speaking barrier / blockade

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sunnyweather

Senior Member
Polish
Hello,

I wonder how to name the situation when one gets stuck for words in a different way. I mean the person has quite a good knowledge of English, but when it comes to speaking they experience a king of psychological blockade and they can't express themselves successfully. I don't think it is just language barier because that seems to imply to a situation when people don't speak each other's languages at all. So can I say:

I have / experience a language barrier / a speaking barrier when I want to talk to someone in English. (?)

Thank you.
 
  • sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    I think "mental block" is what you want. Not "blockade.":)

    (As I grow older, I sometimes temporarily forget a word in my own language. :rolleyes:)
     

    sunnyweather

    Senior Member
    Polish
    So, can I say:

    I have a mental block when I want to speak English to other people. (?) doesn't it sound very serious like a mental problem? I'm asking about it as I wonder which option is the most natural when you want to say that you struggle with problems connected with expressing yourself successfully in a foreign language.
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    There is a language barrier when talking to people in English.
    I don't think this fits the question

    I've always regarded "language barrier" to mean that two people are lacking a common language whereas the OP specifically is talkiong about a person who knows English well (and presumably can read and write it and the problem is limited to speaking. :)

    From Merriam-Webster:
    Definition of language barrier
    : a difficulty for people communicating because they speak different languages
     

    Jimbob_Disco

    Senior Member
    British English
    So, can I say:

    I have a mental block when I want to speak English to other people. (?) doesn't it sound very serious like a mental problem? I'm asking about it as I wonder which option is the most natural when you want to say that you struggle with problems connected with expressing yourself successfully in a foreign language.
    A mental block is like forgetting, so I wouldn’t use this, as a language barrier is usually caused by a lack of knowledge, not forgetting. See my post @ #4 for a good solution.
     

    Jimbob_Disco

    Senior Member
    British English
    Did you not read the part in the OP that says, "I mean the person has quite a good knowledge of English" :)
    To my understanding, a language barrier is a lack of complete understanding in a common language, so for instance, I speak decent French, but still sometimes suffer from a language barrier when speaking to natives. Maybe it’s just a subtle difference between BE and AE.:confused:
     

    sunnyweather

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Let me quote Advanced Learner's Dictionary:

    "He has a complete mental block (= difficulty in understanding or remembering) when it comes to physics."


    So can we say:

    She has a mental block when it comes to communicating with others in English / talking in English. (?)
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Language barrier is the wrong term altogether. Mental block is much closer.

    I have a feeling there might be a better term, but I just can't seem to bring it to mind …… :D
     

    sunnyweather

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Thank you for all your fantastic comments. Sometimes it's really difficult to name accurately something that is a cross-cultural phenomenon, experienced worldwide, but at the same time as ambiguous as the word block itself.
     
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