Is foreign language confidence an illusion?

21 June 2020 by
Lifelong learning Lifelong learning
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Most people are petrified to speak in front of public, even if they do it in their first language.


They lose their words, their hands and legs are shaking, or they might start to stutter. There are some, who cannot sleep for days when they know they have a public performance or presentation coming. So we can imagine how much stress it can cause to speak in a foreign language on an exam, at the airport or at work.


In addition, the majority of students aren’t satisfied with their inner selves either. It was mentioned on a language examiner training that 60% of the students fail due to lack of self-confidence. Many people have already passed their language exam, they do well in their workplace, and yet they are still saying they can’t speak. It is like going to the gym to have a perfect shape, but somehow we never feel to be satisfied. Our abs and our muscles are never toned enough. And if they are, then our forehead is too high, or our ankle is too thick. In these cases we have a problem with accepting ourselves and not with our language knowledge or outlook.


“People who are terrified of what others think about them are actually terrified of all the shitty things they think about themselves being reflected back at them.” Mark Manson


And what does perfection really mean? Few years ago I saw an interview with a man on TV, who was speaking many languages and visited lots of countries around the world. The interviewer asked him about which languages were worth learning the most.


“English,” he said.

“Ok, but what should be the next one, when somebody has already learnt English?” Asked the reporter.

“English,” he replied again.

“I see, but I mean if somebody has already excelled in that language.” 

“That’s impossible,” answered the language genius. “English is spoken in so many countries and has so many expressions that we learn it until the end of our life.”


So it’s not a surprise that I haven’t really met anyone in the previous years, who didn’t have any doubts about his own language skills. Of course I had some relaxed, self-assured students, but eventually they came to learn too to be even better. But there’s nothing wrong about this, as all people are improving themselves in one way or another, perhaps until they die.


Confidence in speaking a foreign language is a task, which requires continuous improvement and development, and the key is the persistent work and the usage of the language. Experience shows that the more we practise, the less we will be afraid of it and we will dare to speak in real situations. You have to answer the foreign language questions in your second language even if you feel frustrated about it, and you shouldn’t be concerned with your errors. You have to train yourself steadily in small steps every day, and face the challenges, even in spite of your fears.


On the whole, let’s use the language both in verbal and written communication, because this is needed for the quicker development. Perfection is an absurd goal, because everybody makes mistakes, and a confident language skill can be achieved on any levels, it only depends on us and on the picture created about ourselves.



(The Hungarian translation is available on


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