foreign languages and social anxiety

Throughout high school I took American Sign Language (ASL) classes and absolutely loved it. I had never been much of a language learner and ASL was the perfect fit. 

My friends took speaking languages and constantly complained about the Spanish or French teachers. They all happened to be mean and expect a lot from kids who really didn’t care. It would have ruined my GPA.

I started college and began a track that wouldn’t require a language. All was well until I changed majors and began to work towards a B.A. instead of a B.S. This meant- four semesters of a foreign language. It was not the best news, but I knew it would be fine since I loved learning ASL anyway. Well, wrong. ASL is not an option, but it seems as if every other language was. I chose Spanish and began to pray for an understanding teacher. 

Social anxiety can be very difficult to manage when speaking English, let alone a new language. I already get nervous and end up with this half lisp half stutter thing happen. I spent all summer before the semester thinking about ways to help that. I didn’t know how I would speak Spanish without panicking and messing up. 

I thought up a list to help me survive Spanish. I am very lucky and one of my favorite professors is my Spanish professor. I altered my survival list in case you don’t know your professor or have one that may not be able to help as much. 

  1. Study your butt off. There are so many free apps on your phone to help. Flash cards are great too, but I find more resources on Quizlet! Plus it saves time so you don’t have to write it all out. If you aren’t finding the resources you need, ask around. Other students, your professor, the head of department, or anyone that would be familiar with learning a foreign language. I look up YouTube videos to help with grammar a lot!
  2. Breathe before a presentation. You need oxygen to live, so when you don’t breathe you get a little dizzy or faint. This means you NEED to practice breathing to calm your nerves and keep you standing up straight in anxious situations. Here is the breathing strategy I do before presentations, work outs, bed time, and any other time I need it. 
  3. Talk to the people next to you. MAKE FRIENDS! The more people you know the more help you can get. It can be so hard to raise your hand and speak in front of the whole class and some teachers even ask you to ask in the language you’re learning. Whispering to the person next to you or getting their number to text later is a lot more comfortable. It may be hard at first to reach out to them, but remember that you are all in the same boat. Everyone is learning a new language with you!
  4. Email and ask your professor questions. They know things, that’s why they are teaching you! If you need any help or have any questions that will set you up for success. The more you get to know your professor the more they’ll be able to help. If they see you try they’ll put in the same effort in helping you. 
  5. Listen to Spanish music. This sounds random, but it’s helped me! Listen to whatever language you’re learning and the sounds will start to stick. I am starting to understand the flow of words and how to really get my r sound down. That whole rolling of the tongue thing is a bit beyond my abilities. Music has definitely helped though!

Languages are important to know and will provide more opportunities. Employers love applicants that know more than one language. It’ll also expand your cultural horizon as you can connect with non-English speakers and immerse yourself in a new community.
Study hard and stick with it. I never imagined I would enjoy Spanish, but here I am wanting to learn it. Three cheers for determination!

If you need a little motivation read this quote. It sticks true to learning something new!