speak English

Feel the fear, and do it anyway!

I’d like to tell you a true story….

With my English students, I used to do a task where we would go out onto the streets of Portsmouth and I’d make them speak English to strangers. It was a simple task. They had 8 English expressions that they didn’t know and they had to find 8 different strangers and ask each stranger to explain the meaning of an expression.

The experience was always exactly the same with every group I did this task with. A couple of my students would be confident and ready to go. However, most of my students were really nervous. They were hard-working in the classroom (always writing down grammar rules and vocabulary in their notebooks) but the thought of actually speaking to a real English person made them feel shy and shaky! I said to them:

Don’t worry. Most English people are very friendly. Avoid anyone with a can of beer in their hand! What’s the worst that can happen?!”

After a bit of persuading, they went off and tried the task. As I said earlier, the experience was always the same. Every student came back absolutely buzzing! They were so happy that they’d had REAL English conversations with REAL English people. And they were so proud of themselves for overcoming their fear. Another great result was that they never forgot those 8 English expressions because they had learnt them in a memorable situation.

Very occasionally, the strangers ignored my students or said something rude but it didn’t matter because the positivity of the experience outweighed any negative comments. In fact, any rude comments were just extra English vocabulary and my students all laughed about them! They gained confidence about communicating and had a lot of fun!

So, what is my message?

You might be working really hard and writing down lots of English grammar rules and new vocabulary, but the important thing is to USE the language. As I said in a previous post, it doesn’t matter if you make mistakes – speak anyway! You will feel so proud of yourself and you WILL improve your English.

Here are a few ideas to make you speak English to strangers:

  • Ask somebody what time it is
  • Tell somebody you like their jacket and ask where they bought it
  • Ask somebody for information about the local area
  • Ask somebody for directions
  • Ask somebody to recommend a place for dinner nearby

So the next time you have an opportunity to speak English, feel the fear and then do it! Remember: What’s the worst that can happen?!

Do you think YOU could speak English with strangers now? I’d love to know your thoughts on this! Scroll down and leave me a comment 🙂


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Nicki is a Cambridge qualified, experienced English teacher for foreign learners. She loves helping English learners to learn real English and communicate with confidence!

6 thoughts on “Feel the fear, and do it anyway!

  1. Hi Nicki,
    I love to read the true story!
    Yes, of course, it is really effective way to improve our speaking skill.
    But I don’t think I could speak English with strangers 😣. It would be freak me out! 😂
    But I have a good chance to speak with English speakers as I am an Auditor and have some foreign clients.
    Thank you Nicki,
    Have a great day!

    1. Haha! You could do it Thiri I’m sure 😀
      That’s great that you get the opportunity to practise your speaking skills at work!
      I’m pleased you enjoyed my story. Thanks so much for the feedback!

  2. I agree completely with your article Nicki! I was recently in Spain and had to phone to book a table at a restaurant. I nearly chickened out, but I prepared for the call and then did it, and it worked really well which made me feel fantastic!

    1. I love that example Daniel – It really does feel amazing when you have a successful conversation in another language 🙂 It’s definitely a good idea to prepare a bit for phone calls too as sometimes your mind can just go blank in the moment. Well done for giving it a go! Oh, and ‘chickened out’ is a great phrase!

  3. Excellent Nicky, there is in the bible a little passage called Josue 1:9, It says: Look, I send you to strive and be brave, do not faint or be afraid, because I am Jehovah your God who accompanies you wherever you go . I wanted remember it and sharing with you and the others students.
    Have a wonderful time!

    1. I’m so glad this article resonated with you Jimy and reminded you of a passage you like! Thank you for sharing it with us 🙂

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