The moment when you overcome the fear of speaking your target language can come when you least expect it. Here, Dalia, a Livemocha user from Egypt, a Diary of a Language Learner contributor, and would-be tour guide, tells her story about how her fear fell away when she decided to help some lucky tourists.
My name is Dalia. I’m a 23-year-old Egyptian and I love to learn foreign languages both written and spoken. Arabic is my native language, but I also speak English and Russian.
About My English
I first studied English in school just like anybody else, but it wasn’t enough for me. I used to watch American movies with subtitles every night, but I wouldn’t just sit and read; I would listen to the conversations and follow the subtitles at the same time. Eventually I learned a lot of vocabulary like this, but it didn’t give me the courage to speak the language.
My first crash course in speaking English was when I met an English couple in the street in my hometown (tourism has its benefits.) They were coming from the pyramids and heading to the Egyptian museum, but they were completely lost and couldn’t find anyone who spoke their language. This was the first moment I realized that I could speak English without being so shy. My desire to show them the directions made me forget my fear of saying anything wrong.
You might be surprised to you know that we walked together for 15 minutes and spoke about many things. I didn’t only show them the directions, I also told them how to deal with the Egyptians and how to say hello and thank you in their language. I still remember what Dan “the tourist” said to me when we got to the station, “Dalia, we are really grateful to you. I promise you that if you come and visit London, we will show you the most beautiful spots in the city.” We exchanged emails and I sent them on their way.
That day I was extremely happy and very proud of myself; it was like a personal victory. That was when I made a promise not to be shy again and that I must think of language as a way to help people who are visiting my country.
This is the first of many stories that I will share with you. And remember, if you’re planning to visit Egypt, don’t worry about the directions… helpful people are always around.