JADI KINDRED, PMP
English Business Coach & Founder of Accent Unique Inc.
Since 2011, I have helped hundreds of business professionals. Usually the first sentence I hear from clients is that they are lacking confidence and feel “blocked” to speak. Before we begin any actual class or new material, I firmly believe we need to address the most important factor to learning. Feeling too blocked to actually speak. Over the years, I have learned this stems from many reasons. A boring English teacher during their school years, feeling too shy after making so many embarrassing errors with their English clients, or even being teased by their own children who have learned English at school more easily.
I would say 99% of my clients simply have a confidence issue when speaking. If they were more confident then they would trust they could get their message across. Since that is the real reason, we learn a second language, to communicate with other people. Does that mean our sentences have to be perfect, or pronunciation without any accent? No, of course not. Our only goal is to get our point across to the listener and then understand what is being told to us.
We sell language classes, but we are actually offering confidence courses! So yes, you can continue to join our private language classes to help increase your confidence speaking, but I also want to share with you the many other options to increase your confidence speaking English.
According to the Toastmasters website: “Toastmasters International is a non-profit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs.”
One my biggest fears in life is public speaking. My second biggest fear was speaking French and making a fool of myself. So how did I improve my French? I joined a FRENCH Toastmasters club.
This may be one of the biggest reasons I started speaking French and going to networking events in French. I had to stand in front of around 30 people, who I greatly respected, every week to either say a toast, make a joke, time keep, evaluation someone or even do an 8 to 10 minute speech. I quickly learned that no one cares if I conjugated the word incorrectly or used the feminine instead of the masculine form (which was my ultimate fear). Week by week, I slowly gain more and more confidence speaking, especially in front of other people.
Now, I am asked to do a presentation my mother tongue of English, it seems like the easiest thing in the world. Public speaking, a once debilitating problem for me, seems actually easy now.
It has been one of best professional development programs for my confidence. I have learned skills that I pass down to my clients when they are preparing important presentations. Some speeches had the focus on using the right words to communicate clearly, body language, vocal variety, persuasion, and inspire your audience. I don’t know about you, but these new skill sets will help me throughout the rest of my life.
When I was 17 years old, I graduated high school a semester early and went to Costa Rica for three months to learn Spanish. The language school we chose had a minimum age requirement of 18 years old, so my mom was with me for the first month. She thought it would be a better idea for me to have my own host family next door to live at, so I would be forced to speak Spanish. The idea and intention were great, but I was still too shy to speak. So, I didn’t speak for the first month. I am usually quite easy to read but was not able to get us of my shell to speak to my host family. At the language school, I became friends with more advanced speakers and let them speak for me. My experience was wonderful, but I knew I could have learned more…if I just had more confidence.
A couple years later, when I was 20 years old, I backpacked through South America for over 4 months, by myself. My dad begged me to go with a friend, preferably a man, but I refused. I knew that in order for me to really improve my Spanish I had to be alone to ensure I spoke. When speaking Spanish becomes necessary to find a hotel, restaurant, clean water, and safe transportation, I was no longer so shy. I said any words I knew to get my point across and as the days went by my conversations with strangers went from “Where is the bathroom” to “What are your dreams”.
When I was younger, my ego was a lot bigger than it is now. I wanted to speak perfectly and not be judged or criticized. Did people judge me? Maybe. Did people criticize me? Never! On a daily basis, people I met were amazed at my travelling goal where I flew into Quito, Ecuador and had a flight our of Buenos Aires, Argentina. They were happy to speak with me, learn about me and help me with any Spanish questions I had. This was the best thing for increasing my confidence! Speaking for myself!
I highly recommend travelling, maybe not backpacking in a third world country alone is one of your dreams, but I invite you to speak for yourself on your next vacation. Yes, don’t let your children, husband or wife order for you at the restaurant, or ask for directions. Go ahead, these are people that will never see you again, so dare to try those sentences you have always wanted to.
3. Practice speaking with children
When I was first learning French, I would go to family dinners with my family-in-laws and speak to the kids. Kids are so refreshing because they are so honest with their feelings. I would instantly see with their face expressions if you didn't pronounce something correctly. They wouldn't blatantly tell you they don't understand, they would show it. This would give me innocent and instant feedback that helped me to be gentle with myself.
I always felt that children are the ultimate test. If they understand your pronunciation and sentence structure, then any adult would. Go ahead and start practicing your English with children. It will surely be amusing and light-hearted!
4. Meet new friends in English
There are many free Meetup Groups. English-speakers don't bite. I believe it is important to expand our cultural understandings and learning how anglophones talk and interact shows insight into our culture.
Instead of learning English inside a classroom, you could join a board game group (my personal favourite way of improving my French), hiking group, movies (in a second language), or even restaurant dining with new friends.
5. Date an English-speaker
There are many dating apps and events. My current boyfriend never dated an anglophone before me. Our “Franglish” conversations create a lot of laughter, lightness, and deep listening in our relationship. I watch other relationships where both speakers make a lot of assumptions while conversing with their partner because they aren’t really listening. They think they know what the other person is saying from their own perception and past experience with specific words. That is not our case. Each conversation has to be carefully prefaced with context to start. Then we listen attentively and clarify words if needed. There is a lot less assumptions and mindful conversations, that I thoroughly enjoy. I am so grateful to be with a French-speaker and continue to learn from each other daily.
6. Go to a networking event in English
As an entrepreneur, I go to weekly networking events in French. The current clients I have now are from connections I made years ago. People especially remember my unique accent and when they are finally ready to learn English, they contact me. Networking events have become as social event for me. I would never normally walk into a fancy lounge and right up to a group of businessmen in suits or glamorous women in dresses, but during a networking event that is exactly what is expected.
It is not only expected, but highly encouraged and welcome. People immediately open the circle, direct their focus onto you and want to learn more. There is such an openness, eagerness to build connections and refer contacts that I haven’t found anywhere else. It is all done around a candy bar, hors d'oeuvres table, while sipping a glass of wine.
7. Attend a workshop on English
Some of my older clients confessed to me that they refused and resisted learning English their entire life. Now, they are retired and have time to attend talks from their favourite authors, conferences, events, and workshops. The only problem is that these events are in English. They see that they have limited themselves to these opportunities because they decided that English was not necessary in their life. They admit it is one of their biggest regrets and their new personal goal is to be able to understand English, so there are no longer any limits of what they can do during retirement.
8. Join a small group
Often people lacking confidence want to start with a private course. I understand why, and we are happy to offer this personalized course for our clients, but there is another option. Join one of our small groups. This will force you to face any fears or blocks speaking in front of others. Accent Unique strongly believes in small groups (6 or less) to ensure enough talk time and personalized attention from the teacher. Check out our website for continual updates of small group online classes being offered, such as VIP Mastermind in English, VIP Q & A drop-in course, Pronunciation Reading practice and even Networking in English.
In conclusion, I strongly believe that if your English is at an advanced level, you don’t need English lessons, but rather confidence courses. Yes, our team can help you perfect your English, but there are also many ways of improving your clarity, pronunciation, comprehension, and confidence!
We would love to hear which suggestion worked best for you! Feel free to write us anytime here.