Fear of Social Embarrassment
Where can I practice English when I live in Taiwan?
Once again, we need to talk about face. Have you ever heard two Taiwanese people speak English with each other anywhere outside of a classroom? I can count on one hand how often I’ve witnessed this kind of interaction. And yet, every one of my students has told me that they have no environment to practice in other than in the buxibans. I am always amazed at this misconception. There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people in Taiwan trying to learn English. Once you accept the premise I’ve outlined in other blog entries (Practice + Time = Success), then you know you need to put in the time practicing. It’s no rocket science people, although, if it were, I think you’d have an easier time of it.
One exercise I am fond of creating for my students is to match them up in class 1 on 1 and get them chatting about anything. Basically, I task them with getting to know as much about their partner as they can. They usually get right into it. I keep my distance as having a “teacher” hang over their conversation will make them nervous. After 2 or 3 minutes, I check in with them. I ask them if they are comfortable speaking English with their partner. Most are.
I then suggest that they take their conversation down to the street, or to go for a short ride on a nearby MRT while continuing to speak in English. Imagine yourself in such a situation. You are meeting a fellow Taiwanese student, getting to know them and after class, you take the MRT together. Can you imagine yourself successfully participating in such an English conversation?
No? Why not?
It’s a fear of social embarrassment. Most of my students express concern that the strangers that surround them on the street or MRT will think they are showing off. While I understand that some believe this causes them to lose face, I suggest that you actually gain face by overcoming this social stigma. When I force my students to take their conversations out of the classroom and onto the streets, they are extremely reluctant, but within 10 minutes of accepting this challenge, they overcome their fear and, as I’ve suggested in previous blogs, that fear is gone. Forever.
It’s so surprisingly simple to overcome and is a great example of how we can face and conquer our fears. I suggest that you immediately stop caring what strangers might think of you as you practice your skills in public. Get that 900+ TOIEC score, get a great job and buy yourself a Benz. Who has all the face now?
Quick Tip: Just Do It!!