Top Tips for Non-Native English Speakers

As a coach and global teacher, I have actually worked with thousands of current as well as future leaders that are bright, and also capable– and also that swiftly shed their confidence and proficiency when making business presentations. For a subset of these leaders– those that have to present in English when it isn’t their native language– the stakes and the tension can feel even greater. At the same time, the requirement for leaders to be able to present in English is growing at a rapid pace. “English is required for global collaboration and worldwide success”, according to Harvard Business College,”

However, being obliged to speak in your non-native language can lead to feelings of frustration, pressure, and also insecurity. When non-native public speakers are forced to communicate in English, they can really feel that their worth to the business has actually been decreased, regardless of their fluency degree. Add to that the worry of making official organisation discussions in front of superiors, decision-makers, and also vital stakeholders in your non-native language, and the anxiousness is substantially better.

One leader whose key additional languages are Hebrew as well as Spanish, but who speaks mostly in English, confessed that she felt “awkward” about her “weird and amusing accent” that seemed to get larger the more anxious she really felt. She additionally shared that she really felt much less efficient in spontaneity– and also much less clever– when she presented in English. A Chinese leader shared, “When I can’t locate words I require, I realize the simplest word rather. So a calamity would be like stating ‘you guys’ at a formal conference.” And a Korean leader was much more concerned: “I assume one will be proficient at providing what they have actually prepared, yet if the presentation goes beyond this extent, the circumstance can turn your brain to mush, and also it ends up being a catastrophe.”

Certainly, even indigenous English speechmakers frequently prepare for calamity when making presentations.. But for non-native presenters, the waiting and situational stress and anxiety associated with their distinct difficulties– being reasonable, selecting the ideal words, talking spontaneously– can be frustrating. In addition, if these worries hinder your desire or capacity to make company discussions, the influence can be job restricting.

Here are three techniques non-native English speakers can use to aid them really feel more certain before, during, and after a discussion:

Invest dramatically more time practicing your statement than perfecting your deck. When we asked our clients to show us the percentage of time spent on preparation, making, and also refining their PowerPoint slides compared to exercising or talking the presentation aloud, the majority of them confessed that they spent nearly no time doing the latter. While this is frequently a trouble for native speakers as well, for non-native English public speakers, practice session and repeating are specifically important action in getting ready for a successful presentation. The objective here is “overlearning” your presentation– pushing on with technique also when it appears like you’ve done enough. This will assist your discussion to become embedded in your long-term memory you’ll be  much less vulnerable to the impacts of anxiety.

Don’t agonize regarding your accent, however do reduce your speaking speed. Everyone has an accent of some sort, consisting of native English speechmakers. Also, people who stay in different parts of one country can be identified by their accents. Your accent can be a problem for your audiences, nevertheless, if they have trouble comprehending you. An unfamiliar accent is specifically troublesome in the very first minute or two of your presentation when your target market have to at first strain to recognize you. According to a study in Frontiers in Person Neuroscience, writers claim that audiences who are listening to accented speech of any kind experience “reductions in intelligibility, coherence, and handling rate– the very same results triggered by hearing loss or poor  sound.” By slowing down your speaking speed, you aid your target to make  better the barriers of  actually listening to and understanding you. Pick your opening words intentionally and pronounce them very carefully, making sure to express your words, not simply rush with them. As your presentation continues, the problem will be less intense as the audience  will slowly establish an ear for your accent, making it much easier to understand what you are saying.

Use pauses! Pause early as well as often. Stopping briefly in your discussion offers 2 advantages– initially, to help your target market comprehend your message, and second, to provide you a break. Researchers have  discovered that comprehending accented speech calls for audiences to draw on extra cognitive sources, not only to recognize and remember what has been said yet also to manage various other info or jobs while paying attention to accented speech. When you pause, you provide your listeners an opportunity to relax from drawing upon their cognitive resources, as well as to absorb what you’re claiming. However your pause is additionally a chance for you– you get to keep in mind or consider what you wish to say next, examine your notes, checked out signs from the audience, maybe even take a sip of water. You can likewise use a pause to construct rapport with your audience by checking with them about your rate and also pronunciation by saying something like, “Let me pause for a minute here. I recognize that I am making total sense to myself in [Spanish/French/Japanese/ Hindi/your native language] Exactly how am I carrying out in English?” Not only will you most likely obtain some immediate positive as well as helpful feedback from your audience, you will also get to relax, breathe, and also collect your thoughts.

For both native as well as non-native English presenters, perfection is overvalued. However with some added effort, initiative, and also commitment, non-native English speechmakers can present  with absolute confidence and proficiency.

“Tell Them About the Dream, Martin”

It was this shout from the crowd by soul singer Mahalia Jackson that prompted Martin Luther King to abandon his notes and extemporise his way into what is often regarded as the greatest speech in history.

The interjection from Mahalia Jackson reminds us that the speech was like a conversation. It was given with a great sense of crowd involvement. It was about sharing. Indeed the theme at the core of the speech: shared suffering, shared hope, shared destiny.

“Our white brothers… have come to realise that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.”

Although the speech is littered with allusions to the Bible and although it borrows much from gospel sermons, Martin Luther King was not preaching. Throughout the speech Martin Luther King is emphasising what people share. And most importantly of all he emphasises that what all share most is being “American”.

He says:

“I still have a dream”

But then he explains in the next sentence:

“It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.”

He is talking of the American Dream. Something shared, universal and based on what “the architects of our republic wrote”:

“the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence”

At the start of the speech Martin Luther King refers to “Five score years ago” an echo of Lincoln’s phrase in the Gettysburg address “four score and seven years ago…”. This was itself referring back to the Declaration of Independence of 1776.

So running through the speech is continuity and shared ideals of the American Dream. Martin Luther King is saying that to be American is believe in the “unalienable Rights”

He defined a vision for the people. In short Martin Luther King was defining for America what it was to be American. And that still holds true today, just as he “prophesied”:

“Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning.”

The speech constantly refers actually or metaphorically to a journey.

It feels like it was made at a stopping point on a march. And of course. it was made at the Lincoln Memorial, symbol of white American achievement.

The speech was delivered to, largely, people of colour, but it was really aimed at the white people of America. The people who would hear the speech not “live”, but through radio and the TV and in the newspapers.

Above all, this was a speech meant to be broadcast, with a full understanding and sense of what broadcast technologies would do.

It’s right there in his call:

“And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.”

 The people on “the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire” and “the curvaceous slopes of California” were white people getting the news. And for “let freedom ring” read the unseen ‘airwaves’ of TV and radio. These were the unseen, elemental forces that would bring a new America together. King knew this. He played upon it and he knew that ultimately broadcasting would deliver his dream of all men being equal, because all men would be interconnected.

Finally, although this speech is about being black and white; it is never black and white itself. He does not blame or divide;

He calls for his audience to:

“rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force”

There is a “soul force” coursing through the speech. It is there in the anaphora, (the repeated use of certain words or phrases) of “Let freedom ring”, “one hundred years…”, “we cannot be satisfied…” and above all of course, in the most famous of all repeated statements “I have a dream”.

The power and fame of this speech comes down to that phrase “I have a dream”. It shows that, at heart, speech making is about putting out a vision, a dream of how you want the world to be. John F Kennedy, King’s contemporary, knew this. All great leaders know this.

Indeed to paraphrase Kennedy: If you want to change with world, make a speech.

Greta Thunberg

Greta Thunberg speech on climate change

Greta Thunberg delivered a powerful speech to MPs at the Houses of Parliament on 22nd April, telling the politicians: “You did not act in time”.

And the interesting thing about the speech was the way that she used expectations to create insight. For example, her age was used, not as an excuse, but as a means to create a persuasive force within her speech. She did play on the fact she was just 16 years old, but not in the way they had expected.

Rewilding our World

First, she talked in very simple, personal terms of 2030:

“In the year 2030 I will be 26 years old. My little sister Beata will be 23. Just like many of your own children or grandchildren. That is a great age, we have been told.”

Then she made it political:

“Around the year 2030, 10 years 252 days and 10 hours away from now, we will be in a position where we set off an irreversible chain reaction beyond human control, that will most likely lead to the end of our civilisation as we know it.”

It was a brilliant transition, precisely because no-one saw it coming, the audience was expecting more cute observations. And then they were hit with a thunderous statement: “ the end of our civilisation”. It was like Roger Federer shaping up for a cross court – only to hit a winner down the line.

A Just Transition

Similarly the audience expected her to talk about the need to increase current actions to save the environment. (That’s the way most speeches on saving the planet go – “We must do more”!) But she did not. She told them it was all too late for that. She was not there to talk about doing more, but doing different.

So we say: “We have to start treating the crisis like a crisis – and act even if we don’t have all the solutions.”

“That’s still not an answer,” you say.

Then we start talking about circular economy and rewilding nature and the need for a just transition. Then you don’t understand what we are talking about.

“Circular economy”, “rewilding nature”, “a just transition”: these are more of the same they are new and different solutions. A new language even.

Cathedral Thinking

This new language – born out of the realisation that the old ways won’t solve the crisis in time – reached its best expression in a phrase that summed up her whole argument and perhaps her whole being:

“Avoiding climate breakdown will require cathedral thinking. We must lay the foundation while we may not know exactly how to build the ceiling.”

Despite all the talk of science, actually here was a young woman looking to the future and asking us to take a leap of faith, believe in a new way of doing things. Because the established logic and indeed the establishment just hasn’t worked. And the time is up. Interesting because that position is reflected in the public debate. We have all heard the numbers on climate change over and over again. And the facts don’t change anything. The science doesn’t shift public opinion. We have to find a new path. We have to find a new belief. Because it’s the emotions we must win over if we are to persuade.

For a full text of Greta’s speech click here

The Outlier

 We recognise that we are working in the age of search engines and social sharing, so we bring detailed keyword research to every speech we are involved in. Research to make sure you are speaking about what really matters in your topic.

The audience in the room are simply the first receivers.