It’s one of the most common emotions – among learners and people who are considering learning.
It’s natural – perhaps even inevitable for most people – but it’s also a dangerous problem.
Most of the shyness you feel is because language is connected to status. When you can’t say what you want to say, it feels like a loss of power – it feels like losing your adult status and becoming vulnerable and dependent again. Becoming childish – and not in a good way.
Why is it a problem?
The more shy you feel – the more self-conscious you feel – the more you focus on what you imagine other people are thinking of you – the less likely you are to take the actions that will turn you into a Welsh speaker.
You can find some workarounds – using our online courses is easier for someone who feels shy than going to an evening class, for example – but if you’re too shy to join in the video groups, or to start using your Welsh with other people, you’re going to be dragging a huge dead weight around with you. Then, of course, you learn more slowly – because your brain is getting few opportunities to practise – and then it’s more likely that you’ll get disheartened and give up.
There’s one solution I’ve seen work well (particularly in our bootcamps).
It comes in two parts.
The first part is about how you think about childishness.
If you focus on it as a loss of status, as embarrassing, as a loss of power and authority, as letting go of all the things you’ve worked so hard to achieve – then of course you don’t want to feel like a child.
But if you think of it as having permission to play, to be curious, to laugh at things, to throw caution to the wind and just enjoy yourself – to jump back into that whole ‘best time of your life’ thing – then it’s a different matter.
Now, I’m not suggesting you put on a onesie and go and sit in the middle of the nearest road, playing with lego. Some social inhibitions are quite valuable…;-)
But if you can start to see learning as a chance to play make-believe – a chance to be someone different, to let go of the daily grind and all your worries and to-do lists – to spend some time just playing with words – then you’ll be ready for the second part of this solution.
The second part is tip-toeing.
With this, you choose something that makes you feel shy, and then – very slowly – you tip-toe towards it.
Every day, you take a tiny, tiny step – dressing it up as a game – and never over-reaching – until all that tip-toeing starts to turn into a dance.
So, for example:
Maybe you’ve started using our online lessons to get round the shyness of going to an evening class.
And you’re doing well being playful about the lessons – laughing at the mistakes, making up your own sentences, playing make-believe, being an entirely different person for a little bit every day (or a few times a week).
But you’re too shy to join in one of the group video hangouts to practise your Welsh.
And you feel bad about not doing it, so whenever you think about it, or see an email reminding you, you feel a little more stressed, and it starts to eat away at you.
So, forgive yourself for feeling shy – it’s natural! – and start tip-toeing.
It might look like this.
Day 1, you open Google hangouts.
That’s it. You don’t do anything else. You’re just going to tip-toe. Literally just open it and then close it again.
Day 2, search for ‘hangouts’ on YouTube, and watch 10 seconds of one of them.
Day 3, check that your camera is working.
Day 4, look at the Slack group channel for hangouts.
Day 5, watch 10 seconds of one of the SSiW hangouts.
Day 6, open Google hangouts at the same time as you know an SSiW hangout is happening. That’s all – don’t join it, or even look for it, just have Hangouts open at the time you know there’s a live session.
Day 7, watch 10 seconds of a live hangout – a random one on YouTube, or an SSiW one.
Day 8 – do Day 7 again – you’re just tip-toeing – do it for a week or two, however long it takes to feel normal. Each time, watch for a little longer.
Day 9 (or whenever) – switch off your camera and microphone, join the hangout, and leave immediately. It’s okay – we’ll know you’re tip-toeing…:-)
Repeat Day 9 a few times.
Day 10 – join with your camera and microphone off, and stay in the hangout listening for 10 seconds.
Look how far you’ve come.
It’s only 10 or 20 days, and you’ve only taken tiny, tiny steps – but you can already see how much closer you are to taking part in a hangout.
Anything that makes you feel shy can be broken down into this kind of tiny steps. Just map it out, and then imagine yourself moving inch by inch, and you’ll start to figure out what the tiniest possible steps are.
If you put tip-toeing and playfulness together, you WILL end up doing the things that will turn you into a Welsh speaker.
If you’re not on a course at the moment – if you’ve been feeling too shy or uncertain to start – the first tiny step you can take (and you can do it right now if you want) is just to READ about the courses we offer:
Our 6 minutes a day course is here:
and our intensive, accelerated 6 month Welsh speaker course is here:
And if you know anyone else who’s shy about learning Welsh, do please share this with them…:-)