Conquering the Fear of Being Judged: Strategies for ELLs in Public Speaking

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In today’s interconnected and globalized world, public speaking is an indispensable skill to communicate effectively and confidently. For English Language Learners (ELLs), the challenge is twofold: they are not only required to articulate their thoughts and ideas but also to do so in a language that isn’t their first. This can often lead to a palpable fear of being judged or misunderstood, posing a significant barrier to their personal and professional growth.

This fear, while daunting, is not impossible. Adopting certain strategies makes it possible to transform public speaking from a fear-inducing activity into an empowering one. This article is committed to helping ELLs conquer the fear of being judged when speaking in public. Our goal is to provide proven strategies and valuable resources to navigate the challenges of public speaking, boost self-confidence, and enhance their overall communication skills in English. Let’s embark on this journey to unlock your full potential as an effective communicator in the English language.

Shifting Focus from Self-Doubt to the Value of Their Ideas and Knowledge

One of the most formidable negative responses to public speaking is self-doubt. For ELLs, this doubt may be compounded by the fear of miscommunication or misunderstanding due to language differences. This fear can overshadow their rich ideas and deep knowledge, ultimately diminishing the power and effectiveness of their public speaking.

It is crucial for ELLs to recognize the value they bring to their audience. They hold unique perspectives, ideas, and experiences that are worthy of sharing. One of the most important steps in overcoming the fear of public speaking is focusing on these inherent strengths, rather than any perceived weaknesses.

Successful speakers like Jack Ma, co-founder of Alibaba, who initially struggled with English, or Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Alphabet Inc. and Google, whose second language is English, embraced their expertise and ideas despite their initial language barriers. They focused on their message and the value they provide, rather than letting the fear of being judged inhibit their communication.

For ELLs to shift their focus from self-doubt to the value of their knowledge, here are a few tips and exercises:

  1. Self-Affirmation: Regularly practice positive self-affirmation. Remind yourself of your skills, experiences, and the unique perspective you offer. This can reduce feelings of self-doubt and increase your confidence.
  2. Preparation: Preparation goes a long way in reducing anxiety. Focus on understanding your topic thoroughly. The more familiar you are with your material, the less likely you’ll doubt your abilities.
  3. Practice: Rehearsing your presentation multiple times can make you feel more comfortable and confident. It’s not just about practicing the language; it’s about becoming familiar with your content and its delivery.
  4. Seek Feedback: Don’t hesitate to ask for feedback from your peers, mentors, or language coaches. Their insights can provide you with valuable guidance on how to improve your public speaking skills and reassure you about the value you bring to the audience.
  5. Mindfulness: Incorporate mindfulness exercises, like deep breathing or meditation, into your routine. These can help manage stress and anxiety, allowing you to focus more on your message and less on your fears.

Remember, the key is to shift your perspective: you are not just an English learner trying to master a language; you are an expert sharing your valuable insights with other seasoned speakers. By focusing on the value of your ideas and knowledge, you can overcome the fear of being judged in public speaking.

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Preparing Thoroughly and Becoming an Expert on the Topic to Boost Confidence

A vital ingredient in the recipe for successful public speaking is thorough preparation. There’s a direct correlation between preparation and confidence; the more prepared you are, the more confident you feel. When you are well-versed in your topic, you can articulate your thoughts more fluently, which can significantly alleviate the fear of judgment.

So, how do you prepare thoroughly for a public speaking engagement?

  1. Conduct Extensive Research: Start by delving deep into your chosen topic. Use credible sources to gather information and note down the key points. Understanding the nuances of your topic will help you present confidently and answer any questions that come your way.
  2. Structure Your Presentation: A well-structured presentation is easier for your audience to follow and for you to deliver. Start with a compelling introduction, follow with a clear body where each point builds upon the previous one, and end with a powerful conclusion. Use visual aids if they can help clarify or emphasize your points.
  3. Rehearse: Once your presentation is ready, practice it several times. Time yourself to make sure you stay within your allotted time, and try to practice in conditions as close to the real thing as possible. If English isn’t your first language, focus not just on what you’re saying, but also on how you’re saying it.
  4. Record and Review: A useful technique is to record yourself practicing. Playback can provide insights into your body language, pronunciation, and presentation style that you can then work on.
  5. Leverage Technology: Today, technology has made it easier for ELLs to prepare for public speaking. For instance, offers personalized, AI-based language learning plans that can help you improve your English fluency and build your confidence.

The fear of being judged during public speaking can be intimidating, but by becoming an expert in your topic and preparing thoroughly, you can transform this fear into confidence. Remember, the goal isn’t to be perfect; it’s to effectively communicate your ideas and insights to your audience. With every speaking opportunity, you’re not just sharing your knowledge; you’re also improving your English speaker skills. So, take the leap, prepare well, and step into the spotlight with confidence.

Practicing Positive Affirmations and Visualizations to Overcome Self-Consciousness

A significant factor that heightens the fear of public speaking for many, especially ELLs, is self-consciousness. The feeling of being intensely aware of oneself, especially in terms of language proficiency, can lead to heightened stress and anxiety, ultimately impacting one’s public speaking performance. However, by harnessing the power of positive affirmations and visualization techniques, it’s possible to mitigate these feelings and boost confidence.

Positive affirmations are empowering statements that help to challenge and overcome self-sabotaging and negative thoughts. They can act as a powerful tool to overcome self-consciousness and enhance self-confidence. Here are some examples of positive affirmations that ELLs can use:

  1. “I am capable and confident in my ability to communicate effectively in English.”
  2. “My ideas are valuable and worth sharing.”
  3. “I am becoming more fluent in English every day.”
  4. “Mistakes are part of learning, and I am becoming better with each attempt.”

Make it a habit to repeat these affirmations daily or write them down in a journal. The consistent reinforcement of these positive statements can influence your subconscious mind and help change your thought patterns.

Visualization is another potent technique that can complement positive affirmations. It involves creating a mental image of a desired outcome or event. In the context of public speaking, you can visualize yourself standing confidently, delivering your speech flawlessly, and receiving a positive response from your audience. This technique has been used by successful public speakers, athletes, and performers worldwide to reduce anxiety and improve performance.

Here’s a simple exercise to practice visualization:

  1. Find a quiet, comfortable space where you won’t be disturbed.
  2. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to relax your mind and body.
  3. Visualize yourself in the place where you will be speaking. Imagine every detail—the audience, the stage, your presentation.
  4. See yourself delivering your speech confidently, making your points clearly, and the audience listening attentively and responding positively.
  5. Feel the emotions you would feel in that situation—confidence, happiness, satisfaction.

Practicing these exercises daily can significantly reduce self-consciousness and improve your performance in public speaking. The positive self-talk and mental imagery can create a shift in your attitude, turning the daunting task of public speaking into a rewarding experience. Remember, the key is consistency. Practice these techniques regularly and watch your fear transform into confidence.

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Seeking Support from Mentors or Fellow English Language Learners Who Have Overcome Similar Fears

When embarking on the journey to conquer the fear of public speaking as an ELL, you’re not alone. There’s immense power in seeking support from mentors and fellow learners who have tread the same path and overcome similar fears. They can provide valuable insights, practical advice, and emotional support, which can significantly contribute to your growth and confidence.

A mentor, especially one who has been an ELL, can guide you through the nuances of public speaking, share your experiences, and provide personalized feedback. Their journey can serve as a source of inspiration and their advice can help you navigate your own path.

Finding a mentor might seem daunting, but there are numerous resources at your disposal. You can connect with mentors through language learning platforms, English language clubs, and public speaking groups such as Toastmasters. Teachers or professors might also be willing to provide mentorship or direct you to potential mentors.

Simultaneously, connecting with fellow English language learners can be extremely beneficial. These are individuals who can truly empathize with your experiences. They can provide peer support, exchange learning tips, and share their own journey and progress. Forming study groups with fellow learners can also provide a safe environment for you to practice your presentation skills and gain constructive feedback.

Here are a few tips on how to actively seek support from mentors and peers:

  1. Reach Out: Don’t hesitate to reach out to potential mentors or fellow learners. Start with a simple introduction and explain what you hope to learn from them.
  2. Participate Actively: Join language learning clubs or online communities. Participate actively in discussions and don’t be afraid to ask questions or share your experiences.
  3. Practice Together: Organize group study sessions or practice presentations with your peers. This can be an excellent way to learn from each other and boost your confidence.
  4. Use Technology: Use online platforms like, where you can connect with other learners, participate in discussions, access learning resources, and seek mentorship. It’s a valuable tool that brings together learners from across the globe and can significantly enhance your learning journey.

Remember, it’s okay to seek help and learn from other English speakers. Everyone starts somewhere, and every great speaker was once a beginner too. With a supportive network of mentors and peers, you can conquer your fears and transform your public speaking skills.

To further enhance your public speaking skills, here are some additional exercises, resources, and recommendations for ELLs:


  1. Impromptu Speeches: Practice impromptu speeches on various topics to build your spontaneity and adaptability.
  2. Role-play: Role-play different speaking scenarios, such as business meetings, debates, or academic presentations, with your peers or mentor.
  3. Voice Recording: Record your voice while speaking to improve your pronunciation, pace, and intonation.


  1. Books: “Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds” by Carmine Gallo offers insights into effective presentation skills. For ELLs, “Effortless English: Learn To Speak English Like A Native” by A.J. Hoge can be useful.
  2. Podcasts: “The Public Speaker’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Improving Your Communication Skills” provides practical tips in easily digestible episodes.
  3. Online Education: Coursera offers a course called “Introduction to Public Speaking” that covers the fundamentals of public speaking. Features: provides numerous features to aid in your public speaking practice:

  1. Personalized Learning: It offers personalized learning plans that adapt to your proficiency level and learning style.
  2. AI Assistance: The AI tutor provides instant feedback on your pronunciation and grammar, helping you to correct mistakes and improve your language skills.
  3. Community: You can connect with a global community of learners, join tertiary institutions, participate in discussions, share your experiences, and learn from others.
  4. Resources: provides a wealth of resources including articles, exercises, and guides to enhance your English language proficiency and public speaking skills.

With consistent practice and the right resources, you can conquer your fear of being judged and become an accomplished English speaker. Remember, the journey of mastering public speaking is a marathon, not a sprint, and every step you take is bringing you closer to your goal. So, embrace the process and celebrate your progress along the way.

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Exercise: Reframing Negative Thoughts

Scenario: Let’s say you’re preparing for a business presentation in English, which isn’t your first language. As the day approaches, you find yourself being gripped by negative thoughts such as, “What if I make grammatical mistakes?”, “What if I forget my words?”, “What if people laugh at my accent?”

These negative thoughts can feed your fear of public speaking and inhibit your ability to give amazing presentations. However, by consciously reframing these thoughts, you can transform your mindset and boost your confidence.

Step 1: Acknowledge the Negative Thoughts: Recognize the negative thoughts without judgment. Write them down on a piece of paper. For example, “I’m worried that people will laugh at my accent.”

Step 2: Challenge the Negative Thoughts: Fear can cause strong physical responses including sweaty palms, halted deep breathing, and varied levels of anxiety. Analyze your negative thoughts. Are they based on fact or fear? Is there evidence to support these thoughts, or are they hypothetical situations your mind has created? In most cases, you’ll find these fears are not rooted in reality. 

Step 3: Reframe the Negative Thoughts: Now, take each negative thought and reframe it into a positive one. For example, the worry about your accent can be reframed as “My accent is a part of my identity. It shows that I’m multilingual, which is an asset.”

Step 4: Practice the Reframed Thoughts: Regularly remind yourself of these reframed thoughts. Use them as affirmations and repeat them to yourself daily.

Follow-up Questions:

  1. How do you feel after reframing your thoughts? Do you notice any changes in your outlook or confidence?
  2. Can you think of a situation where you successfully overcame negative thoughts? How did that impact your performance?
  3. What strategies can you put in place to consistently practice reframing negative thoughts?

By consciously reframing negative thoughts, you can gradually shift your mindset and develop a positive attitude towards public speaking. Remember, the language of your thoughts influences your perception and confidence, so make sure it’s a language of positivity and empowerment.

Exercise: Creating a Presentation Structure

Creating a clear and effective structure for your presentation is crucial for both the delivery of your speech and the comprehension of your audience. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you create a structure for your presentation.

Step 1: Identify Your Main Message

Your main message is the core idea you want your audience to remember even after your presentation is over. It should be clear, concise, and specific.

Prompt: What is the one key message you want your audience to take away from your presentation?

Example: “Solar energy is a viable and sustainable alternative to fossil fuels.”

Step 2: Divide Your Presentation into Three Main Parts

Most presentations follow a classic three-part structure: Introduction, Body, and Conclusion.

  • Introduction: This is where you grab your audience’s attention, introduce your topic, and state your main message.
  • Body: This is where you present your main arguments or points, each supporting your main message.
  • Conclusion: This is where you summarize your points, reinforce your main message, and leave the audience with a final thought or call to action.

Step 3: Outline Your Main Points

Under the “Body” of your presentation, outline the main points you want to discuss. These should directly support your main message.

Prompt: What are the three to five key points or arguments that support your main message?


  1. The environmental impact of solar energy.
  2. The cost-effectiveness of solar energy.
  3. The reliability and availability of solar energy.

Step 4: Elaborate on Each Point

For each main point, list the sub-points or evidence you’ll use to elaborate and provide convincing arguments.

Prompt: What facts, examples, statistics, or stories can you use to substantiate each of your main points?


  1. Environmental impact: Statistics about carbon emissions saved by solar energy.
  2. Cost-effectiveness: Case studies of households saving money with solar panels.
  3. Reliability and availability: Data on the availability of solar energy worldwide.

Step 5: Plan Your Introduction and Conclusion

For your introduction, plan how you’ll capture your audience’s attention and present your main message. For your conclusion, consider how you’ll summarize your points and what final thought or call to action you’ll leave your audience with.

Prompt: How will you start and end your presentation in a way that grabs attention and reinforces your main message?


  • Introduction: Start with a startling fact about carbon emissions.
  • Conclusion: End with a call to action encouraging the audience to explore solar energy options.

By following these steps, you can create a clear and engaging structure for your presentation. This not only makes your presentation easier to deliver but also ensures that your audience can follow your points and understand your main message. Remember, a well-structured presentation is the foundation of effective public speaking.

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Conquering the fear of being judged in public speaking, particularly as an English Language Learner, can often feel like a daunting task. However, with the right strategies, resources, and support, this fear can be transformed into confidence and competency.

We’ve discussed several key strategies throughout this article:

  1. Shifting your focus from self-doubt to the value of your ideas and knowledge.
  2. Preparing thoroughly and becoming an expert on your topic.
  3. Using positive affirmations and visualizations to overcome self-consciousness.
  4. Seeking support from mentors or fellow learners who have faced similar challenges.
  5. Reframing negative thoughts into positive ones.
  6. Structuring your presentation effectively to ensure clarity and impact.

Each of these strategies plays a crucial role in not just alleviating the fear of being judged, but also in fostering the development of robust public speaking skills.

Applying these strategies requires practice and patience, but the results are immensely rewarding. Overcoming your fear of public speaking can significantly enhance your personal and professional life, opening up opportunities for growth, leadership, and impact. Moreover, as an ELL, mastering public speaking in English can strengthen your language skills and boost your overall confidence.

Finally, remember to leverage the wealth of resources available to you. From books, podcasts, and online courses, to language learning platforms like, there’s a myriad of tools at your disposal. Platforms like not only offer personalized learning plans and AI assistance but also provide a supportive community of fellow learners and mentors.

In conclusion, while the journey to conquer the fear of public speaking might seem challenging, it’s definitely within your reach. So, don’t let the fear of being judged hold you back. Embrace the challenge, engage with the strategies, and watch as you grow into a confident, eloquent, and impactful speaker.


Recognition: The first step to conquering any fear is to recognize it. Acknowledge your fear without judgement.
Understanding: Try to understand your fear. What triggers it? When does it occur? Identifying these elements can help you address them more effectively. It can help you find positive aspects in this journey to conversational-level English.
Reframing: Replace fear-driven thoughts with positive ones. For instance, instead of thinking “I’m afraid of making a mistake,” you might think, “Mistakes are opportunities to learn and grow.” Practice breathing techniques if you’re experiencing speech anxiety. 
Preparation: Prepare adequately for whatever situation is causing your fear. In the case of public speaking, this could involve researching your topic thoroughly, organizing your thoughts, and rehearsing your speech.
Practice: Expose yourself to the fear-inducing situation in a controlled, manageable way. Gradual exposure can help you become more comfortable and confident over time.

Practice Regularly: The more you practice reading out loud, the more comfortable you’ll become. Seek someone who speaks the native language you’re trying to learn. 
Start Small: Begin by reading out loud alone, then gradually work up to reading in front of a friend or family member, and eventually larger groups.
Focus on Clarity: Concentrate on pronouncing words clearly and controlling your speed, rather than worrying about how others might perceive you.
Seek Feedback: Ask others for constructive feedback to improve your reading skills.
Use Tools: Use resources like audiobooks to hear proper pronunciation and pacing.

Know Your Audience: Understanding who you’re speaking to can help you tailor your speech to their interests and needs. It also helps your communication abilities overall. 
Prepare Thoroughly: Familiarize yourself with your topic and organize your thoughts clearly.
Practice: Rehearse your speech multiple times before the actual presentation.
Engage with Your Audience: Use body language, eye contact, and interactive elements to connect with your audience.
Control Your Pace: Speak slowly and clearly to ensure your audience can follow along.

Fear of being judged, also known as social anxiety, often stems from a fear of negative evaluation from others. This can be caused by past experiences of criticism or rejection, low self-esteem, or a tendency towards perfectionism.

Practice: The more you use the language, the more of a native speaker you’ll become.
Expose Yourself: Immerse yourself in the language through movies, music, books, and conversations with native speakers.
Use Tools: Use foreign language learning platforms and resources for practice and support.
Keep it Simple: Begin with simple phrases and gradually work up to more complex sentences and conversations. You can build communication skills without having a panic attack this way.
Accept Mistakes: Understand that making mistakes is a normal part of the learning process, and it’s an opportunity to learn and improve. Make room to build these positive outcomes in your everyday life. 

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Bethany MacDonald

Bethany MacDonald

Bethany MacDonald has contributed articles since 2020. As their Blog Lead, she specialises in informative pieces on culture, education, and language learning

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