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nath

Nerves in front of Chinese-speaking foreigners and English-speaking Chinese people

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nath

Hi all,

 

Just a quickie, been learning Chinese for a couple of years now, and while my tones need a lot of improving, I consider myself to be semi-fluent in day-to-day stuff. However, one problem I continuously have is nerves speaking Chinese in front of other Chinese -speaking foreigners and English-speaking Chinese people. It's like i clam up and lose all confidence..strange.

 

As this is the first time I've got to a level like this with another language, I'm keen to see if anyone else has the same issue, and whether anyone has any suggestions to bypass this annoying habit. 

 

Cheers

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imron

1). Record yourself speaking a passage of text (use Audacity or similar software).

 

2). Listen back to it and notice where the mistakes are.

 

3). Repeat from 1). paying attention to correct the mistakes noticed in 2).

 

Continue until you are happy.

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tooironic

I've suffered from a similar problem; we had a discussion about it in this thread.

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realmayo

nath, I think I know exactly what you mean. For me it wasn't quite nerves, but I was extremely self-conscious. I think it was because it felt silly speaking Chinese to people who were either native English speakers, or Chinese people who spoke much better English than I spoke Chinese.

 

That self-consciousness went away when I studied alongside students from other Asian countries whose English was not good -- it was most natural for us all to speak in Chinese together.

 

Thinking about it, the only time I feel that way these days would be if I'm in a Chinese restaurant in London and a friend tries to get me to speak Chinese to a waiter. That would be too weird. But if for some reason someone struck up a conversation with me in Chinese, I'd be perfectly happy.

 

So for me it's a bit different to what tooironic mentions: if (in the past) I knew I was talking to someone who couldn't speak much English, I'd have no problems, it would be natural to speak Chinese. And on those times when it felt unnatural, it wasn't beacuse of lack of confidence about tones or pronunciation. It was just feeling self-conscious or artificial.

 

My advice would be: if you open your mouth and it's not 100% perfect fluent Chinese coming out, then don't feel weird talking in Chinese to anyone, because it's obvious you're still learning and learners need to practise, so people should understand exactly why you're using Chinese, and should be encouraging. Once you do end up with 100% perfect fluent Chinese of course, you can be proud of that and no need to feel nervous at all!

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Shelley

For a start I wouldn't be concerned about having nerves, I would say this is perfectly natural. Once you accept this it can be quite liberating.

 

What is the worst that can happen? You make a mistake, forget a word, or mispronounce something but if the people you are talking to are at all human they will understand that you are learning and hopefully they will help and correct you kindly.

 

Start with people you feel comfortable with, this helped me.

 

I would also say that as time goes on it will get easier, the more you do something the more natural it becomes.

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Demonic_Duck

I also experience this when the other foreigner isn't someone who I know well, and is at a similar or higher level than me (or at a completely unknown level, as when I'm completing some transaction in Chinese with other foreigners in the vicinity).

 

Basically, it's a face thing. Sure, westerners aren't as culturally conscious of "face" as Chinese people, but it still has an effect on our behaviour. You won't lose face by speaking Chinese when only other Chinese are there to hear you - they have a clear advantage in their native language, so you don't expect them to think any the less of you if your grasp of it is less than perfect. On the other hand, if foreigners overhear your conversation, there's always the fear that they're silently judging you and measuring you up against their own level.

 

I don't get this with Chinese people who speak good English, though, nor do I get it with foreigners who are friends or good acquaintances, or who I can clearly see are at a lower level than me.

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Mr John

I can definitely relate to this one. I distinctly remember having dinner once with my some of the other foreign teachers from my university (all of whom had been studying Mandarin for between three to five years) and some Chinese friends who spoke English very well. When it was my turn to order I practically whispered it, which led to me having to repeat my order - despite the fact that I had actually gotten the tones and pronunciation right. Now I can't claim that I was a picture of confidence when handling things on my own, but having them all there definitely added a lot of pressure. At that stage I had been getting lessons for around a year, so I was pretty disappointed to suddenly feel like a complete noob all over again.

 

I tended to find that I really only felt comfortable speaking Mandarin with people who couldn't speak English. While it wasn't ideal, it still helped me to develop some level of confidence. Maybe you could try combining this kind of practice with the the stuff recommended above.

 

Now that I'm back in Australia I'm starting to regret all the opportunities I passed up. Try your best to make the most of them. Best of luck!

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imron
and a friend tries to get me to speak Chinese to a waiter.

I hate this.  Nothing to do with nerves though, it just invariably leads to the same look of surprise, and then 5 minutes of same set of questions and answers.  I just want to eat some food.

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realmayo

Another reason I hate it because they normally only speak Cantonese....

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