Confidence speaking in a second language

Confidence speaking in a second language

A while back I wrote the blog below mainly for the Spanish audience, its message is still applicable to anyone embarking in the journey of learning a second language:

Hours and hours of practice and a lot of dedication is what they recommend when you embark on the adventure of learning a second language, what they don’t usually tell you is that the task doesn’t end there. Once you learn to communicate fluently you must continue to improve and develop your language skills, nobody really advises you on how to achieve a good presentation in public, how to actively participate in meetings or how to defend your ideas and arguments, especially when there are cultural barriers. This would be a very easy task in Spanish (my native language) but when doing it in a second language you start having feelings of anxiety and nervousness that can make you lose your confidence  and sometimes feel frustration when exposed to unknown situations, it is what they call leaving your comfort zone.

I would like to share some tips that have helped me improve my confidence, mainly dealing with business people:

    • If you’re in the middle of a conversation and suddenly don’t remember or know the word you want to use, simply rephrase your idea and explain it with examples.
    • Take a couple of minutes to think about what you are going to say: Be clear about the message you want to communicate and then think about the reasons or examples if necessary.
    • Do not literally translate what you think. This maybe takes longer depending on how long you have been learning the language.
    • Speak out loud alone and in front of a mirror. Very useful when you have to do presentations or talks in public.
    • While you speak, maintain good eye contact, look the person directly in the eye. This is super important in interviews and presentations.
    • Try to listen to other people’s conversations and learn how they pronounce the words. For example, in English “would have”, “should have” and “could have” are very common but are pronounced in the short form, that is, “would’ve”, “should’ve” and “could’ve”.
    • Don’t hesitate to ask them to repeat the phrase or question, ask for examples if necessary.
    • Read every day.
    • Ask them to spell words for you that you didn’t especially understand, proper names like places, cities, or people’s names.

One last thing, if you feel nervous while talking take a deep breath and keep in mind that the more nervous you are, the greater the risk of making mistakes.