Language Proficiency Panic -- Social Anxiety

I'm very new here and this is my first post in this community. I'm a Chinese junior studying in an American university. Out of academic requirements, I'm currently studying in Abu Dhabi and about to come back to NY next semester. As you know, Chinese is my mother language and English is learned for my college life in US or international atmosphere. When I was in China, I am not extremely popular but I can say I have bunch of friends and we play very well with each other. According to my friends and teacher, I'm always humorous and nice. My academic performance is good too.

However, after I went into university, I found it's kind of hard for me to behave as well as what I did in my home country -- my native language environment. Fortunately, I know exactly what's wrong with me -- my English is not proficient at all. When I am in class, I can just understand half of what professor said(and sometimes it's even less) so that I don't dare to talk and put up with questions. Since I don't get most of professor' word, I have to pay much more efforts than others to catch up with them. (Well, the good thing is that my professor understand me and see my effort put into assignment and project so I was given a good grade in the end.) When I was in cafeteria, I am not always able to recognize what is the name of each dish thus I can just point it and say "please get me this". When I meet my classmates and friends, I just say Hi and make some easy and brief talk. Unless they want to sit and talk with me, I would never join them actively. Sometimes when I saw my classmate/friend sit along, I encourage myself to sit with him/her. But once when more people join us, I feel very anxious and panic and just want to leave early but I cannot do this since others haven't finished their dish. Only when I run into a Chinese and we naturally chat in Chinese, I can feel easy. However, when we two go out with native speaker, I feel very embarrassed since my Chinese friend is very good at English and can even talk as a native speaker. Then I even don't dare to talk to my Chinese friend because I feel ashamed and sense of inferiority. Due to the policy of our residential office, we have to change our roommate each academic year, up to now, I've had 3 different roommates. All of them are wonderful and I don't care at all about some shortcomings of them. I'm always willing to help and sometimes even sacrifice my own time and benefit. All of them said I am a very easy-going and warm-hearted person. However, other than my Pakistani roommate who don't have many friends, the other of my roommates don't like to invite me to their parties and hanging out. The most important reason is that they don't think I'm a social person because I don't always to talk to them. But the truth that I don't always talk is because I don't dare to talk instead of disliking to talk. For the same reason, I hardly participate social activities or any activities with any possibilities of chatting.

I think the biggest problem now is listening. For talking, though I am not able to talk like a native speaker, I can at least talk kind of fluently and express myself clearly. Sometimes my professors and classmates say my accent is very good and just like an American, but some other time, I cannot say a word in right pronunciation so that others can't understand me. Generally speaking, my talking and expressing ability is okay. However, there's a big problem with my listening. I know one of the reasons is my vocabulary is limited. I always don't know what is the word others use during our conversation. And when others talk very fast, I cannot keep pace with him/her but can just catch some keywords and try my best to understand. Personally speaking, the accent is not big deal for me -- no offense, there a lot of Chinese, Pakistani, Indian, Columbian etc. who kind of have strong accent around me, but I don't have any problem understanding their accent, the only problem is if I can understand their word.

I've thought for thousand times to pause my college life and take a gap year to enhance my language ability. But I just doubt is it really worthy? Because from others' perspective, I do all good in my academic area and there's no need for me pause my college life. I even sometimes have an imagination that what if I was born to live in English-speaking country so that I can spend more time to develop my interested skills.(I'm not say any bad of Chinese and Chinese culture and actually I'm very proud of being a Chinese)

I have been in such status for a long time and really hope to get some advice from you guys. I'd really appreciate.

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11 Replies

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  • Of course it will be difficult for you in a foreign country, but it sounds like you're doing really well and have a future mapped out.

    Look for social opportunities, invite others out with you, make your own parties and always be generous. Giving to others and helping others is very endearing. Join clubs, sign up for activities, put yourself about.

    What about your family?

    What are your future hopes?

    It sounds like you are very privelidged

  • If want to talk further I'm very happy to

  • Thank you soooooo much! You are the first person who replied and gave helpful suggestion and I really appreciate it. Yes I recently try to sign up for more activities than before, however, when I was at the parties/activities, I felt awkward and still didn't dare to talk to people in case I didn't understand and make them feel weird and don't wanna talk to me anymore.

  • I am now majoring in Interactive Media Arts and minoring in Sound & Music Computing. And I plan to be a new media maker and music mixer in the future.

  • You know, I can talk to people for many days without stop, but what Im afraid is that I cannot give an interactive response to them because of not understanding them due to my bad listening.

  • And for now when I am typing this sentence, I have to worry about if my grammar is correct, if I use the right word to describe how I feel and so on. I feel I am just deaf and dumb in an English-speaking environment.

  • You are being too hard on yourself I am quite old now but not deaf ! Yet in a crowd or noisy place I find it difficult to follow the conversation In a lot of social circumstances I often feel like everyone is talking and no one is listening at all I do feel that it is a good idea to give yourself a break and practice your conversation skills You are obviously a bright person and the more you try and practice the better you will get . Why don't you go to quieter places where there are less distractions Try volunteering at an old people's home or centre They have the patience and the time to chat and they will enjoy the company very much

    All the very best

    X

  • This is really helpful!!! Many thanks and I'll try to do it!

  • It is my bad but I don't understand what do you mean by the first sentence "I am quite old now but not deaf". I can read and understand the sentence but cannot tell what it tries to convey to me under such context. I'm really sorry that my English skills is not that good so I cannot understand some of the word.

  • I meant ...When I am in a noisy or busy area it is difficult to follow the conversation even though I am not deaf ...The conversations get blurred and hard to follow I wanted you to realise everyone finds it hard to understand X

  • Well you are certainly far better than us in Chinese languages. Of course it is likely to take years living and to become fluent in a foreign language and culture . And you're currently in an Arab country. Doubtless you know some Arabic. I think you may be getting rather greedy in your expectations of multiple language skills!

    You seem rather good to me and very efficient and polite with all your responses

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