If you feel nervous before taking a language lesson, then you’re not alone. Lingoda recently did a poll on Twitter and found that 2/3 of our learners feel nervous before a language class. While a lot of the responsibility lies with the teacher to make sure students feel relaxed in class, there are some things that you, as a student, can do to alleviate your nerves. Read on for 10 tips to combat nervousness in language lessons.
Top 10 tips to combat nervousness
Before your lesson
1. Identify what makes you nervous
In other words, know your enemy. Are you worried that you’re going to misunderstand the teacher or your classmates? Do you think your accent is quite strong? Or perhaps you stumble over words when you’re reading? When you know what’s worrying you, you can take steps to deal with it. For the last point, for example, practise reading things aloud at home, either when you’re alone or to your cat. Cats never listen to you anyway. If it’s something your teacher might be able to help with, let them know.
2. Be prepared
You can download and read through Lingoda materials before class. By doing this, you can check any words you’re not sure of, and just be aware of what your teacher is going to ask you to do. But, don’t over prepare. There’s nothing worse for a teacher than having a student reading from a carefully prepared script, robot-style. Plus, I don’t remember the last time I got to prepare for a conversation in the real world.
3. Do a bit of exercise
The physical kind, not grammar exercises which are a surefire way to get stressed. Shrug your shoulders to get the tension out, rotate your wrists, or take a brisk walk before your lesson. If that doesn’t work, go for a 10 mile run because it’s hard to be nervous when you’re exhausted.
4. Have a cup of tea
If you make it with milk, you might even start feeling English. Having a cup of tea is what I do if I need to calm down, but that’s because I love tea. If you love chocolate, have a piece; if you love your dog, give him a good scratch. If you love beer… maybe have it as a reward after the lesson. Make contact with something you love and which makes you feel calm right before the lesson, and you’ll go in feeling much less nervous.
5. Meditate (kind of)
Don’t skip this tip because it sounds too hippy-dippy for you. Meditating doesn’t have to mean sitting on the floor with your legs crossed chanting ‘om’ (though it can, and it is rather wonderful). It can simply mean closing your eyes for a minute and breathing deeply, listening to some calming music, or taking a moment to tell yourself that you can do this.
During your lesson
6. Remember that nobody is perfect
If you read our blog about mistakes native speakers make in English, then you’ll know that this is true. Absolutely no one speaks perfectly all the time, it’s just that some people make more mistakes than others. Accept the fact that, in your early stages of learning a language, lots of mistakes are inevitable. And you certainly won’t be the only one making them.
7. Support your classmates
This could also be titled, ‘You get what you give’. Showing your support makes your fellow students more likely to support you back, and creates a friendly atmosphere in the classroom. Of course, you don’t need to chant ‘Go Yuri, go!’ when your classmate starts speaking. Rather, nod and smile to show your interest, and refer back to them when you speak: ‘I thought that was a great point, Yuri.’ And – golden rule – don’t try to correct your classmates when they make a mistake; if your teacher lets it slide, they probably have a good reason.
Smiling has so many profound benefits for our psyche. Forcing your nervous face into a smile actually changes your brain chemistry and helps you feel less nervous – how cool is that? So get your Wallace and Gromit grin on, even if you don’t feel like it.
9. Don’t worry about the little things
The past perfect might forever remain just out of reach. You may never learn to pronounce ‘squirrel’ correctly. But don’t worry about it; those are small things. Focus on making yourself understood and doing the best YOU can. Those are the big things.
After your lesson
10. Do your homework
Your Lingoda lessons include homework, but if you really want to solidify what you’ve learnt, you need to do something more. Take a few minutes after class to write down what you’ve learnt and to note any problems you had. Taking control helps you to keep calm.
(10.5 Have that beer you were dreaming of earlier.)