At least once a week I get an email, a comment on my website, or a message on Facebook from an English learner who feels very frustrated and discouraged.
They believe that they can’t speak English, and they believe that everyone speaks English better than they do.
I always feel sad when I read these messages. I want to give all these people hugs! While replying to all these messages, I realized that I was writing the same things over and over. I realized there are 4 important things that all English learners should know and accept.
If you are an English learner who feels very frustrated and discouraged, here are some things that will help you.
1. Confidence doesn’t equal fluency.
“Everybody speaks English better than me.”
I hear this often from English learners.
No, everybody doesn’t speak English better than you. How do you define better?
Some people may speak English more confidently than you, but that doesn’t mean that their English is better than yours. Some people just have more confidence speaking English than you do. Confidence is a great thing to have. I wish more English learners had confidence! However, speaking confidently doesn’t necessarily mean speaking properly. Someone can speak confidently, but make a lot of mistakes. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Comparison is the thief of joy.
~ Theodore Roosevelt
Everybody has different goals. Some people want to learn English just for fun, so they can watch English TV shows or movies. Other people need to speak English at a very advanced level because of their job. Some people are happy to speak English with an accent. Other people want to sound like a native speaker. Judge your English by your own goals, not by how well you think someone else speaks. It doesn’t matter how well other people speak English.
Related: How to Learn English
2. Native English speakers don’t care if you make a mistake.
“I’m scared to speak to native speakers because I don’t want to make a mistake.”
Native English speakers don’t care if you make a mistake. Native speakers make mistakes, too! Native speakers only care that they can understand you. No one expects you to be perfect.
Now, you don’t want to make too many mistakes, because then it is difficult to understand you. And that’s embarrassing. However, fear of making a mistake should not stop you from speaking.
The great thing about English is that once you know the most common 1000 words, you know 50% of everything English speakers say or write. You can communicate pretty well with just 1000 words.
Learn more: Core Vocabulary (The English Words You Need to Know!)
English-speaking countries are very multicultural. We are used to hearing many different accents and we are used to speaking to people who don’t speak English as their native language.
In some cultures it’s embarrassing to make a mistake when speaking the native language. In English, nobody cares if you make one or two mistakes when you speak. You know this already if you follow any celebrities on social media. How many celebrities have you seen who can’t spell properly, who don’t capitalize a single letter, or who don’t use proper English grammar?
Of course, a conversation is always easier if you can express yourself as clearly as possible. Keep practicing, keep improving, but don’t be afraid to make a mistake.
If you’re making mistakes, it means you’re out there doing something.
~ Neil Gaiman
Don’t be embarrassed if you make a mistake, and don’t be embarrassed if someone corrects your mistake. You’re one step closer to speaking English fluently.
Related: Record Yourself Speaking English!
3. You are not going to learn English from your classmates.
“I am afraid to speak in my English class. All my classmates speak English better than me.”
Then why are you taking group lessons? If you don’t feel comfortable speaking English in public or in front of large groups, don’t take group lessons! Public speaking is hard enough without the added pressure of speaking a foreign language.
You are not going to learn English from your classmates. You can practice with them, and practicing will improve your confidence, but you are not going to learn English from them or improve your English. Improving your confidence doesn’t necessarily mean that you are improving your English skills.
You learn English from your teachers and native speakers. A baby doesn’t learn how to talk by listening to other babies. How are you going to learn if everyone around you is making mistakes?
Everybody learns differently and group lessons are not for everyone. Of course, group lessons are easier to find and cheaper than private lessons, where it’s just you and your teacher. However, if you are someone who doesn’t feel confident speaking in a group, you will improve your confidence much faster if you work with a private tutor.
Related: 3 Things English Learners Can Learn from Olympians!
4. Someone is going to laugh at you.
“I am afraid people will laugh at me if I make a mistake.”
Do you ever laugh at people who make mistakes when they try to speak your language? Of course you do! Sometimes language learners say funny things!
I was explaining the concept of a “spelling bee” to one of my students. He had never heard of spelling bees before. (A spelling bee is a spelling contest. These contests are popular in Canada & the U.S.) A few classes later, he asked about a spelling bee again, … but he got confused and called it a “pee contest.” That is funny! You are probably laughing right now as you read this! He was an advanced student who spoke English very well and he is now doing his masters degree at an American university, but he made a mistake and it was funny.
It will happen to you. Somebody is going to laugh at something you say in English. Every language learner everywhere on the planet makes a funny mistake at least once. It’s OK. The sun will still rise, the earth will turn, and you will go on learning English. Who cares if someone laughs at you?
No one is going to laugh at every single mistake you make, because nobody cares that you make mistakes (see #2). Stop living in fear that someone is going to laugh at you.
Speak English without fear.
Everything you´d wrote is right. Every single statement is full of great reasons to support your ideas.
This article was done for me! Specially today I had a private english class in the middle of my work day. I was very busy, my mind was full of problems and maybe that’s why I couldn’t concentrate in the lesson. My fluency was terrible and I made a lot of mistakes. I felt disappointed with myself since I’ve been studing English for a long time.
Anyway, you cheered me up!
Kisses from Brazil!
Thank you so much for your four truths (tips), and I would like to share one of my tips with you and with others english students –> PATIENCE! Something, when I’m speaking in english, I’m trying to speed fast, or as fast as I can. That’s wrong! I think it’s better speaking a little bit slow and thinking about what I’m trying to say than speak fast and saying anything!.
natalia sanchez says
HI….. It happens to me a lot too…. I try to speak English fast, as I speak Spanish and this mistake, makes me speak less accurately or, also write it,..
I will follow your advise, trying to speak and write , more slowly….
Thanks a lot !
This is great advice Claudio! So many English learners think they have to speak quickly, but this is not important! The most important thing is to be understood by the listener. If that means that you have to speak slowly, then so be it!
Hi… Ya i have to admit that i lack confidence to expres myself very well n another thing is that sometimes i kind of seeng myself speaking a good english bt sometimes i don’t no enything so i dont no whts wrong
This artcle really helps me it’s encouraged me to speak with other native speaker confidently.Who cares somebody laughs at me.
A bunch of thanks for you :-)
Mary Gonzalez says
Hi Melanie! This words were written for me too! Thank you!!
You`re doing a very special work!
Hugs from Venezuela!
God bless you!
Juan de luna says
I really feel more comfortable to speak with natives.All time I asked them, Do you understand me? They say yes, but when somebody ask me , please say it again, and then start the afraid,but quickly look for another word and talk with my self,only need more practice in the pronunciation.
Thanks for you help.
This is my first comment. I want to thank you to share these four truths about learning English. I´m one of those who scare to talk in front of people not only in English language but also in Spanish. After read this article I can reflexion about myself and I think I could change if I wished to. And I understood that If I want to learn English, I will have to practice every day. Someone said: Practicing can become you in a master. Regards.
The tips are really useful to me. I’m always reluctant to speak English with people who speak English better than I do. I think the tips will work out for me. Thank you very much for them. By the way I want to know whether there is a website in which I can practise English with native speakers or useful dialogues of native speakers. Please help me find them!
You are absolutely, definitely right Madam.
You know I’m one of those people that you are talking about.
Thank for very much for your encouraged me…! I am very happy and really interested all of your statements, my English language is still in limited both speaking and writing. start from now I have no shame to speak English with native or else no matter if I make a mistake… Because I got your four truths about learning English, No one perfect I will remember.
May God bless you!
Peace from Cambodia.
thanks a lot!!!!!!!
Rodney Jude says
Thanks for sharing this.
Thanks for your help. I’m doing my best to improve the language, I’m studying at school, I know I’ve already obtained a good level but I’m not satisfied yet. I want that my English might be perfect. Your advices ‘ll help me to carry on, becoming safest day by day. Your lessons are amazing. Greetings from Italy. Best adelmo.
suad kidd says
Thank u a lot . I can see clearly how a nice person you are. I love u teacher and love way in teaching. I want to be a friend to u and practice spoken E with u through Skype . None near to speaks E and that is why I lose my speaking and listening skills .A few years ago I was excellent but I am no more like this due to the lack of practice . If you accept the idea send to me your name on Skype and I promise not to talk to you a lot maybe one a week or more just not to bother you.
Thank you for your kind words! Unfortunately I am not available on Skype.
I downloaded all the lessons, MP3 along with transcriptions on your site. These lessons are nice and help me a lot to improve my English. I am a Sri Lankan engaged in learning English. Thanks a lot for preparing these lessons.
these are very usefull lessons. thanx
Rema Hnamte says
You have written exactly what I needed. Thanks a lot.
Dear Melanie. I really liked your article. It´s just what I feel in my English class.
From today on, I´ll try to make more mistakes.
In fact, with them we can learn more and better.
You cheered me up!
Naseer Ahmad Naseer says
One thing more I want to share with english learner is ,learning
Any second language needs a lot of patience ,some students think that to learn English is very easy and it takes only a few months to speak properly .truth be told,learning a second language takes at least 5 to 6 years.so the problem we have here is when we learn English for few months and don’t get the desire goal we start to get disappointed and frustrated
This is so true, Naseer! Many English learners have been misled to believe that learning English is fun & easy. It takes a lot of work & a lot of time!
Great post Melanie!
As a fellow teacher, I encounter many of these comments as well. Confidence is truly a key to reaching your goals as well as not comparing yourself to others who may have different goals.
Glad you are doing better now and back blogging and teaching!
Definitely speak English without fear everyone!
Thank you for your support Al! It’s so nice of you to leave a comment.
All the best,
Hello dear Melanie!
thank you for all of your encourages make me update. those 4 truths were so amazing to know who i am, where m i going in English..,
you should know that how helpful thing you did to so many ppl around the world, from now on everybody can speak as you taught about 4 truths..,
I really enjoying to read all your articles and all your podcast,
And i hope to see your next article and podcast lessons,
Thank you for your lessons
Thanks a lot!
First of all may God Bless you for the great effort and dedication to the Cause.
i believe you are the best teacher in the world …thank YOU for tell the truth.
and as usual i am totally agree with your teachings ..they are outstanding.
A ‘thief’ is someone who steals something. ‘Joy’ is another word for ‘happiness.’ When you compare yourself to other people, it takes away the joy (happiness) that you feel. If ‘comparison’ were a person, he would be a person that steals joy from you.
Marie-Danielle O'Reilly says
Thank you so much for all the time you spend to explain the English language. Writing to you in English don’t scare me all. I really enjoy your 4 reasons not to be frightend expressing myself .
sachin B patil says
Thank u Melanie
this is really a nice article. It helps us to develop confidence.
Thanks for the greater leson. It helped me very much. I was struggling with group sessions, but your words gave me confidence to jump in to water.Thank you a lot.
Thanks from India
Dear teacher Melanie, I don’t find the words to thank you for this lesson. All I can say you, THANK YOU.
I read this a while ago. Yeh, you are absolutely right..
I think i also misunderstood with this as u wrote.
Thanks for giving advice.
Hello Melanie , I am a German who has been learning English for 6 years up to now and have a reached a near native command of this language ,which I am very proud of because I am completely self-taught . When I was 12 years I had the dream of emigrating to the USA one day and I soon realized that a profound knowledge of the English language would be necessary if I really wanted to implement this dream which I still have today at the age of 18. I have achieved a level at which I seldom come accross new words or new idioms and at which I am able to understand everything I hear or read without effort. Moreover, I have managed to get rid of my German accent – I even have developed a noticeable American accent in my German ! I have learned most of my English from the internet and from native speakers, who genuinely tell me that one can impossibly tell that English is not my first language . I truely appreciate your advice and thank you very much .
thanks for these useful tips.i can text in english better than speak… this is my problem..when i’m chatting with someone online,it looks like i’m good in speaking english…but when it goes to talk with someone in reality i feel hard to speak english,i used to think before speak,i’m always thinking abt grammar…is it right if i just ignore the grammar?
No, it is not OK to IGNORE grammar! You need grammar to make yourself understood! You need to do more reading & listening to English (from native speakers) to become more comfortable with English sentence structure. This is important because you will just ‘feel’ what is natural instead of constantly having to think about grammar.
great post melanie.. thanks.. now i will try to be confident in using english …
Excellent stuff just as if it was all for me , happen to be hesitant and nothing else ,thanks alot
I wish I had read your article before. It is very true what you point out in it. I experienced most of what you have written in your article. I would add this ” make sure other people understand you and don’t rush to speak English fast”. Speed doesn’t mean fluency or speaking English properly. I studied grammar at university and I took several English courses back home and in England. I would say when it comes to grammar I am quite knowledgeable. When I first came to this country I started having conversations and I try to speak as fast as I could. I was confident due to my knowledge of grammar. However I noticed that I had to repeat a sentence twice or even three times when I tried to have a conversation with a native speaker. I started getting frustrated because people don’t understand what I was saying and even I started making diabolic mistakes. One day an English friend made me realize that my problem was that I was not really paying attention to my pronunciation and intonation. Then I started to work on these aspects and I began to speak more slowly. I have become more confident. It is just very simple make sure others understand you no matter how fast or slow you speak. Get your message across and don’t get frustrated . Native speakers get upset if you do not understand them or you don make yourself understood. They don’t have a clue about grammar so they do not pay attention to this. I thought because my grammar was good I was able to communicate easily but reality is different when you have to interact with native speakers. Now I am more confident and I always make sure people understand me. I am no longer afraid to have a conversation with an English speaking person or talking on the phone. I am working as an assistant manager in a gym and I have to use The English language at work very often and People come to me if they have any questions , information or advice related to aspects related to the club. Therefore for those who still have this kind of frustration I would just advice them to be patient, keep up with good work and you will get there like I did. I am so happy and confident that now I feel that the English language is part of my life.
i am really thankful from your help you help us God bless you i am sorry if i wrote
There is a hope says
I thinh you have considered many things that I have felt once. The most important reason that made me stop studying English in USA was I wasn’t confident enough to escape that feeling of being afraid to make a mistake and every one in class start laughing at me. Thank you for every thing in your blog.
Hey there Melanie,
i just want to say that i love your blog and it has been very inspiring …
it is very heartwarming to have have people like you who are ready to go extra mile …
kudos to you and your family and to your site…
Hi Teacher Melanie,
You know what? you are truly a blessing to everybody. Thanks to God that i meet you in this site. I know you are the answer of my prayer. I am one of the person who is afraid to speak in English in front of the crowd. Maybe because i don’t have the confident and i am not good in speaking English. I am hesitant because of the lack of vocabulary, construction of grammar and pronunciation of words. I failed to master these things because i grown up without paying any attention in language i used to speaks in our dialect. I am not afraid to tell you the truth that i am an ELEMENTARY TEACHER and i know it’s not good to a teacher having deficiency in English speaking because we know that English is the world language so i have to master this to give a better learning to this young children. Thank you so much for the tips that you shared to everybody. I am hoping that another advice and tips will come out in your site so that we will learn some more on how to improve our English speaking. I am hoping also that you will continue to share your knowledge and ability to the needy. Sorry for the imperfect construction of message but i am willing to be corrected from you and other people who are willing to give an advice. Criticism is not aloud.
Now, i feel better than before. Thank you for lifting me up through your encouragement and love. I am now more confident, resourceful and a teacher who is not afraid to go forward to reach her goal in life.
From the bottom of my heart i will say, thank you so much for being kindhearted and for loving us. To share is really a blessing.GOD BLESS you as well as your family.
Thank you so much for your kind words, Althea! Thank you for taking the time to tell me about yourself & for sharing your story. You give confidence to English learners everywhere! Keep up the good work. With your determination, your English will continue to improve! Your kind words encourage me to keep working hard.
All the best,
Mohammad Hariri says
Personally, I’m not afraid of making mistakes while I speak. Rather, I’m afraid to speak with an american accent at all in front of my friends. For some reason, many people in my community associate other Arabic speakers who speak English in an american accent with being spoiled or gay.
I’m not homophobic or anything, but I’m more afraid of being labeled spoiled or gay than making a pronunciation mistake. Plus, I can’t pull the accent thing off yet which makes matters all the more terrifying. Any advice? Thanks!
All the love from Lebanon :)
You are not alone. I have heard the same thing from other English learners, specifically that they don’t like making the ‘th’ sound in English because it makes them sound ‘gay.’ I don’t understand this, but I know that this attitude exists in many cultures, not just yours.
“I’m more afraid of being labeled spoiled or gay than making a pronunciation mistake.” What will happen to you if someone calls you spoiled or gay? How will this affect you? Will this have a big impact on your life in your community, or do you just want to avoid being made fun of in general?
How often do you speak English to your friends? Why do you speak English to your friends? Have you thought of working with a private tutor instead? I’m sure that there are many Americans in Lebanon that can help you practice your English with an American accent.
I’m surprised that this attitude exists in Lebanon. I have never been to Lebanon and I have only met a couple people from Lebanon, but I thought Lebanon was very pro-American, especially since I know there is at least one American university in Beirut. I am always interested in learning more about different countries & cultures around the world, so I’d like to hear your thoughts on this. I’m curious as to why people think speaking English with an American accent is a sign of being spoiled. It is because people think if you speak English with an American accent, it’s because your parents can afford to send you to an expensive private school?
Thank you for sharing this with me. This is very interesting!
Mohammad Hariri says
Thanks for your fast reply :) I wanna clarify a couple of things about me and my culture. I’ll tackle each paragraph separately.
For me, I wanna avoid being made fun off in general because that makes me more nervous when I’m doing the accent. I don’t like people giggling and pointing at me while I speak.
My ‘friends’ that I’m referring to also include my college classmates. I’m studying Computer Science and I use a lot of technical jargon when I speak. I usually speak in English when I present my projects to my classmates. However, I always end up using a mixture of Arabic and English. And by the way, trying to speak in Arabic and referring to English terms with an accent makes me sound more ridiculous. I haven’t looked into my learning options in Lebanon yet, but I will in the future.
I didn’t mean to generalize my problem over all the Lebanese areas. I live in a southern city, Saida. I don’t know how people from other cities would react to an american accent. But I’m pretty sure that many cities are ‘pro American’, especially the capital Beirut. Moreover, I’ve noticed that many students at AUB or LAU (Lebanese American University) speak English with an accent. But that’s not the case at my university which is far from being as expensive. So, I would say that if one attends an expensive American university and speaks with an american accent, then he/she is gonna be labeled ‘spoiled’ by a lot of people.
Sorry for the long reply, and thanks again :)
Thank you so much for taking the time to write all this information. I understand your situation much better now.
So, I know exactly what you are saying, because I have experienced the other side of it. Canada is officially a bilingual country. English is spoken by the majority of people, but French is also spoken, particularly in the province of Quebec. If I am having a conversation in English for someone, or if I am watching an English TV show, it’s really annoying when the other person is speaking English but uses a French accent to say a word or name. For example, ‘Celine Dion’ is pronounced differently in English & French. It sounds very snobbish & pretentious when I am watching an English TV show, and the person on TV suddenly says ‘Celine Dion’ with a French accent! However, if I am speaking French to someone, I know to say ‘Celine Dion’ with a French accent.
The big question is, what do you professors want you to do? Do they want you to say an English word with an American accent? Do they care? If you are giving a presentation in Arabic and you are with a group of people who are going to make fun of your American accent , then say the English word with an Arabic accent. If you are giving a presentation in English, say the English words with an American accent. This will lesson the pressure on you.
Whatever you do, don’t give up practicing your American accent if that’s what you really want! I really encourage you to find someone or some people you can talk to with an American accent & not feel self-conscious about it.
One last thing, as a university-educated person, never write ‘wanna’ or ‘gonna.’ They are not words! They are the sounds that native speakers make when they say ‘want to’ or ‘going to.’ It makes you look uneducated & like you don’t care about your English when you write ‘wanna’ or ‘gonna.’ Other than that, you’re writing is beautiful.
Thanks so much for your words. These came to me when I needed them. I’m working with a group of 8 people and most of them speak good English and I thought I could not do it, but from now on I will do well first God.
God bless you.
Ooh I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks for all the free English learning resources. I have been thinking about taking online classes because as you said in the classroom we are supposed to learn practicing with mates, and this is not the better way to improve. Also teachers are not qualified most of the cases. I get frustrated and desperate sometimes, anyway, thanks again. Hugs from México. :)
Maria Rodriguez says
Yesterday I was in a trip with some co-workers and one made a comment why I has been in US for many years and my accent is so bad. She made me feel so embarrassing in front of the others ladies, that I almost cry. These is the reason that I decided to look help in the internet and I found your website. Thanks
Hello Teacher Melanie,
Thank you very very much for your very good advice.
Before I compared myself to others in my English club in Tokyo everytime,
and I did not have confidence to talk. After reading your advice, I made the decision: no comparision any more, I will speak with no fear. Maybe I make some mistakes, but little by little, I will progress and learn more from native speakers especially.
One day, I am going to be very good. I believe it more now.
Thank you so much!
Thank you Melanie for your wonderful encouragement for English learner like me. I’m encouraged by the four truths about learning English.
Really Great… Thanks for giving confidence.
I think it was the best English lesson ever I read. I am just in love with this article. Thanks Melanie.
I’m so happy to find your site,it’s very useful for those people who want to speak English! Your articel encourged me ! Thanks
Cool site ^_^
Well, mistakes in speaking is a real problem for me and fun for my mates. One of my best gem is pronouncing faculty as fuckulty. It was quite embarassing :)
Hajar Al-Beltaji says
Dear Melanie :D what I could say you talked about all Problems I faced while learning English you could cheer me up now and I’ve taken some few notes from your article above and I post it on my room’s wall to be as a self reminder in case feelin’ dow or somthin’ <3 thank you so much :*
great post , i had tried learning english for a long time but not result , thank you
hi i am atul mane from india i am a new learner of english i read your info. it is really useful for me.
thank you very much now i am also your student from today onwards.
M. Ángel García says
That advices are very useful for me, in fact in this moment I’m taking group class of English and I feel afraid about talk because my classmates will do laugh of me.
I agree with you for yours suggestions.
Thanks a lot
many thanks for your help, I am happy to see there are still nice People like you thinking of others.