This is a story about a hero and a journey that the hero went through to tame1 a dragon. You may become such a hero. Have you ever found yourself thinking that you have to improve your speaking skills? And you thought things like:
“oh, it’s impossible! I am too shy and introverted.”
“I have no opportunities to meet English speaking partners.”
“I’m afraid of speaking English. My English level is too low to talk to other people.”
Well, I will tell you a story that is proof that none of the above is enough to stop you from speaking English and having amazing conversations with people from all over the world.
The Call to Adventure
The story began almost 3 years ago, in February 2016. I had just gotten a long-term labor contract. My boss told me that my duties might demand speaking English. I always wanted to learn English but I also always found many excuses not to do it. But February 2016 was my breakthrough2. I signed up for an English course and started taking classes.
I started from the A1 level of English, which is to be a beginner. I enjoyed my classes, I liked the method they taught us – we learned English while we answered the teacher’s questions. I learned English effortlessly in a pleasant atmosphere, with friendly people.
But I’d been taking these classes for almost a year when I started to feel that it was not enough. In my opinion, I was able to learn faster.
I thought that there must have been something that would allow me to learn on my own in a fun way, in addition to the course. I did a quick search on the internet and I found a penpal website and signed up just to try it out. Internet learning was altogether new for me. The only one thing I knew was that I had to be careful. It felt weird.
Suddenly I got many messages, only from men. I felt overwhelmed and afraid. I didn’t know whether I had to answer them all. I needed a lot of time to translate them, and even more to reply. There were more and more messages, and I wasn’t comfortable using a computer. I worked on the computer at work, so after work, I didn’t want to use it. Today, I think that that was an excuse, as I was too afraid to continue learning this way… but I didn’t give up. So, I thought that there must’ve been something else, preferably for a smartphone.
There was! Lots of apps for English learners. I was surprised at how many opportunities there were. I quickly signed to the first one. Ohhh… I have to tell you about the adventure. I still blush5 when I think about it! Well, when you sign up to an app, you have to make your account and provide your name.
As I told you, I knew that I had to be careful, so I provided a nickname. It seemed that I was way too creative. I drove a red car that I called my rocket at that time. The first nickname that came to my mind was “red rocket”. And the first message I received was: ”Do you want sex?”. Oh my gosh!!! My answer was “Excuse me?!!” “Your nickname says that you are horny6”…
Mother of God, how come? – I felt so embarrassed that I immediately logged out of the app, deleted it, and promised not to do that anymore. If you are curious what a “red rocket” means look to the urban dictionary . The only one thing I thought was: well, girl you gotta learn more.
I waited 2 days. I couldn’t help thinking that I was missing an opportunity. I still felt so embarrassed, but I wanted to improve my English. I looked for another app. Also this time, I wanted an app for connecting with other people. I deemed7 that this would be the most effective way.
This time, I wasn’t so afraid to use my name. Finally, there are more Agnieszkas in the world. The app was called Hello Talk , and it lets you chat with people and correct all the mistakes that your partners make.
You should’ve seen my first message that I sent there. My fingers were so sweaty that I felt sorry for my smartphone. My hands shook. I was so concentrated that I forgot about the world around me. But I did it.
The answer that I received was all red, which meant that I’d made a lot of mistakes. Gosh! What a shame! I felt like I was burning up8
in flames. But I thought: “Easy Agnieszka, do you remember? You’re still learning. It is exactly what you would expect. Let it go.” And I sent another message…
It launched9 like a rocket 😉 When I allowed myself to not to be perfect, I found many awesome people to talk to and make friends with. In a very short time, I felt that my writing was better and better. Obviously, I met various people there.
Somehow, it turned out that I met only men there. I could tell you a lot about scammers10, flirts, and even about harassment11. Whenever I felt uncomfortable, I just blocked, reported, or stopped replying. But despite that, I met a few incredible friends, for whom I’m so very grateful.
One of them was Robert. He learned Polish for his Polish wife and her family. He asked me if I would like to help him to improve his speaking skills. Well, I thought… if we spoke Polish, I could handle it. So we scheduled a call. I was so nervous (Oh my! Talking to a stranger!) that I canceled the meeting using some lame excuse12.
Can you imagine? I was so afraid of talking even in Polish! I was a shy person. I always sat aside quietly, didn’t take the floor13 in meetings, I hated small talk14. And all of the sudden I was supposed to talk with strangers! I felt that I wasn’t able to do it.
But on the other hand, Robert needed that. I wanted to help him. So, we scheduled another call. And we did it! He spoke Polish pretty well. I was proud of him. Polish is such a difficult language! From then on we had many conversations. We spoke Polish, but obviously, when he couldn’t express what he wanted to tell me, he switched to English. I never spoke English then… That was too much for me. Oh, how much I missed!
I met another friend. Tom was an Irish guy who was learning Polish, as there are lots of Polish people in Ireland. He wanted to understand them. He made me send him voice messages. I’m telling you, how embarrassed I felt sending my first voice message in English. I needed so much time for preparation: I went to a room where nobody could disturb me, practiced pronunciation for a while, and then I tapped the record button and spoke my message almost without breathing. And I waited for his feedback. I was close to passing out every time. I was lucky, as Tom was able to tell me what I said wrong in a very friendly manner.
The Guide to the Treasure
Tom told me about his ways of learning. He watched YouTube videos, listened to podcasts. That was completely new for me. I thought that if he could find Polish sources for learning, there must’ve been even more of them for an English learner. There were! I fell in love with Learn English with TV series , and I, finally, found Reallife English podcasts . And also I found my treasure: 7 things not to do when speaking English . This article changed everything! I finally understood that speaking English was my treasure, a value itself, and that I should be proud of myself that I was trying to speak English despite making many mistakes.
At that time, I felt that I was far further with my English than people who I took my class with. They learned only in classes and didn’t do anything more. I decided to leave the course and continue learning by myself. I purchased the Fluent with Friends course and joined the RealLife Fluency Circle community. I finally found a safe environment15 with many people who had the same needs as me. I felt so awesome and happy.
The Moment of Despair
After a while, I got an offer to join a Skype meeting with English speaking people. That was my first chance to talk to anybody in English. I felt excited… but even more, I was stressed out! I had no experience using Skype and I barely spoke English. I was scared to death. But the only thing I knew was that it was my big chance!
So, I attended the meeting. Try to imagine it yourself: I was a very shy person, there were many people from all over the world, they spoke English very well (in my opinion), everybody knew each other, except me, and they had FUN talking to each other… I wasn’t able to articulate16a word. At all! The meeting lasted about an hour. That was an awful time. I felt unhappy, I hated myself and felt weepy17. What had I thought! Conversations in English weren’t for me! I couldn’t imagine myself in another meetup like this one.
I had another meetup a week later, and also the next week, and so on. With each session, I felt more and more confident. After some time I felt that I liked them. I met wonderful people from every corner of the world, I had a very nice time, and we had fun together. My speaking skills were getting better and better. I began to organize meetings like this on my own. I came up with topics to make them more interesting and to build our vocabulary.
Here, I have to tell you that I mainly met people who aren’t English natives. I’ve found talking to them very interesting: I had an opportunity to get to know other countries and their cultures, and many differences and similarities in how we look at the world. I have learned a lot from them and become more open, curious, and conscious about the world.
It also allowed me to get used to other accents. I think it is very important to be comfortable with how people from different cultures talk. This help is useful because we have a lot of chances to speak with non-natives, for example: during holidays, while we’re traveling, and also at work.
You know, a month ago I had an accidental Skype meeting with a native English speaker. Recently, I’ve become very interested in self-development. It’s because of the positive impact that learning English has made in my life.
So, I had the meeting with a life coach, Didi . She was completely unknown to me. Our conversation wasn’t related to learning English at all. We talked about leaving fears that block us, so that we were able to go ahead, and about the necessity of getting to know ourselves to reach our goals. I was waiting for the conversation with a feeling of only excitement. I didn’t feel the fear of speaking English at all.
It turned out that we had a very smooth conversation. My intermediate level of English wasn’t anything that bothered us. The only important thing was that I was courageous, confident, and fearless in my speaking.
It’s Your Turn
I showed you my way to gain confidence in speaking English because I believe that sharing it may help you. On your way to fluency, you will meet a lot of obstacles, and you may feel like giving up many times.
I went a long way from nothing to the first excitement in English classes, through embarrassing situations while I was forming first relationships, moments of doubting myself while I started to talk in English, to the moment when I had a fulfilling conversation with a native English speaker. I have become more confident, sociable, I have gained new skills that allowed me to feel better in social situations. I wish you the same for you.
You can read more about how to not give into your fears and why you should step outside of your English comfort zone . However, the most important thing right now is… start to speak English with anybody. That will give you power.
The next question is: Are you ready to accept your call to adventure and take your English skills to the next level? Download a FREE copy of the RealLife English Manifesto and get started on your journey to English fluency!
Vocabulary from this article
- to tame: to control a wild animal
- breakthrough: an important event that helps solve a problem
- trial: a test of the performance, qualities of someone or something
- foe: an enemy or opponent
- to blush: to become pink in the face
- horny: sexually excited
- to deem, deemed: to consider in a specified way
- to burn up: to be destroyed by fire
- to launch: to start in motion
- scammer: someone who makes money using illegal methods
- harassment: behavior that annoys or troubles someone
- lame excuse: an excuse of poor quality
- take the floor: speak in a debate or assembly
- small talk: a polite conversation about unimportant matters, as engaged in on social occasions
- environment: the conditions that you live or work in and that they influence how you feel
- articulate: to express thoughts and feelings in words
- weepy: feeling like to cry