Many students suffer from this problem.  They feel “blocked”, frozen, panic.  They can’t connect their thoughts and feelings with words.  When someone speaks English to them, their heads start buzzing and spinning.  If they do manage to understand, they can’t respond, so only smile nervously.  For them, English is a chore, a difficult exercise, and almost impossible.

What can be done?  Is there any hope? 

You can turn English into something you like and something you feel comfortable with.  If you remember these tips when you choose your next English course, you will see the difference in your comfort, enjoyment, and ease with English.  You might even find that you start speaking English as if you are on “auto pilot”.

Fun

You will respond best to your interests.  Don’t be worried about your hobbies not being interesting enough for everyone else.  A good English teacher will energetically lead a class based on your passions, whatever they may be.  I have led conversation classes on nuclear engineering, car collecting, video games, applying make up, Gossip Girl, cooking, and jigsaw puzzles.  The important thing is to use English to discuss something you love.  This could help unblock you and associate positive experiences with English.

Leave the theory

If you are blocked, the first step is to remove the blockage.  Grammar, theory, vocabulary just add stress to the experience.  Your goal at this early stage is to find comfort, repetition, rhythm, a frame of reference, a positive memory associated with the experience, and a feeling that this is something that you can do.   The lessons should be about communication, sharing ideas and emotions.  Once the blockage is gone, only then can we start focussing on structure and foundation, grammar and vocabulary.

Go Slow

Don’t try to learn all the main grammar points as quickly as possible.  Don’t try to memorize hundreds of words every week.  If you are a slow learner, accept that fact.  Find your pace, your rhythm.  Listen to yourself.  You might find there are days when you can learn a new skill or rule.  On the other hand, you might find that on some days it is almost impossible to learn a new grammar rule or vocabulary set.  Go with your flow and change your lessons accordingly. 

Frequency

If you can have 2 or 3 English classes per week, you will have the best results.  The goal is to make English part of your regular life so that it feels natural and familiar.  Increasing the frequency of classes, even temporarily, can help you achieve a major breakthrough.

Homework

No, not writing exercises.  The homework should be fun.  The homework can be to read your favourite English magazine / blog, watch your favourite English Youtuber / TV show, etc.  Read your local news in English too. Build your English environment so that you have more experiences in English. This will also give you a discussion point for the next class

Study with a native speaker

Learn with someone who sees English as a rich web of experiences, events, people, entertainment, joy, sorrow, and life.  Find someone who sees English as communication first, and rules second.  When you study with a native speaker, especially one who is not fluent in your language, communication becomes a necessity and a priority.  English stops being something you study, and starts being the only way to interact.