You know, one of my pet hates is when someone says “Where are you staying?”. I mean give me a break! I have been living here for 15 years and my German isn’t THAT bad. In fact I think most people seem to think it’s good or excellent (if they are telling me the truth), but we all have tired days when our grammar seems to take on a life of it’s own. We all tend to talk too fast when we are nervous and we all have those brain drain moments when that essential word vanishes into thin air.
But don’t beat yourself up about it, do something about it, practice, practice, practice!
I went to a meeting the other day and there were some women giving a presentation and I noticed that for as long as the talk made sense I skimmed the mistakes and zoned in on what they had to say.
However as the presentation lost momentum, and I glazed over, I began to notice every little slip up and it hit me like a tonne of bricks that actually it is the same mistakes that non native speakers make again and again, so here goes:
1. Use conjunctions – don’t expect me to be joining up or finishing your sentence and keep concentrating on what you are saying at the same time, whilst I decipher I am not listening.
2. Get the prepositions right (place, time, subject), it’s a distraction
3. Don’t use the verb ‘nice’ – especially if you are a woman!
4. Word Order. If you make my brain do somersaults to assemble your sentence, I will lose focus on what you are saying.
5. Verb endings ‘Lucy want to know’… STOP it is just one letter, but the ‘s’, really does make a difference.
6. Pronunciation – it’s business not beezness. Lots of dictionaries have audio files now, so use them and listen ‘actively’ to native speakers and mirror them (make a ‘speak’ note if you have to).
7. Terminology – donors give blood, sponsors give money. Get the financial and technical terms right to get big points in terms of credibility.
8. Don’t tell me to do stuff. Remember that I don’t HAVE to do anything, if you speak a direct language then you’ll need to soften it to win the hearts of native speaking funders.
9. Plural/Single. Come on, this is a no brainer, so get it right, please avoid saying things like lots of man, a cash, informations, trainings. 85% of people slip up with this.
10. Weedy words. We are trying to, we want to, we hope to, we attempt … because you know what? If you want funding, I want to be assured that you can pull this off.
And finally, if you don’t feel confident about your grammar, get it checked by a native speaker that has time to spare or a translator if you can afford it or at the reasonably prices, open all hours Byte Sized English Club on Facebook. Free for my local first 30 members, after that it will be €9.99 per month after a €0.99 trial of 30 days.
Then make the time to learn it off by heart or get familiar with the flow of the text or even read your notes so that you don’t say things like
“I go to good meeting with woman who want to…”
“What I should do now”
Because quite frankly I am a language trainer, so I have built up quite a high tolerance level for these mistakes over the last 14 years, but for a native speaker being asked to fork out their cash, grammatically gruelling presentations are unlikely to lead to a negotiation.
Harsh but true.