Confessions of a Polyglot: Introversion

Students with different personalities have one thing in common, whether learning a language alone or in a classroom: shame/fear of speaking. The reason for this is always the same: shyness and/or introversion.

Well, I have a confession to make; I am shy and introverted. But, what these words mean and what is the difference between them?



Introversion is closely related to energy. An extrovert feels energized around other people, an introvert feels drained, so often he/she prefers to be alone. Introverts are more sensitive to external stimuli, so when he gets too much of it, he needs to be alone to recover.


Shyness is the fear of being judged negatively, it is a kind of social anxiety. In the head of a shy person, everything is going to be bad. This fear happens not only around strangers; a shy may become anxious even with friends or relatives. Many shy people like to socialize (probably more than introverts), but fear prevents them from doing it. In cases of extreme shyness, treatment for anxiety is necessary, since extreme shyness can have catastrophic consequences in personal and professional relationships.

Everyone has moments of shyness and introversion. Even the most friendly, outgoing and confident people are afraid of being judged and need occasionally a quiet time to recover.

See in the infographic and in the quadrant below the differences between the various personalities traits.

Image from:

Image from:

Introvert Polyglot

When we said we want to learn a foreign language, we automatically say “I want to speak Portuguese/Spanish/French/Japanese …” Speaking is considered by most the main aspect of language learning and shyness and introversion hinder the development of this skill.

Many language students are introverted and/or shy. I am both (more introverted than shy, I think) and this has many consequences in my studies and in my blog, for example:

  • I avoid speaking in a foreign language in the early stages of learning.
  • I do not like to expose myself, resulting in three things:
    • I do not divulge my blog, many friends do not even know of its existence.
    • I hate making videos, one of the reasons why I did so few. Recording the videos was excruciating.
    • I do not like to take pictures, so there are few personal photos on the blog and I hesitate every time I put one on the site.
  • I avoid some social situations (even virtual), in which would have the opportunity to practice.
  • I get nervous every time I hit “publish” on a post.

Nevertheless, I still write, make videos, put photos and speak with foreigners. If you are like me and have trouble talking to people, the problem (in theory) is easy to solve. The advice we receive is always something like “Get out and talk!“. This is good advice and should be followed by all. However, getting out our comfort zone it is difficult, so I put some tips together to make the task easier.

Tips for Introverts

Before you begin, keep one thing in mind: 90% of the time, you will not regret leaving your comfort zone.

Have a friend who speaks the language

The easiest way to deal with social situations is to have a friend nearby, with whom you can talk and whom will help you to meet new people. You probably know someone who speaks Spanish or French. Ask him to go with you in a language meeting.

Have a silent period

When learning a new language, we have to absorb various types of new information at the same time: pronunciation, orthography, grammar, speech patterns, accents, vocabulary, etc. Speaking from the first day is not necessary to learn a language. Of course, one should not postpone indefinitely a conversation. But, a first conversation can postpone for up to a month after you started to learn a language. Speak from day one only if you want to. However, remember that a language is a communication tool and you need to practice to learn.


Although it is increasingly rare, written communication only is still possible. Search in pen-pals websites for people who only accept traditional mail or email. Still, there is a lot of apps and websites to chat.

Be ready

Prepare yourself before a conversation online or in person, in two or in a group. Of course, it is impossible to predict the course of a natural conversation, but when we meet new people, the first conversations revolve around the same topics: age, profession, education. So, study vocabulary related to these themes. When you start a conversation well, you cause a good impression and after a few minutes you nerves calm down and the conversation flows naturally.


Most people love to talk. As an introvert, I was always had extroverted best friends. Why? Simple, extroverts love talking and I listened. Use your strong point and pay attention when someone speaks, observe the rhythm, words used, how they sound together, etc. And, when you have to answer, make simple comments if you don’t want to talk. With this, you will improve your listening skills and make the other person happy.

Keep it simple (and small)

Especially at the beginning, I recommended working with one private teacher; this is one of the great advantages of Italki. And, go to small linguistic exchanges, with a maximum of five people. Try to make friends in these meetings and with time begin to attend larger groups.

Set a minimum amount of time

When going to a meeting with someone or a group, set a minimum amount of time to stay there. The minimum should be between 45 minutes to two hours, depending on the situation. If you are too shy, limit yourself to encounters with one person online for 15 minutes and gradually increase this time.

Have an excuse

Warning: this tip is not politically correct and should not be used frequently. Have an excuse to leave the place (after being there for the minimum amount of time), if you feel uncomfortable. For various reasons, sometimes we can’t connect with some people. When this happens, have an excuse ready. Say you need to take care of your younger brother, have a doctor’s appointment, you need to finish a job or you have another commitment.

Tip for extroverts

A little tip for extroverts: no pressure! Seriously, do not push. Not long ago, I had the experience of being pressured to act in a certain way. The result? I just shut down. This is something that happens constantly with me. People aren’t wishing you bad, sometimes they act unconsciously, sometimes consciously, because they believe they are doing something good. Unfortunately, they are not. Introverts aren’t unhappy and don’t need help. If you believe that someone needs help, ask before trying to do something, but do not assume you know. Introversion is not a disease. However, the shynnes of the most serious type, which prevents you from doing normal things, can be an anxiety disorder, but such cases are rarer. So, if you are an extrovert, respect the space of introvert.


A dose of hesitation and shyness when speaking a foreign language is something normal, even for people with more extroverted personalities. For the introverted and shy, it is something a bit harder, but it’s something completely manageable. Essentially, if you are an introvert or shy trying to succeed in language learning, you will need three things:

  1. Prepare yourself beforehand
  2. Use your strengths: write, if you express yourself better this way. Or, listen, because you have patience and like to listen to people.
  3. Finally, get out of your comfort zone once in a while.

Are you an introvert? Do you have any tips to share? Write it below.

About Nathalia

Polyglot Nerd creator, love foreign cultures and learning languages. Speak: English, Portuguese and Spanish. Learning: French
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