Have you ever had a conversation like this?
A: Oh let me tell about this really funny thing that happened yesterday! I was in a store... in a... um, hardware? Can I say that?
A: Yes, hardware store. I was in a "hardware store", and I saw this kid and he was... um... he had those.... (long pause) rolling shoes? That's not right. What are those things called? .
B: Roller skates? Roller blades? Heeley's?
A: Oh okay. Roller skates. Roooolllllllllller skaaaaaates. That's a funny word. What is a Elise?
B: Not Elise... Heeeeeleeey's
B: They're shoes, with a wheel in the heel.
A: With a wheel in the heel. In the "heel?"
B: Never mind. So what happened to the kid?
A: Yes, he was... Um... Not jumping, but... oh, wait a moment.... Can I say bouncing?
And so on.
When you don't speak with confidence, you lose your audience. The story goes nowhere. And eventually, the meaning gets lost. Imagine if I wrote my blog posts like that. I would have no readers!
When every word sounds like a question, it's hard to know the point of what you're saying. And it's even harder when every sentence is interrupted by a vocabulary lesson.
Now, consider how much more smoothly it could go if you just said "he was wearing those shoes with wheels" and let the listener figure out which shoes you're talking about. Often, that detail isn't even necessary to the story, and when it is, your listener can usually figure it out from context.
If you don't know (or remember) how to say hardware store, you can just say store. Or if it's a necessary detail, you can say "store where they sell tools". If you can't remember "bouncing", you can just say "jumping up and down softly".
What's important is to finish telling your thought, and not even because you're making it hard for your listener (even though you are!). The biggest reason that it's important is because you are what you do.
The things you do become your habits. If you make a habit of speaking confidently, you will always speak confidently and your vocabulary will improve on it's own. But when you form the habit of speaking without confidence, you are creating a pattern in yourself of always speaking this way, and you will continue do so — relying on positive feedback from your listener — even after your vocabulary has improved.
Use the words you know, and use them confidently. And really, don't be afraid to confidently use the words you don't know, too!
Knowledge is easy... You will learn more over time. But confidence doesn't come with time — it only comes with experience. Confidence breeds confidence.
So do what you know, and do it well. Use that confidence to feed the things you don't know. Trust me... you'll love the difference.
Want to see my favorite language resources and courses?
I listed them here.