Let’s face it, if someone walked up to your desk and started speaking English ‘at’ you at full speed, you’d panic, right? Well frankly most of us would – unless of course we had some hot English speaking lover or something – but more about that shortly.
The point is though is that if you speak English regularly, then in it is not half as intimidating. Your brain is like a muscle, it learns to switch languages faster.
When I lived in Helsinki I used to hang out with this guy who used to speak to me in English if it was something basic, or in German if it was more complicated. He ignorantly had made no effort to learn any Finnish, so I was the one to speak in Finnish when we were out and about. It was exhausting to be frank but I soon got used to it and naturally, I got better at it too, thank goodness he was so lazy!
I confess that I didn’t have a family to organise but my golly was I determined to learn Finnish! I didn’t have to, I could have lived in a linguistic and cultural bubble like most of the foreigners. Even the Finns wondered why I bothered learning a langauge that only 5 million people spoke. But me being me, I wanted to make the very best of those 14 months in Finland and to do that learning the language was -to me – fundamental.
For the record, as determined as I was to learn the language it was the most difficult thing I have ever had to learn, it made learning German & Swedish fairly easy by comparison.
So what’s stopping you? Well the chances are that it’s you. We all have responsibilities and yet deep down, you probably know that if you put your mind to it you would find a way to speak English more frequently.
Especially if we found a way to make learning an enjoyable, worthwhile, rewarding experience rather than just an additional logisitical hurdle to clear.
Perhaps you have got away without having to use your English, with international projects being reserved for the more experienced.
How does that make you feel?
You hear at lunch that there is a management position available and it is you that they are expecting to fill the position. Your team just can’t understand why you don’t seem interested. You know deep down why not, don’t you? The chances are that your colleagues think you’re just reluctant to take on more responsibility. They might even be making excuses for you. One thing is for sure, they know deep down that with your experience and client skills, you would do a way better job than the idiot that’s second choice.
Well, it’s understandable. The chances are that you never enjoyed speaking English and the origins of your inhibitions normally take you back to school. Crazy huh? It is very common for language learning inhibitions to have been triggered by some comment about your pronunciation (usually it is some jerk hiding behind their own insecurities) or a teacher that used to pounce on you with every single grammar mistake. It might have been 5, 10, 20, or even 25 years ago and on reflection quite rediculous BUT these scenarios seem to cling to our paranoia like sap from a tree.
Well the only way to get rid of this paranoia is to do something about it.
Replace uncertainty with certainty, not tomorrow, not next month, not soon, now!
English is a language and any language can be learned. It’s like baking, if you can read, you can bake but if you take short cuts, use the wrong equipment or take the wrong ingredients in the wrong order, the cake might taste great but fall apart. It’s the same with languages, no matter what you say, or what grammar mistakes you make you will be able to make your point, it might not be fancy or eloquent but it does the job. But is that enough?
I once met a drummer that told me that there is no such thing as someone that isn’t musical, we all have it in us – we just have to be brave enough to discover it and practice until it sounds as musical as you want it to be. Sure, some people seem to have a ‘talent for languages’ but it is a skill that can be learned. The chances are that you have learned many programming languages already. Learning a foreign language is the same, we need to practice writing and reading it, playing with it, exploring and experimenting to see what works best. It’s all about rules and terminology, there really isn’t a big difference.
So what are the options? Well, you have probably already thought about the conventional run of the mill kind of options.
1. Evening school – fine if you have endless energy levels, regular working hours and no commitments outside work.
2. Then there is 121 training which is expensive at €75-150 per hour depending on your brief.
3. Online courses without a real person to moderate, ideal for programming languages but not for English where the focus should be on speaking English in a professional setting.
4. Day time classes at work with colleagues that you are trying to impress, in a dreadful meeting room that you aren’t necessarily in a rush to go to.
So plan B – think about your goal. Not just a matter of wanting to improve your English, no, much more specific! The chances are that reading isn’t a problem. The likelihood is that it is the actual speaking that makes you nervous.
So set yourself a goal. Whoaaa! Wait right there, it’s tooooo big! Now break it down, that’s right, into smaller tasks, and again, and again, until you have goals to reach every day – sound like too much work. Phew! That’s good because I can do that bit for you. Because although you might feel like you are the only woman in technology that doesn’t feel comfortable speaking in English, you couldn’t be further from the truth.
They might not be in your work space or department, but there are lots of women in exactly the same situation that will be working with us to work on their speaking skills too.
Many women have a secret craving to interupt constructively during a web conference albeit professionally and politely to make their point but choose not to, for fear of not being able to communicate in English eloquently and impressively. After all it takes time to build your reputation, you don’t want to risk making a fool of yourself do you?
So regarding the lover I mentioned at the start of the post, well, immersion is all about being exposed to a language all day every day, which is why having a lover, boyfriend or husband who you speak to in another language is like a personal immersion programme.
Here’s the Workaround Honey! With social media and other online technology, you choose how often and from which time of the day to get your language fix. Some weeks it might be 2-3 times a day, another week you might struggle to get in just once. It might not be as sexy as a new lover but online learning can become quite addictive as you get to know other approachable, fun and inspirational women, with similar challenges, approaches, fears and of course modest successes to share. As we learn and develop together to take your careers to the next level, it’s more than a class, it is a learning community that is available 24/7 with no judgement or games, because you are all here for the same reasons.
You all want to take your career to the next level and with better language skills you have a far better chance of taking control of your professional destiny but as you get ready to make that move, we will be discussing issues and problems that will help you establish greater industry knowledge, confirmation of your skills, assurance of your expertise and the self confidence to take the next step.
Who needs a lover anyway if you are just about to step up your career?
And keep this in mind, just imagine their faces! Do it. Close your eyes for a moment and imagine their faces when you tell them that you are leaving, watch their jaws drop as you tell them about the new opportunity that you are about to embark on, simply because you had the guts and the initiative to take your personal development into your own hands. Go girl, sign up now.