Author Topic: “I am too shy and this hampers my progress in speaking English”  (Read 33993 times)

Joe Carillo

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E-mail from ianconnectsyou, new Forum member (December 11, 2011):

Sir, I would like to ask you for advice on how to boost my confidence in speaking English. This has been a problem that I have not been able to solve. I know that I can speak good English compared to other students, but the problem is that I am too shy, to the point that I will begin my conversation in English and shift to Filipino when I see or notice that people start looking at me. I do not know what they are thinking when they hear me speaking in English; I infer, however, that they think of me as haughty, or “mayabang” in Filipino. I am only successful in thinking in English because that is something nobody can hear. I know this is an important issue for me because it can hamper my progress to confidently speak and write in English. I wish you could share something.

Also, please give me some advice or study method to become fluent in English. For sure I have seen many about it on the Internet, but of course I prefer yours.

My reply to ianconnectsyou:

You are not alone in your problem with your spoken English, Ian. I experienced it myself when I was a young man like you, and over the past nine years, many readers of my English-usage column in The Manila Times would confide to me that they were having the same problem. Shyness in speaking English shouldn’t be a permanent handicap, though; it can be overcome by continuously improving one’s English grammar and usage and by pursuing a no-nonsense personal speech improvement program. So, to achieve this goal, consider the same lines of action I had suggested to young people like you in an essay I wrote for my column way back in 2003. That essay later became the epilogue of my first English-usage book, English Plain and Simple, and I am now posting it here to help put you on the road to becoming fluent and confident in your spoken English:

Advice to the English-Challenged

Scores of readers of my daily column in the Manila Times have asked me by e-mail how they can improve not only their written but also their spoken English. The two notes below are typical of their plight about their proficiency in the language:

Arkie Manny: “Can you please give me advice on how to converse in English more effectively? I am working here abroad and there are times when I stutter when talking with my colleagues.” 

Abby B., who studies in a prestigious Philippine university: “Way back in high school, we were not trained to speak English well. So now that I am in college, it is proving to be a very big disadvantage. I have a problem communicating with people. Sometimes I fail to answer my teacher’s questions during recitation not because I don’t know the answer, but because I don’t know how to deliver it. I get scared that I might not say what I really want to say and that my grammar might be wrong. I find it hard to deal with the problem. It affects my self-esteem. I want to become competitive. I want to become fluent. I hope you can give me advice.”

Arkie’s and Abby’s woes are actually very similar, so I gave them the same advice. Of course, I offered it not as speech therapist nor speech improvement expert, of which I’m neither, but only as one who, many years ago, suffered from both problems mildly and had decently managed to cope with them.

I know of at least three reasons why some people find it difficult to express themselves in social, business, and classroom situations: a minor congenital vocal defect, an inferiority complex, or a deficient vocabulary, bad grammar, and bad pronunciation. To have any of these problems is, of course, excruciating enough. But worse is that many people just give up and blame their genetics, their upbringing, and their schools for it. Few bother to look deeply into their problem and find ways to surmount it.

In the case of a vocal defect, like the legendary stutter of Demosthenes of ancient Greece, personal initiative can make a lot of difference. Every day, that Athenian sword-maker’s son would do a solitary marathon and huff and puff through the city streets to the beach, stuff his mouth with pebbles, then start orating to the waves at the top of his voice. In time, the stutter disappeared and he went on to become the greatest orator Greece had ever known. Today, of course, you need not even do such an excruciating routine. You can simply get hold of a good English-language book or magazine and start reading aloud in the privacy of your bedroom. You can even do audiotapes of your readings to check your progress. If you do this for at least 20 minutes each night for a month, it just might do wonders to your recalcitrant tongue and diction as it did to mine.

If you have inferiority complex, there should be two or three personality development centers in your area that can help. I have not gone to one myself, but I had observed first-hand how their specialists make people see clearly the nature of their speech problems. The simple assisted routine of watching yourself speak in front of a mirror, or of being videotaped to capture your bad pronunciation as well as your tics and mannerisms, can be a painfully revealing but liberating process. A young secretary of mine many years ago suffered from an exasperating shyness; when spoken to, she would slur her replies and her right eye would blink rapidly without her even knowing it. I sent her to one such center and she became a self-confident, more refined woman in eight weeks, the slur and blinking gone.

Finally, as to deficient vocabulary and bad grammar, I actually know of only one appropriate course of action for that: a methodical self-review of English grammar, reading a lot of good English-language books and magazines, and checking the dictionary for the meaning and pronunciation of any new word you encounter. It is sad that many schools and many teachers these days cannot be trusted to help you in this; their own problems with English vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation maybe even worse than yours. You can easily see this in the incomprehensible, tortured English of leading Philippine educators who make the mistake of publishing their work in newspapers. Also, if you can help it, avoid tuning in to the Taglish morning programs of the local TV networks; listening to their fractured English and Filipino can set back your self-improvement efforts a few days each time.

As one who was similarly English-challenged in speech and who suffered from a mild stutter until third year in high school, I can tell you that there are few better therapies than the three I have described. Of course I must say one more thing: good English diction, as with practically all art forms, is simply the result of patiently cultivating the quality of one’s mind and of practice, practice, practice.
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From the book English Plain and Simple: No-Nonsense Ways to Learn the Global Language by Jose A. Carillo © 2004 by the author © 2010 by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.
« Last Edit: December 11, 2011, 10:37:17 PM by Joe Carillo »

ianrivera

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Re: “I am too shy and this hampers my progress in speaking English”
« Reply #1 on: December 11, 2011, 09:51:28 PM »
A million thanks sir Joe! I have never felt as inspired as I am right now.

vegitaboss

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Re: “I am too shy and this hampers my progress in speaking English”
« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2012, 06:26:11 PM »
Thanks a lot to Joe, I am poor in english grammer and moreover i am very shy in the public, but joe sir has inspired with the above..I am much better now.

jamesadam432

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Re: “I am too shy and this hampers my progress in speaking English”
« Reply #3 on: February 13, 2012, 05:32:02 PM »
thanks for your help.
your advice can be helpful for me.
the method you give to improve the English is very good and easy.thanks for your appreciation.

bobby12

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Re: “I am too shy and this hampers my progress in speaking English”
« Reply #4 on: February 28, 2012, 12:46:55 AM »
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ankurs127

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Re: “I am too shy and this hampers my progress in speaking English”
« Reply #5 on: July 15, 2012, 02:56:04 PM »
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« Last Edit: August 10, 2012, 03:07:57 PM by Joe Carillo »

ankurs127

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Re: “I am too shy and this hampers my progress in speaking English”
« Reply #6 on: August 10, 2012, 02:24:42 PM »
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« Last Edit: August 10, 2012, 03:08:14 PM by Joe Carillo »

ankurs127

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Re: “I am too shy and this hampers my progress in speaking English”
« Reply #7 on: August 18, 2012, 01:38:55 PM »
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