Russian Language Blog

Fear of Speaking a Second Language Posted by on Nov 4, 2015 in Culture, language, Russian for beginners, Russian life, when in Russia

I can remember back to when I began learning English in school about 10 years before actually coming to America. It was fun, exciting, and quite difficult. My parents had always told me that I needed to learn English in order to have a brighter future. Before I’d graduated our version of high school, I’d had many years of learning English and felt I had a very good grasp of it. Of course, I’d not been immersed in any culture that spoke English so I was only speaking it with my fellow students in a classroom setting. Once I arrived in America, I would be able to put everything into practice that I’d been learning. Needless to say, I was quite nervous. Today’s blog is about the fear that often comes with speaking the new language you’ve worked so hard to learn with those that speak it as a first language.

I would say, without a doubt, that learning a language in a classroom setting is one thing; speaking that language with somebody that grew up speaking it is something else entirely. You want to share your knowledge and proficiency but are often afraid of looking silly or foolish. In my experience, this is quite normal. I know quite a few people that are bilingual and they’ve all expressed the nervousness they first encountered while speaking that second language to a native speaker. Accept the fact that you’ll be nervous; acknowledge it, and then let it go. The more relaxed you allow yourself to be, the easier it’ll be to recall what you’ve learned. Think about musicians for a second. They might spend years honing their craft in their basement before they dare to play on a stage. Prior to getting on stage, nervousness and fear often keep them accompany them. In fact, I’ve read stories about famous musicians who have played in front of millions of people who still get scared before a performance. They do not let that stop them from demonstrating what they’ve worked so hard to learn and neither should you.

My son speaks Russian much better than my husband. Both of them understand the language to a certain degree. When we are speaking to family in Russia on the phone or Skype, both of them try their best to understand and communicate effectively. They make mistakes here and there. The important thing is that they try. My family do not laugh at them or ridicule them for their not being as proficient in Russian as they could be. Likewise, when one of my family members learns to say something in English, we are happy that they’ve put forth the effort to enhance our communication. Even while visiting Russia, my husband and son tried their best to communicate with family, friends, and even strangers. Sure they were nervous, but their effort was appreciated every time.

Above all else, remember that the word fear can be viewed as an acronym meaning false evidence appearing real. People wouldn’t likely come right out and say you sound ridiculous trying to speak another language. More often than not, people are apt to be kinder and more understanding as they see you trying to converse with them. If a foreigner came up to you on the street and tried to ask you something in your language, would you be mean or judgmental? You’ve likely worked too hard learning to speak Russian NOT to speak it each time you get the chance.

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About the Author: Jenya

Born in Russia, I spent the first twenty years of my life in Orenburg, Russia and Mogilev, Belarus. For the last eleven years, I've lived in New Hampshire and Michigan, US. While I continue to absorb and adapt to American culture, I am always thrilled to share my Russian heritage with those who find it interesting. Travel, photography and art play a special part in my life. Twitter: @iamnx2u


  1. Cheryl in TX:

    Every language student can identify with that nervous feeling. 🙂

  2. Carlos R. Barron:

    Very true, you have to practice rge Language one learning or he will never improve,m first Language is Spanisj, because Iam from Boivia, now I live in the USA and I speak lots of German and a lot of Portuguese, I receive word of the day in my cellular for almost 3 years.

    And I consider good, as far as Russian I learned a lot of sentences ,I had a Russian Native in my house here in Milwaukee, WI. for 2 months and he taught me a lot, I still believe Russian is harder than German, because of the Cyrillic Alphapet.BUt It can be learned.

    do spaciba
    Carlos R, Barron