How to overcome shyness in language class

We are all different. In a language class, you can find yourself surrounded by extrovert people, who start talking from the very first How to overcome shyness in language classlesson – even if they have never learnt that language before – and by people like you and me, who prefer to stay silent and listen.We are the ones that are usually labeled as shy people.

In reality, to be precise, also introverts tend to prefer this last behavior.

However, being introvert doesn’t necessarily mean being shy.

In fact, introverts are generally those people who prefer solitary activities to social ones.

Shy people, instead, also feel awkward, uncomfortable or worried during social encounters. If you belong to this last category, keep on reading.

Why is it important to overcome shyness when learning a new language? 

People can learn also while listening and watching others, that’s true. I can learn a new sentence, a new way of saying just listening to teachers or to other students.

However, when it comes to language learning, you’re usually required to master 4 skills: listening, reading, writing and speaking. And, unfortunately, you cannot do this just listening to others.

For example, I could listen to a professional singer explaining me how to hit high notes for hours and hours, but I’m pretty sure that if I tried to sing I will always love you in front of a crowd without having never tried to catch a high note before, I would probably end up with people throwing ripe tomatoes at me.

The same applies to speaking. I can hear a person pronouncing the word sixth easily, but when I try to say it for the first time, I might find out that it’s not so easy to pronounce for me. So, the secret is practicing.



The first step to overcome shyness is to understand what your type of shyness is.

There are at least three types of shy people – you can belong to just one or to more of these categories:

Publicly shy

If you are publicly shy, you tend to emphasize the behavioral components of shyness. So, you might express your discomfort behaving awkwardly, being silent, avoiding eye contact, and so on.

Privately shy

If you are publicly shy, you tend to emphasize the affective components of shyness – pounding heart, muscle tension, and so on. Other people might even not realize you’re shy.

Socially anxious shy

If you are publicly shy, you tend to emphasize the cognitive components of shyness – being excessively self-conscious and concerned about what you think others think about you.


Privately shy

If you’re privately shy you can try to overcome shyness by keeping the affective components of your shyness under control. To do this, you might find breathing exercises helpful. Indeed, inhaling and exhaling slowly and deeply, while focusing on your breath, helps reduce stress and anxiety.

Publicly shy

If you’re publicly shy you can try to overcome shyness by practicing small talks.

Start with something simple, like just saying hello to people you don’t know. You can choose the situation. For example, if you arrive to your first language class early and you find out that another person is already there, you can start saying hello to him/her. Then you can go on and ask for his/her name, if s/he is there for the Italian lesson too, and so on.

Socially anxious shy

This is the most difficult type of shyness to overcome, since you can’t just stop your thoughts. However, you can force yourself to think positively.

If you feel bad for a sentence you pronounced wrongly just remember that no one is perfect, not even native speakers.

Instead, if you refuse to speak because you’re worried to make a mistake, then the sentence never a failure always a lesson should become a mantra for you. Indeed, if you don’t try, you will never be able to speak a foreign language correctly.

Moreover, you should focus on your successes, not on your failures. For example, if you say a sentence and the teacher promptly corrects you, the important thing is that you tried to talk, not that you made a mistake. In addition, remember that if you didn’t talk, you probably wouldn’t have learnt where the mistake was.

Now look around you. I bet no one is judging you. You’re all in the same boat. You’re all trying to learn new things. And the mistakes someone does help both that person and the entire class to improve. So, if you think about it, they’re not a failure, but a success too!


Are you shy? Have you got some more tips to overcome shyness that you want to share? Feel free to leave a comment below.


Original photo by skeeze

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