The Cure for the Shy English Student

Shyness is terrible.

It can stop you living a full life. And if you are studying English, it can prevent you from opening your mouth to speak. It can stop you from learning English.

It is a waste of time for anyone to say — just try. Just try to speak, it’s easy.

Because for many shy students it is not easy. It is really difficult.

So I would like to introduce to you some simple methods to help you beat your shyness.

I have put together some tactics that you can put into action today to help you get over being shy and to help you improve your English.

Shall we take a look?


Why are You Shy?

Is it your personality? Or do you just feel awkward speaking English?

If it is the former, then you can still use these methods and beat your shyness in English. If it is the second, then this is a lot easier to deal with.

You may feel shy to speak English because you lack enough vocabulary to express yourself. Or you don’t understand what people are saying to you.

You can beat this by broadening your range of vocabulary. Or by practising your listening skills.

This is something that anyone can do, providing they are prepared to put the work in.

Please check my other articles on vocabulary, speaking and listening to find out how to make improvements.

But if you are a naturally shy person, please understand that you can still make huge improvements in your English. Just because you are shy, it does not mean you cannot improve your English vocabulary, English grammar, writing, listening and reading skills.

Yes, you may feel that speaking English with others is a major challenge, but by improving the other English skills, this will give your confidence a real boost.


First Things First


Let’s look at some basic things we can do to first.

There are some very simple things you can do to make yourself feel at ease. Any time you are feeling nervous or a little anxious, you can use one of the following methods to help you relax.



When we feel nervous or overly shy in front of others, we tend to not smile. We do this to try to hide from view. The thinking is that if people cannot see us then we will feel less stressed.

But actually, smiling can make you feel more confident in yourself.

The more you smile, the more at ease you will feel in front of others.

So do not forget to smile.


Breathe Deeply


Another thing we should do is to take deep breaths.

When we feel shy, we often take small, shallow breaths. This will not help you at all. Breathing helps us relax so don’t forget to breathe.

If you have to do a presentation in class and you feel nervous about doing it, don’t forget to breathe. Take several deep breaths and face the class.

You should feel a little more relaxed as long as you breathe deeply.


Mistakes are Good!


English learners who are shy are often very worried about making mistakes.

But you should not worry about this at all. We all make mistakes.

Shy English learners think that making a mistake is the end of the world. But think of it this way — every time you make a mistake, you are improving. You are learning and you are getting better each time.

So don’t let mistakes hold you back.

And also — please remember the following two thoughts:

When you talk to English-speaking people, most people are not judging you on your ability to speak English. They are aware that English is your second language and that you may be struggling a little. Most people are kind and will try to help you to understand. Or they will be patient and wait for you to express yourself.

And conversations in English are about mundane, everyday things. English-speaking people are not in deep discussion about politics or philosophy. Any conversations you might overhear are about the usual topics like work, school, family, the weather.

Think of the things you talk about in your own language. English conversations are not that different!


Preparation is Everything


So now you have some basic things to do to help you relax. Or to put your mind at ease.

Now you need to prepare.

Let’s take a look at what you can do.


Find Your Strengths


You need to find out what your strengths in English are.

What are you good at?

Maybe you are good at writing. Shy people often are great writers. They can write down their deepest thoughts very well.

Is this something you like to do? If so, work on that!

Or maybe you have a strength in building vocabulary or grammar. It could be that reading or listening is one of your better English skills.

Work on these all the time. The more you work on these, the more it will help you in speaking.

Take some time to think really hard about what your strengths are.

Write them down.


What Are Your Goals?


What is it that you want to achieve?

What results do you want to see in your English in one month? In two months? In a year?

Some people think of goals that are too vague. They might say: I want to improve my English.

But by how much? And how often?

The best way to make a goal is to use numbers.

You can do this easily.

For example:

I will say TWO things in my English class today.

I will ask ONE question in English today.

I will ask THREE people a simple question today. (How are you?)

By using a number, your goals become more defined. It is easy to count and you can measure your progress.

You should increase the number regularly. So that the items above become the following:

I will say THREE things in my English class today.

I will ask TWO questions in English today.

I will ask FIVE people a simple question today.

Write down all your goals where you can see them clearly. In your English notebook or in your English journal.

By doing this, you can monitor all the progress you make.


Use Your KEY Phrases

You must have many key phrases in English that you can say easily.

An easy key phrase is: How are you?

How easy is it to say, How are you? to someone? It’s very easy.

Try to use your own key phrases with people you meet.

Use your key phrases with your classmates, your friends, your English teacher.

If you need some help with some key phrases to start with, try the following:

Hey, how’s it going?

This means: Hello, how are you?

Wow, what about this weather, huh?

This means: What do you think of this weather?

It can be used if it is raining, snowing, really hot, really cold, good or bad weather.

I’m starving! Let’s eat!

This means: I am very hungry, let’s go and eat lunch/dinner.

Try to use all of these today!


Don’t Compare Yourself To Others


This is a total waste of time.

The only person you should be comparing yourself to is you.

And quite often, if you are shy, you are comparing yourself to the most extrovert person in the class.

This is the worst person to compare yourself to. They are always talking and chatting with the teacher in English; they seem very confident and capable.

But what we don’t see or hear are all the mistakes they are making. And they make a lot.

Remember: I said that mistakes are good.

This is something you can learn from the class extrovert. To not be worried about your mistakes.

But do not compare yourself to this person.

Think of your own goals and compare your progress to what you did one month ago, two months ago.


Use the Visualisation Technique


This is where you imagine yourself speaking English.

You close your eyes and you see yourself speaking English in class or with your classmates or teacher.

Imagine the environment of the place where you will speak English.

This really works! It has been proven to work by scientists.

So if you have an English presentation to do in class — and maybe you are dreading it — just imagine yourself doing it.

See yourself in your mind, standing up and speaking in front of all your classmates.

See yourself speaking eloquently and confidently.

Use this technique as part of your presentation every time you go to English class.


Practical Things You Can Do At Home


There are some methods you can practise at home to help you overcome your shyness in speaking English.

Let’s look at what they are.


Use a Mirror


This is a very standard technique but still very useful.

You can do this all by yourself at home.

Simply face a mirror and speak English. Observe the way you look as you speak English. This will help you become more confident in yourself.

You can speak English or you can read out loud from a book or an article.

The more you get used to seeing yourself speaking English out loud, the less shy you will feel when speaking English in class.

Try it!



This is a fantastic technique that can really boost your confidence. And you can practise this all alone.

You will need your smartphone, some earphones, a recording in English and a transcript of the recording in English.

Briefly, these are the steps:

Listen to the recording

Read the transcript

Repeat what you hear

If you want to know about this technique in more detail, please go here — The Shadowing Technique — and how it can help you speak English.


Read Out Loud


Just by practising any reading, you have to do out loud will help you.

The more you hear the sound of your own voice speaking English, the less shy you will be when speaking English in public.


Practise English with Others


Even though you feel very shy, at some point you will have to speak English with others.

Once you take this step and challenge yourself, you will find that your confidence will grow and grow.


Other Shy People


One kind of people you could start to practise with is other shy people.

Not all the world is made up of very confident, outgoing people. You can find many other shy people too.

Seek out all the shy people in your class — or in your school — and form a ‘shy group’ with them. You can help each other and practise speaking English together.

There is less pressure to stand up and speak in a loud, confident manner as all the members of your group are shy.


People with Similar Interests


You can also find people with the same interests as yourself.

Whatever your hobby or free time activity, you can find other people that share the same desire to do these things.

In a group like this, you can overcome your shyness by doing things you enjoy and with like-minded people.

And the choice of groups is unlimited.

Reading, cooking, playing an instrument. Or whatever else takes your fancy.

In your interest group, you will have to speak English and there will not be so much pressure as it is not in the classroom.


In the Classroom


The classroom can be the worst place in the world for the shy English student.

But you need to step outside of your comfort zone and make an effort.

This is what you can do.


Ask Questions

Ask questions. Ask any questions you feel like asking.

The best questions to ask are Wh questions. These are:







By asking one of these, it means the other person can talk at length. But also, asking a Wh question is easy.

The more you do this, the more your confidence will soar.

So for example, in your English class, there is a lesson on pets. Think of questions you could ask the teacher or other students about pets.

Here are some examples:

Who has a pet dog in the class?

What kind of animals make good pets?

Why do people like to have a pet dog/cat/fish/snake?

When did you get your first pet?

Where do you take your dog for a walk?

How many pets do you have?

It’s so easy!

And the more you try this, the less shy you will feel…


And Finally…


Be Kind To Yourself


Any time you challenge yourself and accomplish a win, no matter how small, you must congratulate yourself.

So you set a goal to ask ONE question in class.

If you are successful in doing that, you need to give yourself a pat on the back.

Give yourself a reward every time you step outside your comfort zone and beat your shyness.

And if you are not so successful, do not beat yourself up about it.

There is always another day to try.




Shyness can be a terrible thing. It can hold people back and prevent them from living a full life.

But if you take small steps each day to try to combat your shyness, you can overcome it and win.

Hopefully, some of the methods above can help you to feel less shy and step into the light.

Keep trying! And leave a comment below…

2 thoughts on “The Cure for the Shy English Student”

  1. My son used to be so shy to speak his second language that for years he would only nod yes or no to any question! He was afraid people would laugh at him.

    Finally I threatened to send him to a boarding school for sign language, unless he started speaking one word sentences and adding a word or two each day. He finally got over it with those baby steps.

    Shyness is a handicap but your tips are great to help shy students.

    1. Many thanks, Leona. Yes, shyness can be totally debilitating to a language learner. I hope some of these tactics can help them a little.

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