Why do I freeze up when trying to speak Portuguese?

in Business · 25-09-2020 01:00:00 · 0 Comments
Why do I freeze up when trying to speak Portuguese?

Even after learning Portuguese for a long time, many still struggle with “freezing up” in real conversations.

Why does this happen? They know the grammar rules and verb conjugations, they have a decent vocabulary, and they may even understand most of what they hear. When it comes to speaking, however, they’re blocked by uncertainty and perfectionism.

The vulnerability and ambiguity involved in practising a language can feel overwhelming. Sometimes this is related to generalised anxiety, but it can also be situational anxiety, specific to speaking Portuguese (or any language). It’s often due to fear: of not being understood, offending someone, sounding stupid, or making a bad impression.

Part of the reason that language is so poignant is that it’s deeply tied to who we are as individuals. The way you communicate with others is how you represent yourself to the world. You are not just learning Portuguese; you are trying to incorporate Portuguese into your life and persona.

The words you choose, the tone of voice, the level of formality: these components of language can be studied and understood, but applying them in the real world is more complicated. As a beginner, you don’t yet have the subtleties that help you to be tactful, polite, or show concern. In your native language, you know how to be firm without being aggressive, friendly but not flirty, serious but not boring, funny but not offensive, and so on. Thus, communicating in a second language begins more like an act, rather than self-expression.

Anxiety surrounding this disconnect causes a shift in brain activity, which in turn affects the ability to communicate effectively. Anxiety increases activity in areas involved in responding to danger and suppresses the parts of the brain needed for processing language. So instead of clearly formulating a response, your brain is busy trying to avoid an imaginary threat. Consequently, you run into problems with attention, short-term memory, word-finding, and even coordinating the mouth muscles to produce speech.

Luckily, there are many ways to approach this problem, ranging from stress reduction techniques, to building specific skills, to using the right communication strategies. Which fears cause you to freeze up?

To find out more about learning Portuguese and to see a list of compiled strategies for beginning to overcome freezing up, please visit practiceportuguese.com/freeze.


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