It’s okay to be afraid to talk to strangers

It’s okay to be afraid to talk to strangers

Many students of foreign languages are encouraged to speak that language out in public. I remember when I had just started studying Japanese. My family went to a Japanese restaurant and they were pressuring me to speak to the waitress. I timidly said 「水をお願いします」and she blinked at me and said “I’m sorry, I don’t speak Japanese.” She was Korean. I felt humiliated. However, even now it can be hard. I will be out at the Japanese grocery store and the woman behind the counter will speak to me in broken English. Should I talk to her in Japanese or let her go on assuming that I can’t speak Japanese? But then I realize that this is not any different from how I feel in an English environment. When I see that the check out girl at Kroger is having a bad day, I debate whether or not to say something. What if she gets mad at me for mentioning it? What if she wants to be left alone? These kinds of things run through my head in English interactions. It stands to reason that the trepidation would be even more severe in a second language. 

So, what I am trying to say is that, if you are new to learning Japanese, don’t expect yourself to start all kinds of conversations with total strangers. Find someone you know or can get close to, like a conversation partner, to talk to. Don’t try to mix language learning with outgoingness.

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