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Lacking confidence when speaking English


Hi all. Here’s an interesting article for your reading pleasure. This is article come from my HR at Singapore. I Hope it will change your perspective and boost your confidence when speaking English.  Practice makes perfect.


Author : Larry Wang

The first thing I’ll say is that I’m a native English speaker. The second is that while my English is pretty good, my 2nd language, Mandarin, sucks! And this is after living and working in China for over 20 years now!

As a result, I have huge respect for anyone who is able to learn a 2nd language, without even having lived in that country before. Not only is this incredibly impressive to me, it describes millions of people in the market I’m in who are able to speak English far better than I can speak Mandarin.  Yet, I constantly meet local professionals who are self-conscious and hesitant about communicating with a foreigner like me in English. You shouldn’t be. If you’re a non-native, English speaker who relates to what I’m saying, I hope the perspective I’m about to share will raise your overall confidence and approach when speaking English with the foreigners you deal with at work.

No need to overthink your words, grammar, and/or accent

From the point of view of a native English speaker, here’s the most important thing I’ll say about your speaking English to a foreign manager or executive like me. As long as you can express your thoughts to me and the main point(s) of what you want to say, I don’t really care how your English sounds. It doesn’t matter to me how slowly you talk. I don’t care that your accent or grammar isn’t perfect, as long as you can make yourself understood.

I emphasize this point because many people I meet who are non-native, English speakers get too nervous worrying that their English isn’t good enough when speaking to a foreigner. They overthink it and focus too much of their attention on their words and sentences. But for me, I’m fully aware that English is your 2nd language.  I just need to understand the main point(s) of what you want to communicate to me.

It’s about the quality of your thoughts and ideas

What I pay attention to most is if what you have to say may be interesting to me. As long as you have something interesting to say then I’m going to make every effort to listen to you and give you every chance to say it. It’s the quality of your thoughts and ideas that I care about most. Actually, this is the case whenever you’re speaking with your boss, your senior management, or a client, no matter what language you’re speaking, or whether you’re talking to a foreigner or not.

One candidate that I interviewed for one of my career development book, Develop Yourself As A Future Executive, Today, understood this well. In his job, he often had to communicate with senior managers, many of whom were foreigners. For a long time, he would always get very nervous speaking with them in English.

Finally, he figured it out. He realized that these senior managers were not judging what he said by how fluent his English was. Instead, they were assessing what he had to say. If his ideas were good and his thought process was solid, then whatever he said would sound good. He began to place a greater emphasis on citing facts, references, and background information, which, low and behold, helped make him much more easily understood by others. By focusing more on what he was saying and making sure that it had merit and weight, he became more confident and much less nervous when speaking to others in English.

We’re not as critical as you think

I can absolutely confirm this. I’ve been a part of many meetings that have involved non-native, English speaking professionals presenting something to other foreigner managers and executives. Not once have I ever heard someone say afterwards, “I don’t like his proposal, his accent is too heavy.” Or, “His grammar isn’t good enough for me to consider his recommendation.”

If anything, it’s the opposite. As a foreigner who is working in another country, I can tell you that I really make an effort to understand what you have to say. I’m not interested in being critical of your English skills. I just want to understand your key points and ideas. I believe this is the same for many other managers and executives who communicate often with non-native, English speakers.

So if you want to communicate more effectively as a professional in your second language, if you want others to buy into what you say at work and in business situations, then focus on the quality of your thoughts and the validity of what you say. In fact, this is the key to communicating effectively in any language you’re speaking in.

What experiences or tips do you have to encourage others who may feel overly self-conscious when communicating in their 2nd language to native speakers?



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