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If public speaking fills your sleep with nightmares, small talk terrifies you and presentations are your idea of hell fire, language learning probably does not make it to your bucket list of hobbies.

You probably consider yourself shy or maybe an introvert and spending time in a class trying to practise French with strangers is most likely not your idea of fun.

There seems to be some quite particular views on the link between different individual traits and language learning, especially concerning shy learners. Most of which, involve an identity overhaul nearing a complete personality transplant, including the “snap out of it” approach. My guess is that people holding these views have not taught many students, if any at all. Had they had the experience, they would know that is not the student who is in need to adapt to a certain method or teacher, but on the contrary the complete opposite is the solution.

Needless to say, there is absolutely nothing negative about anyone’s nature per se, and although collectively we might think about language learning as an activity better suited to extroverts, second language acquisition is not the exclusive realm of outgoing characters.

Being a timid person doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to forgo the brilliant experience of speaking a second language. In fact, there are some few vital features shy people usually share that could be invaluable when trying to grasp a second lingo.

Below find a few tips to get you started learning a new language whilst making the most out of your shy nature:

  • Shy students tend to be really good listeners. There is no better way of learning a language than listening carefully before you start producing any actual sentences yourself. According to various studies, including one by Harvard School of Education, it takes 15 to 20 times of hearing one word for your brain to retain it.

Moreover, just think about the way children learn. They are listening for about a year before they utter their first sounds. Take advantage of your natural predisposition to listen and become a master of a new language in your own time. Listen to the radio, music and podcasts in the target language. There are also lots of films available in different languages. The more you listen, the more you will be able to produce when you are ready.

  • Learning a language does not necessarily joining big group classes. Having one to one lessons gives you with your tutor’s full attention. Furthermore, the lessons will be tailor made, making the most out of your assets and learning style.

Choose a good, experienced tutor. Teachers should adapt to your learning style and preferences. Having a professional focused on your improvement will work wonders for your progress.

  • Join or make your own small group. Learn with some friends you feel comfortable with. It will add an extra dimension to your learning and you will have some fun in the process.


  • Find a learning buddy. If you are still not ready to learn in group, big or small, look for a language exchange buddy. An informal relaxed meeting in coffee shop will take the pressure of the actual learning.


  • Make the most out of online resources and apps. There have never been as many free online resources as there are now. Using voice recognition, you can even speak to your computer and be corrected. Although using these apps is not enough to learn a language in depth, it will get you started and give you the confidence to give the next step.&nbsp
  • Travel to another country. Some bilingual speakers have revealed how they acquire different personalities when they speak their different languages. Somehow, being in another country talking another language can feel disinhibiting and a lot of fun!
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  • The fact that you are not as impulsive as other learners, will ensure that you reflect more on language structures, internalise them better and in turn when you start producing the language you will be less likely to make mistakes.
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  • Reading and writing is a great way of memorizing new words and structures. Write a diary or make your own bullet journal in your target language.
  • Happy learning!
  • September 30, 2016 Elliot Stephens, said:

    A fantastic guide to getting shy learners to open up.

  • October 3, 2016 ines, said:

    Thanks for reading!

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