Personally, if I had to choose my number one thing to do in life to relax (aside from hearing my daughter laugh) it would have to be to have a long “meia de leite” or two with my girlfriends. Those conversations where nothing else matters but sincerely sharing how each one of us really is, as well as talking about the most mundane things ever.
As you can guess, for me, there is nothing better in life than having conversations. And because I spent years being not really that great at it, I decided to because first a journalist, then a language teacher and then a trainer on all the many aspects of human dialogue. And you know what? I am still not amazing at communicating who I am!!
This weekend, I completed the first part of my new workshop “Vencer o Medo de Falar Inglês”. It is aimed not at learning to speak English itself but at dealing with all the emotional issues (so common in Portugal) that are involved in speaking a new language. Making mistakes, comparing ourselves to others, trial and error, perfectionism… all these issues are part of the process of learning to speak English, and most people don’t like them.
While teaching English for almost 20 years now, I have always felt that we could make this process easier for people. In linguistics, we talk of the affective filters, the psychological filters that are higher or lower when the person is trying to speak a new language. Depending on the environment they are in or the people they are with, they can feel more or less anxious or stressed. My work in class is not only to teach English but to discuss and find the tools to ensure these filters come down with each student. Still, I have continued to feel I could do more. This is why my new workshop came to be. No speaking in English but exclusively working on all the emotional issues associated with the courage it takes to communicate in a new language. Not easy!!
Now, going back to the power of “I’m not the only one”. Many amazing things happened during the workshop last Saturday morning. But what I really want to say here is that the main thing everyone mentioned was how “it feels so great to know I am not the only one”. I am sincerely grateful for the courage everyone had to be transparent and to share their insecurities about these issues. For some people, it is something not even people that are close to them are aware of. How people lose jobs or miss opportunities in life because the idea of making mistakes in the process of speaking English just becomes too much in that moment. It’s real. It’s sooooo common. And it makes a huge difference to hear other people describing in their own words exactly the same as we are feeling inside. It becomes possible to even laugh about it.
The power of community. Nothing better.