Sometimes we are so shy that we don´t really know how much we know.
Last Thursday, to make up for the loss of our conversation assistant this year, I offered myself for chatting: I told a fellow-worker to speak to me in English every time he wanted. Of course, my English cannot be as good as the one of a native speaker, but we can learn from each other and improve just by practicing a little every day.
My new friend and I had been talking for a few minutes when all of a sudden he confessed a secret to me: despite feeling rather insecure when speaking in English, he had published excellent articles in prestigious scientific magazines. I could not believe my ears. However, he helped my unbelief and switched on one of the computers in the staff room and showed them to me. To my surprise, I found a lot of articles full of specific terms related to the world of chemistry too difficult for me to understand, but certainly written in the language of Shakespeare.
How could that be possible? He could write decently, but he hardly spoke a few words? Well, in fact, that is exactly the same problem that many students need to sort out after finishing high school or university. They have the knowledge, but not the courage. They are so afraid of making mistakes and look silly and ridiculous that prefer not to say anything and remain silent and quiet. They become excellent writers, but poor speakers.
Then I told him how I became bilingual. It did not happen abroad, in the United Kingdom, Ireland or the States. It happened in the classes of English Literature at university, when our teacher asked for comments on the novels that we had to read. I used to write those comment on a small piece of paper before raising my hand and saying anything. One day I realized I did not need to write them down any more and started speaking what came out of my mind.
You can do the same, I said.