his mental imagery and, in his own words "get out of his own head."

The technique is called Kylegling (kuh-lay-gull-ing), and is best described by Kyle himself in this short video:

The Technique, Step by Step

  1. Notice when you are anxious about the outcome of an event
  2. Instead of thinking about how it will go, imagine yourself in the not-too-far future and begin to imagine how it went.
  3. Mentally construct the best possible outcome you can think of, and load your thoughts with positive emotions. Do this until you start to physically “feel” happier, more positive, and more confident in the present moment.
  4. Once you've built up the outcome in your mind, ask yourself "How did I do it?" and retrace your steps mentally all the way back to the present time.
  5. Use the new information and positive energy gained from this visualization to “get in the zone” and live out the situation as close to your vision as possible.

An Example in Action

You overhear a Spanish speaker walk into your job.

You've been studying Spanish, so you know you need to go over to them and say something.

Instead of psyching yourself with questions of Can I do this? or Will she judge me? you stop, imagine yourself in the future (post-conversation) and think about how well it went.

You imagine yourself going up to her, introducing yourself simply and succinctly, with a smile and a nod.

She smiles back, widely, pleased to have an opportunity to share her language with someone as enthusiastic as yourself.

If you're an experienced learner, you chat back and forth for a bit, maybe exchanging a few laughs, all the while forging a connection. If you're just beginning, you use what Spanish you know, and then, if necessary and/or possible, you explain politely in English why you're so eager to learn Spanish, and how you're going about doing it.

She compliments you on your language skills and your enthusiasm, give you a few friendly tips, and you say your farewells, happy to have met one another.

You come back to reality: You still haven't spoken any Spanish yet, but now you've got an encouraging and positive view of how everything will go.

Then, with the confidence gained from the exercise, you sally forth and start the conversation for real this time, using your mental script to “get in the zone” and guide you through successfully.

Final Thoughts

Even if the situation doesn't go exactly as you mentally planned it, the outcome is likely to be much more successful than it would have been had you kept your focus on the possibility of failure, embarrassment, or rejection.

I’ve used this technique many times to clear my thoughts and offset the pressure that often comes with a new opportunity to test my language skills. It’s worked well for me, and I’m positive you’ll benefit from it as well.

If you’re having trouble getting up the courage to speak, use this method to take control of your inner thoughts and back your way into success.

So, readers:

What do you think?

Have you ever used this or other visualization techniques to get in the zone when learning your using a language?

Please let me know in the comment section below!