Some people were born with a natural ability to pick up languages quickly. For others it’s hard work and they spend ages on expensive courses, which do never bring the long-awaited results.
I think I’m sitting somewhere in the middle. When I first came to the UK 3 years ago I thought I could speak English quite well. Imagine my surprise when even very simple words were causing me problems. This was because of accents, speed or pronunciation. I also thought that it would be impossible to show my personality and express myself in a foreign language. I was so wrong, it only took a short matter of time to learn some idioms and become more confident in expressing myself.
I work in the recruitment industry and I’m the only foreign person in the office. I don’t feel bad about this, I feel unique!
These are my tips to everyone who is struggling with their English language skills and self-confidence:
1. Don’t feel bad because of the fact that English is your second language. Be proud that you can speak more than one!
2. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Anxiety scrambles your brain and makes it hard to learn. Watch movies in English, read books, talk to people and listen to them!
3. When you don’t understand someone, just kindly say: “I’m sorry I didn’t catch that, could you repeat that please?” or if you still really don’t know what they are saying you can say things like: “Explain this to me like I’m a six year old, please” and smile, even when on the phone! This breaks the ice and people are a lot more understanding than you would think.
4. Don’t pretend to more British than you are. There is nothing worse than a fake accent. Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken!
5. You won’t improve your English if you settle into a language comfort zone. Call your bank instead of using an automatic service, invite your colleague for a coffee, ask for directions instead of using Google maps!
6. Don’t force yourself to translate everything into your mother tongue. As long as you understand the sentence in English, there’s no need to do it!
7. Give yourself time. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
8. And the last one… If you don’t get English jokes, don’t worry you won’t anyway 😊
I hope some of you might find this useful and please remember “If you were able to believe in Santa for 8 years, you can believe in yourself . You’ve got this!”