Being shy is NOT a bad thing.
In fact, did you know that there are good evolutionary reasons to be shy? As one expert explains in BBC:
“It was useful to have people in your group who were off out there exploring and engaging in new groups but it was also useful for people who were more risk averse, [were] more aware of threat and would do a better job protecting young offspring, for example.”
In other words, different people have different strengths and weaknesses. And just like how shyness doesn’t make us a worse human being, it also doesn’t make us worse at learning English!
For example, research has found that shy people often have better grammar when they speak. But how can we become fluent in English if we’re shy?
Here are 6 ways to do that.
1. Start With Text Conversations
Unfortunately, there’s no way to learn to speak English without actually talking to people. But there are ways to talk that aren’t as stressful as one-on-one in-person interactions. A great way to do this is text conversations. In other words, instead of talking to someone face-to-face, you talk to them over text.
A study at the University of Hawaii found that students participated more often and more equally in discussions when they were online, rather than in-person. This suggests that having online discussions may have encouraged shy students to participate more.
A free language learning app for this is Hello Talk, where you can find language exchange partners and also use their built-in messaging system.
You can also join online forums or communities (e.g. Facebook groups) related to your interests. This way, you can find like-minded people to talk to about your favorite topics!
2. Say Things Out Loud (Even By Yourself!)
While text conversations are great, you should still practice saying things out loud to overcome your fear of speaking.
Here are some speaking exercises for shy students:
- Read everything aloud
- Talk to yourself
- Record yourself
- Send voice messages
You can turn anything into a speaking exercise. For example, you can read aloud your text conversations. If you’re watching a movie, try to repeat after an actor or actress when they say lines that you find interesting.
You can also talk to yourself. This might sound crazy, but many language learners find it helpful. And many of us already talk to ourselves in our native languages (e.g. “Where did I put my phone?”). It’s just a matter of saying these things in the language we’re learning.
If you want to truly hear how you sound, you can record yourself. Listening to the recordings will help you see whether you pause, how quickly you speak, what words you struggle to pronounce, etc. By listening to yourself speak, you can make great improvements, even without a teacher.
And if you want corrections from a native speaker, you can post a recording on the free language learning app, HiNative, with the question template below:
Finally, many messaging apps these days let you send voice messages, so you can try sending English voice messages to your friends, language exchange partners, or teachers.
3. Practice With Voice-Only Calls
If you feel somewhat comfortable speaking, but are not totally confident, you can find a tutor or conversation partner online and then talk to them without turning on your camera.
This way, the person you’re speaking to won’t notice if you look nervous. In fact, at Engoo, this is how many of our shy students take lessons. As a student, you will be free to take lessons without your camera on. But don’t worry, you’ll always be able to see your tutor!
4. Learn With Other Non-Native Speakers
Sometimes, language learners get shy when talking to native speakers. In this case, you can first practice speaking with other non-native speakers. This can be a friend, classmate, coworker or anyone who you feel comfortable with.
And let’s not forget about tutors who are non-native English speakers! Non-native speaking tutors are popular with students, because many students feel more comfortable speaking with them. They also are able to give lots of good tips for learning English, since they also had to learn it themselves.
However, at some point, you should overcome your fear of speaking with native speakers. You can do this by taking lessons with native-speaking teachers or meeting native speakers in your city.
5. Practice Basic Conversation Topics
If you’re shy, you probably don’t like making mistakes. A good way to avoid making mistakes in conversation is to practice talking about topics that appear often in conversation.
This means that you’ll want to get plenty of practice talking about the following topics:
- where you’re from
- your family
- your job
- why you’re learning English
You’ll also want to be able to ask your conversation partner about these topics. To learn the perfect words and phrases to handle these topics, you can study with our Conversation materials.
6. Listen and Watch Lots of English-Language Content
As a shy learner, you’ll also want to prepare for real-life conversations by listening to a lot of them. For example, you can watch movies, TV shows, or Youtube videos in English. You can also listen to podcasts.
Whatever you do, pay close attention to what words, phrases, and sentence patterns people use. Make sure to write down those that you might be able to use in your own life. For example, if you like hiking, watch some Youtube videos about hiking and you’ll learn all the words you need to talk about your hobby. Then try to use them in conversations!
One Last Tip: Take Lessons on Engoo
If you try out the tips above, we’re sure that you’ll slowly but surely find a language-learning style that fits your personality. Perhaps that’s speaking with a conversation partner from the beginning. Or maybe it’s waiting for a few months before you start speaking. Whatever the case, once you figure out how you like to learn, fluency is just a matter of time.
At Engoo, we know this from experience. We’re an online tutoring company that started out in Japan, where people are generally more shy. We’re now the largest online English school in Japan and this is in no small part due to our success teaching students — no matter how shy or outgoing they are.
So if you need a little help overcoming your shyness, try a free lesson with our online English tutors. Unlike other services, we won’t promise that you’ll “start speaking today,” but we are sure that with some guidance from professional tutors, you will start speaking at your own pace.