The Fear of Speaking a New Language - Tips for Learners

Speaking a new language is intimidating enough, without having to do it in front of your colleagues. We look into some of the reasons why it’s so hard to speak a new language at work, and the steps you can take to overcome that fear.

Scenario: your company has opted in for Babbel and you’ve been taking full advantage of the opportunity to start learning a new language. You’re three weeks in and feeling confident, but when it comes to speaking with your colleagues, you totally freeze up. Even though you have the vocab and the grammar and you’ve been using Babbel’s speech recognition software, the words don’t seem to want to come out of your mouth when you’re in a real-life situation. 

And it’s understandable. No one wants to make mistakes in front of colleagues, which is why many of us feel afraid to speak a new language in the office. When you speak a new language, you’re guaranteed to make mistakes, as that’s how you learn. That’s fine in the classroom but a whole different story when you’re in a shared space with your boss. This blog post explores how you can face this fear and start to practice your language at work — because nothing’s more impressive than a multi-lingual employee!

The challenges of speaking a new language at work

Overcoming the anxiety of speaking a new language is a huge part of language learning and one that isn’t addressed often enough. In fact, it’s so common there’s even a name for it: xenoglossophobia. This is a phobia of speaking a new language in a group setting, usually within a classroom. This fear could stem from a negative experience speaking foreign languages in the past or from spending time with more advanced speakers and feeling left behind. However, the stakes are even higher when speaking in a work setting. There’s a heightened fear of making a mistake and feeling vulnerable in front of colleagues. 

Don’t worry if you feel this way: it’s completely normal, and there are several ways you can address the issue. Communication is key, so begin with asking your colleagues if they feel the same way about speaking a new language at work. The chances are they will feel similarly. This is a great time to organize language lunches or coffee breaks to practice together. One of the best things about using Babbel as part of a corporate benefit is you can learn alongside your colleagues, so you may find this experience brings you closer as a team!

Overcoming your fear

In an ideal world, we all work in an office environment where it’s okay to make mistakes. Because when we aren’t afraid of failure, we feel confident to try new things and that makes us more creative. So here are a few ways you can build your speaking confidence and positively impact your entire working life…

Take advantage of Babbel Live — Babbel Live is a great way to get over a fear of speaking. This is a one-on-one online lesson with a certified teacher that will help you take those first nerve-wracking steps in a safe environment, away from colleagues. Just schedule in 30 minutes per week to take advantage of this handy tutorial. If this isn’t part of your Babbel package yet, reach out to your manager. 

Practice outside the office — If you’re afraid to start talking in the office, then why not practice outside the office? Find someone who’s native in your chosen language, offer to buy them coffee, and start chatting away. You’ll soon bring those new speaking skills into the office with you!

Make mistakes — There’s no better way to create an open and forgiving environment than by being the first to make mistakes. Once you can show you can laugh at yourself, you’ll automatically give those around you permission to do the same.

Group of colleagues speaking

Rally your team — Once you get comfortable speaking, bring some fun into it. Rally your team and organize foreign film nights together so you can get accustomed to hearing your chosen language out loud. Plus, if you order in pizza, it’ll double up as a fantastic team event. 

Encourage your manager to learn — Last year our research with UMass showed that when a manager learns alongside their team, it keeps everybody motivated. So why not encourage your manager to pick up a new language? You won’t feel so nervous when you’re all making mistakes together!

How Babbel can support your team

There’s a myriad of reasons why you might be learning a new language — perhaps it’s to expand your horizons at work, to communicate with a new client, or simply to add another string to your bow. Whatever the reason, Babbel is here to support you every step of the way.

Start completing Babbel lessons at your own pace, whether in the quiet of your own home or on a coffee break. Babbel’s speech recognition software will help you practice your pronunciation, and in combination with the tips above you’ll soon be speaking your new language with confidence. 

If you have any questions or need additional support, feel free to reach out to our team of language experts at:


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