Monday, February 22, 2010

Monday Writers Craft Online: Beat Stagefright

"How do we inspire our self and look confident all the time when we are in public? I can speak english but when i face people who speaks english better,i get nervous. My tongue get twisted and my pronountiation sucks at those times!"

When I speak Spanish (and it's pretty horrible Spanish) I am not embarrassed because I reckon that speaking someone else's language badly is better than not speaking it at all.

When we lived in Burgo de Osma, a village in the north of Spain, people used to crowd round me just to hear my horrible Spanish.

Knowing full well that "pala" can mean "stick" as well as "penis", I delighted them with "pala por andar" or "a stick for walking" meaning "walking stick". Turns out the translation is more like "push shovel".

Describing a washer in Spanish as "a metal circle thing with a hole that you stick between things when you're fixing stuff" was also a hit. My man in the hardware shop got that one in 1! This is probably because I trained him to understand me describing a funnel ("a plastic thing for dropping liquid into a bottle with waste") and a box knife ("a knife in a square plastic box for safety"). I'm telling you, a visit from me in that place was better than What's My Line?

Sure there's always room for improvement when you're speaking a foreign language, but hey, that's why you're standing there with your tongue tied and your pronunciation going to pot. It's cause you're practicing.

Some people suggest you calm your nerves by imagining everyone else is naked. I don't because I think it's rude to speak to people while shutting your eyes firmly against horrible visions of nudeness. I just go for it and know that each time I mess up it means I improve a little.

Three things that do help:

1. Rehearse set phrases. These give you time to think, and help you sound more fluent. For example, practice greetings, compliments, short answers to common questions.

2. Learn to take your time. The more you hurry, the more you stumble. Also, when you hurry your heartbeat goes up, which gets your brain chemicals going, which make you more hyper etc etc. Take a breath, force yourself to slow down. You will feel calmer for it.

3. Laugh. It's a stumble in communication not a crime! When you mess something up, laugh and say, "That sounded better in my head." or "I got so caught up in that sentence, I've forgotten where I started." Then breathe and go on.
Logomania by Ellen Whyte Book front cover image

As time goes by you will get better at speaking and the problems will lessen.

And of course buy Logomania! Then you'll know where phrases come from and how to use them, which is horribly impressive in conversation. Click on the image above for free sneak peeks, and then buy it at any MPH!


Gattina said...

For me a language is a tool to communicate with others, speaking bad is always better than not speaking at all. My mother tongue is German, I had to learn French because I live in a french speaking country. I learned English because I was working for American companies, I learned Italian because my husband's family only spoke Italian and I don't hesitate to speak meow with my cats, lol !

Cezar and Léia said...

Dear Ellen
What a wonderful post, thanks sooo much.
Here I'm learning how to speak French.Portuguese is my mother tongue as I'm from Brazil.My English I must confess it's not so good at all and I'm trying to learn French quickly so that to socialize and for adaptation here in Luxembourg.
But in many times I feel no confidant about it, I'm shy and so on...Your clues are really precious, thanks so much.
Have a blessed week!
Léia and little Luna

Pam said...

I speak a small amount of Spanish. Really just enough to be dangerous and embarass myself.
I loved the reason for not picturing people naked. I am the same way. When I tried that, I lost my train of thought because I was thinking, "EWWW!"

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Oh my! That was hilarious! I have no stage fright and love to do public speaking. If I make a mistake, I laugh it off louder than anyone else and start over. Right now the language I am struggling with the most is Tamil. The inflection and the tongue position has to be correct or it would mean something else altogether.

"Pali", depending on the position of your tongue (flat / touching top row of teeth / touching roof of mouth), will mean either "revenge", "school" or "lizard". I haven't done my homework so I don't want to go to lizard today.