Confidence helps you to speak English well and to enjoy speaking. If your confidence is low, here are five things you can do to boost it.
1. Speak up
Unconfident speakers often finish speaking as soon as they can or avoid speaking. But that can reduce your confidence even more. It's hard to build confidence if you rarely or never speak.
So, break this cycle! Try to be bold and speak up. Answering questions in class, talking to your classmates or other English speakers and joining a language exchange are all good opportunities for you to speak.
Confident speakers trust in their own abilities because they have spoken many times before. Build up your own speaking experience in this way by taking more opportunities.
2. Prepare well
A big cause of low confidence is feeling unprepared. If you aren't ready to speak, it's normal to feel unconfident.
So, before speaking, get yourself ready. Before a presentation, prepare what you want to say and practise until you can say it smoothly. Before class, find out what the next speaking activity will be and prepare some words and ideas to use. Before social interactions, prepare a few things to talk about, like the weather or recent news.
3. Change the way you think about failure
Failure is part of learning. It happens to everybody. But what's important is what happens next. Imagine:
- You pronounce a word incorrectly.
- You try to express your ideas but can't say them clearly.
- You forget your words during a presentation.
- Your speaking test mark is lower than you expected.
How do you react?
For unconfident speakers, these just confirm that you aren't good at speaking and make you want to avoid it. As a famous cartoon character said: 'You tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is: never try.' (Homer Simpson, in The Simpsons)
But don't take Homer's advice! Confident speakers don't quit. Although they feel disappointed, they know these mistakes are valuable because mistakes show where they can improve. Confident speakers know that learning a language is a long-term activity, so they don't give too much importance to one single short-term failure.
4. Practise positive self-talk
We are our own worst critics. We notice all our own little mistakes – even if other people don't. We say to ourselves things like 'I'm bad at speaking English'.
But this is just an automatic thought. You needn't accept it. Interrupt this negative self-talk by questioning it.
- Is it really true? Or have you forgotten what your strengths and achievements are?
- Is it based on solid evidence? Or just your emotions and worries?
- Is there any evidence saying the opposite, e.g. your past achievements or positive comments from teachers?
Negative self-talk is damaging to confidence. Positive self-talk is more encouraging. You can say things like 'I'm not good at speaking English … yet' or 'I'm working hard and getting better'.
5. Don't compare yourself with others
If you feel inspired by people around you, that's good. But if you think 'they're all better than me', it will harm your confidence.
Don't try to be the best. Just try to be better than you were yesterday. Set your own standards for your English learning – this will make you feel more confident and in control.