I hope this isn't too broad of a question and I can receive some guidance because it's something that's been troubling me for years.

I have been studying Spanish for 5+ years and people tell me I have a good vocabulary. I can speak around most topics even when I don't know the specific words. I married into a Spanish speaking family so in addition to the audio, video, workbooks, programs, and software resources I have real live people to whom I can speak. The problem is when I have to speak in Spanish I immediately feel a weight come down on me that drains my energy and hangs over me like a cloud. It's not fear I feel exactly, more of a sense of melancholy.

I've thought about this but have no idea how to overcome my dread of speaking in Spanish.

I've realized that in English I love speaking. I love words. I like to joke and tell stories. I read a ton and spent a lot of time learning about the finesse of one word over another.
In Spanish I tend to remain quiet and often feel the effort is not worth the payoff because I don't feel I'm conveying the proper emotion or sense of the story. I get blank looks and little response to my efforts.

Given my family connections I know I should take advantage of my opportunity to learn about others and the culture. The problem is I just want to speak with words that have meaning to me because I connect more deeply with the story.

Am I the only one? How have others overcome this? The only advice I'm ever given is to "just talk" but that sounds mostly like telling someone, for example, to ignore their arachnophobia by handling spiders, which doesn't provide much guidance to me. The other one is to "stop thinking in English" but certainly that's far easier to say than do.

Thanks for any advice!

  • Np, maybe it shouldnt be ask there even, Im not really sure, maybe you should head to chat, but "La Tertulia" ussually doesnt have that many users (sorry about my english, Im learning)
    – Theia
    Jul 20, 2017 at 17:26
  • Well, definitely, you are not alone. It takes a lot of time and effort to master another language. Every time we learn a new skill, we expose ourselves, especially when we are surrounded by people who master this skill. This could be speaking another language or programming in another language. I don't know why you feel melancholy when you speak Spanish. It is going to be up to you to figure out the cause (probably with some help, but I'm afraid that is beyond what you might find here, and that is a good thing, since we are completely unprepared to offer serious advice about it)
    – Diego
    Jul 21, 2017 at 2:56
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    You should also review were your expectations are. There are certain things that are very difficult to convey in a different language. After 5 years you can probably survive with what you have. Becoming a poet or a master of words is a different story. I can tell a joke in Spanish and make it really funny, but in English it could be challenging, depending on the vocabulary involved. I encourage you to keep using Spanish even if you don't feel as good at it. It's frustrating, especially if everyone in your political family is fluent in Sp, but you will get better and better
    – Diego
    Jul 21, 2017 at 3:06
  • Also, you have not only a great opportunity to learn it, but one to give your kids an invaluable gift and asset by facilitating them not only speaking two different languages, but also knowing two different cultures.
    – Diego
    Jul 21, 2017 at 3:08
  • 2
    Please see spanish.meta.stackexchange.com/a/2654/9385
    – aparente001
    Jul 21, 2017 at 4:50

3 Answers 3


Couple of things:

1 Cultures are different. Although there are many types of people in all cultures, and some types might be "equivalent", I wouldn't be positive that you'll find the same reaction to a story when you tell it in two different contexts. You're just gonna have to accept it.

2 Languages are different. And that really amazes me: how much your perception or experience of anything is determined or influenced by the languages you make use of? There are emotions or feelings you cannot describe in spanish and same thing for english.

3 Your own self becomes someone different. Even there are memes about it. There will be a different version of yourself in every language you speak. It can be annoying if you are always sincere and genuine, but it makes sense if you accept that there are emotions, ideas, etc., that doesn't exist in any given language/culture.

As for the "thinking in spanish" part I would suggest you to immerse yourself in the culture. Watch real TV, talk to real people, etc., and then it will come naturally. Then again, find the shows, music, people, etc. that fits best with your english persona.

I'm from Mexico and I'd say that our culture is more "basic" (less refined) than others, but Mexican language has some amazing words/ideas/expressions that make life fun, happier, friendlier, etc. (I wouldn't be so confindent about other cultures :D) So take the risk. If it is a mexican culture you're trying to fit in let me know and I'll try to give you some tips.


To me, in spite of you having been learning Spanish for 5 years, and that you have a Spanish speaking family, you don't seem too deeply connected to the Spanish speaking culture. I'm in the other corner, I'm from a Spanish speaking country and I wanted to learn English (like most people). I find myself thinking in English many times. Why does this happen? I believe it happens because I'm connected with English speaking countries culture more deeply than you are with Spanish speaking countries culture. I love to hear English music and movies and understand what they say, I have a lot of people I talk to everyday from English speaking countries (and non-English speaking countries like Japan, China, India, Russia that I communicate with speaking in English), I like to read news about the world every day from English speaking countries, etc. I think that it will help you if you connect more with Spanish speaking countries culture. In my opinion, you won't get fascinated with Spanish speaking movies (they aren't that great in my personal opinion) but perhaps you can connect more with Spanish culture through music, now that everything indicates in the following years Spanish-language music is going to take much over the world and be listened more than English-language songs. Right now, 7 out of 10 of the most viewed YouTube videos in a day are in Spanish.

Another example, I'm trying to learn Japanese, and aside of trying to speak with Japaneses every day, watching Japanese animations and listening to Japanese music helps me a lot.

  • 1
    Nice answer Pablo! Welcome to Language Learning.
    – fi12
    Jul 24, 2017 at 14:18

Well, that’s an interesting question, though very much unlike the ones we usually get here. It does not ask about how to understand or approach a certain topic or aspect of the language, but how to overcome certain limitations we all have as speakers of foreign languages.

This is not intended to be an answer but, just as you request, a mere piece of advice. There are many kinds of learners. I have been a teacher (mostly of English to Spanish speakers, but also of Spanish to English speakers) for almost four decades, and I can tell you there’s no infallible recipe for them to learn any faster. Resources you seem to have in abundance. Your case seems to hinge on some psychological issue that consists of being unable to accept that you will most likely never achieve in Spanish the self-confidence you have in your own language. That happens to all of us, unless we are truly bilingual. My advice to you is that you cease to compare your performance in Spanish with your performance in English, and that you start to enjoy and make the most of the multiple recourses you have at hand. And, of course, never hesitate to come back here if you have any specific doubt we can help you with.

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