10 Ways to Overcome a Fear of Learning a Foreign Language



Xenoglossophobia is the fear of learning a Foreign Language! The symptoms are an intense anxiety that triggers a flight or fight response at the very thought of trying to converse in a foreign language.

So how does one overcome a fear of foreign words?

1 Seek Professional Support

If you or someone you know feels very anxious or have a fear that is controlling your way of life please seek professional medical advice from a doctor. It may be that you need some therapy before even thinking about studying a foreign language.

2 Try Some Self-Help Materials

There are plenty of self-help books out there. I would recommend a book on Neuro Linguistic Programming.

3 Gradual Exposure Therapy

When helping someone to overcome their fear of Spiders (arachnophobia), for example, the psychiatrist or therapist will first present the patient with a picture of a spider. At first, the patient will not want to look at the picture, but once they get used to it and can view it confidently with little to no anxiety, the patient will then watch a video of a spider. The next step is to look at a real spider behind glass, and the final step may be to actually hold a spider. Eventually, the fear is overcome. The same principle can also be applied to overcoming a fear of learning foreign languages.

4 Read it Aloud to Yourself

Foreign language tutors recommend reading an article or book in your target language aloud – especially if you also have gelotophobia (the fear of people making fun of you). You have to read the words so that you can feel them with your mouth and hear them with your ears. It doesn’t matter if you do it perfectly, either. Just read straight through, and over time this practice will help you to develop the confidence you need to start speaking up.

5 Listen to Your Favourite Music in Your Target Language.

Listen to your favorite music over and over, but in the target language. It’s even better if you can get the lyrics, and learn to sing along. Not only will this improve your vocabulary, but singing with the language will make it more familiar to you. This is similar to reading aloud, but the repetition of the song’s words will help to imprint them into your brain. Songs are often written with colloquial terms, meaning what you learn will be particularly useful for conversational speech.

6 Watch a movie in Your Target Language.

Watch your favorite movie (or TV show) dubbed in the target language!  You will familiar with it all other than their voices. When you watch a movie that you already understand, the language part is simplified, at least a bit. This strategy can help you overcome the intimidation of knowing nothing at all (xenophobia = the fear of the unknown).

7 Take it Slow and Steady.

Often, when you’re learning a language, you’ll be presented with a concept that will be very difficult to understand. For example, Chinese is a tonal language.  Take your time to absorb the different patterns and difficult concepts, and don’t be hard on yourself if it takes you a little longer to really “get it.” This is natural.

8 Associate it with something you like or Familiar with!

I LOVE coffee so when I learn the language I learn vocabulary for eating out first of all! Look for the converter words! By starting with something you understand the language will seem more friendly and less frightening.

9 Focus on The Positive Benefits

Focus on all the positive benefits of language learning. Check out the 10 Benefits of Bilingualism for some inspiration.

10 Invest in a Good Tutor with Experience

Find a supportive language tutor that has experience with students who are very anxious.

Have you overcome xenoglossophobia and now speak another language fluently? If so I would love to hear your story!