Hey everyone, it’s Hadar. Thank you so much for joining me. Today we have an ‘Ask Hadar’ episode where I answer questions asked by my followers.
Today’s question is from Mayu from Japan. And Mayu writes:
“I’ve been taking online English lessons for a year. I can manage to have discussions with tutors using the material, but when I have conversations with real people, simple sentences don’t come to my head. I feel a big gap. Why is it that my performance varies depending on the situation, even though it is the same act of speaking English?”
Mayu, this is such a beautiful question, and definitely, a challenge. First, you’re addressing the gap between the English that you know and the English that you use, that you’re able to use. The second thing that you bring up is the fact that your English changes based on the situation and the circumstances.
So first, let’s address the first issue, and that your knowledge is bigger than your ability to use it. That happens when you don’t have a lot of opportunities to use the language. So you said that you’ve been learning for a year, which is not a lot for language learning. So, congratulations on being able to have conversations with your teachers. But if this is where you do most of your speaking, even if you study twice a week with a teacher, I believe it is not enough.
You have to make your English speaking a habit so you can minimize the gap between the English that you know and the English that you use. To be able to use more the English that you know, you gotta put it into practice as much as humanly possible. That means, more practice on your own, walking around your house, speaking, recording yourself, answering questions or talking about different topics, and of course, using opportunities to speak with real people as much as possible.
If you’re not there yet, I highly recommend that you join the in fluency community, so you can join free conversation groups every single week, and you get to practice your English with people from all around the world. It’s safe, it’s comfortable, and I have no doubt that you are definitely going to benefit from it.
The second thing that you address is the challenge that you feel based on the situation. So this is where mindset comes into play. When you speak to your teachers, you don’t feel judged, you don’t feel stressed, you know that this is a safe space. But when you speak to other people, you might feel evaluated, maybe just simply because they’re native speakers and you’re not, and you feel like they know the language better, or maybe they own the language. And maybe you’re afraid of making mistakes or getting it wrong, or being misunderstood.
That stress affects your English performance. All of a sudden, the words are less available, your brain is focused on not making mistakes or on the situation, or just anxiety creates that tension in you and that prevents you from using the language fluently and effortlessly. It’s kind of like the words get stuck on the way to your mouth from your brain because of the fear and because of the stress.
So this is where you need to work on your mindset. You need to work on not being afraid of making mistakes. Maybe starting to recognize why you feel judged and what is the fear around speaking with different people. And also, you need to normalize speaking with other people who are not your teachers. Because the more you do that, the more it becomes your reality, and the less stressed you’re gonna be around it, and the less stress you’re going to feel when you’re speaking to new people and different people.
I think there is a lot that goes into speaking to new people. It’s like understanding them and them understanding you and making an impression and conveying your message clearly. So, the more you practice and the more you work on your mindset, the easier it becomes.
If you struggle with confidence, I highly recommend for you to check out my mini course My English Mindset. I’m going to link to it in the description below. Which will help you understand what’s holding you back, your fears, your struggles, and making the relevant changes in how you think about yourself as a speaker of English, and also creating for yourself the best environment to thrive.
Mayu, you are on the right track. What you’re experiencing is absolutely natural and a healthy part of the learning journey. Embrace it and keep going. You got this, my friend.