Written by: Olivera Tolimir
If you’re anything like most people, you probably feel stressed when speaking Serbian (or any other foreign language) in front of a native speaker or a language teacher. The scenario looks like this: you think about perfect wording while trying to implement all the grammatical rules you’ve learned from your lessons. So, in all that thinking, you freeze and forget everything you know while trying to phrase it perfectly, which leaves you even less motivated to continue learning (because what’s the point when you can’t even ask where are the dairy products in a supermarket?!).
Worry no more, here comes the help! These six tricks will help you overcome your fear of speaking Serbian and laugh off any potential mistake you make!
The Fear of Sounding Stupid
The fear of sounding stupid when speaking a second (or third) language is something we’ve all felt at least once in our lifetime.
I certainly remember slight panic attacks when I was supposed to say something out loud during English classes in high school! And I loved English! It was one of my favorite subjects, but I always feared embarrassing myself in front of the class, and one question would always pop into my head: “What if I say something stupid?!”
If you feel this way, let me kindly ask you to answer that question. What will happen if you say something stupid?
The worst possible scenario is that the one across you is an arrogant fool who would laugh at you. Would that be your problem? Would it affect your life and self-esteem? It really shouldn’t. You’re the one learning a whole new language, and those who would dare laugh at you for it have probably never tried to improve themself similarly, so it’s a shame for them!
A more likely scenario is that you come across supportive people who appreciate you trying to learn Serbian. They will respect you for putting in an effort and often try to help you.
If this still sounds too optimistic for your stressed-out self, reverse the situation. How would you feel if someone was speaking your mother tongue while making some mistakes along the way? For sure, you’d be supportive and even find their mistakes cute.
So, don’t torture yourself thinking it’s different when you’re the one speaking Serbian!
The Fear of Not Being Able to Carry on a Conversation
Okay, now that we solved the initial fear of speaking Serbian, there’s another problem. What do you do if you start speaking Serbian, and it sounds so good that the natives continue the conversation, but you don’t understand them anymore? Is it awkward to interrupt them and say that you don’t speak Serbian that well?
Of course not! The best way to learn a language is to talk, talk, and talk whenever you can. Let me tell you my Austrian story.
A few years ago, while visiting my cousin in Austria, I wanted to practice my German (I was learning it for six months at the time) by ordering some ice cream. After I ordered my favorite ice cream flavors with confidence, the cashier asked me something, and I understood only or. So, I shrugged with a smile. The cashier reciprocated a smile by raising a cone and a cardboard cup. I pointed to a cone and got my tasty ice cream! As soon as I finished eating, I googled how to say cone in German, and learned a new word!
When you’re not sure how to carry on a conversation, just say it. Explain that you’ve just started learning Serbian. The people will find praiseworthy the fact that you’re making an effort to speak Serbian even though you’re still at the beginning!
Learn to Laugh it Off
Speaking of smiling when you don’t understand something, it’s crucial not to take yourself too seriously when speaking Serbian. Even if you confuse two similarly sounding words that mean completely different things, try to take it lightly.
Just remember frustrated Gloria from “Modern Family” when she asks Ray, “Do you even know how smart I am in Spanish?!” You can always smile while saying something similar about your native language, and everyone will forget about your mistake and start laughing at your sense of humor! People love a quality self-deprecating joke!
Practice, Practice, and Practice Speaking Serbian
Practice whenever you can! This advice logically emerges from the previous ones. If you ever catch yourself not speaking Serbian because you don’t believe in yourself, go over the first two pieces of advice!
If you have a friend or a family member who speaks Serbian, you can talk to them. If not, it’s great to find a Serbian teacher who will point out what you should work on, and motivate you to practice. Our teachers will help you learn Serbian and resolve your doubts. Check out our privatni časovi or group courses!
Watching Serbian Movies & Listening to Serbian Music
Someone might say that watching movies and listening to music can only contribute to developing passive language skills. While that may be true to some extent, listening to native speakers regularly will help you form your sentences more naturally.
You’ll learn slang, jokes, and a Serbian sense of humor. This knowledge can help you a lot when in larger groups of people. You won’t be lost when they start cracking jokes. After some time, you’ll be able to make one of your own, and your Serbian friends will find it delightful! It will boost your confidence and help you get rid of anxiety!
Read Out Loud
Reading is a passive language skill, just like listening. But reading out loud can do wonders for your pronunciation (and confidence when speaking Serbian)! Try recording and listening to yourself to catch some mistakes.
A useful tactic is to find a text in Serbian that’s already been read by a native speaker. This way, you can read, record yourself, and compare it to a native’s pronunciation.
If you find recording yourself too time-consuming, a Serbian teacher or a Serbian-speaking friend can help correct your accentuation.
If you need some more tricks to help you learn Serbian, you can find them in the conclusion of this blog text!