What you need is confidence

I’m William Alan McNeice, and I’m an English teacher. I’ve been an English teacher for almost a decade and I’ve worked with thousands of people from all over the world.

In all that time, working with all those people, I discovered that, to learn English, or any other language, one thing is more important than anything else, and that’s confidence. Sure, you need to know vocabulary, phrases grammar, but if you want to make real progress, you need confidence.

People often tell me they want to speak perfect English, with no mistakes. But let me ask you: do you ever make mistakes in your own language? Of course you do. Everybody does.

Now, if you’re like many of the people I’ve worked with, you might be terrified of making a mistake in English. You might worry that people will not understand you, or they will laugh at you, or they will misunderstand you and be insulted by what you say. Well let me reassure you: Yes, all of those things will happen. But don’t worry. You’ll survive. All of those things have happened to me and I’m still here. Once, in a German restaurant, I asked for sausages and the waitress told me they didn’t have any. I made a joke and said that it was surprising to find a German restaurant that didn’t have sausages, and she was so insulted she almost threw me out of the restaurant. In Paris, in a pharmacy, I could speak so little French that by the end of the conversation, I had managed to persuade the assistant that I had rabies.

Will you make mistakes like these? Yes. Will you survive? Absolutely. If you accept the fact that you will make mistakes, then you will learn, and you will gain the confidence you need to improve. The mistakes give you the confidence to speak better English.

There is only way to learn to how speak English, and that is if the words come out of your mouth. It is impossible to learn how to speak English without speaking English, just like it is impossible to learn how to play the guitar without playing the guitar. And just like playing the guitar, you start badly and you improve. To speak good English, you must first speak bad English. Don’t be scared of speaking bad English, because it’s the only way to improve.

So let’s begin there.