My biggest challenge in the United States is the language barrier. Even after a year here, I very often face difficulties in communication. I did not grow up listening to American music or watching American television, and I did not have enough learning opportunities during my youth. Being an adult, it is only harder to confront these challenges in communication. Ironically, I was invited to share with a high school class of Spanish speakers how I am dealing with this challenging situation.
First of all, I recognize that I have a weakness. Usually, I warn people that I am learning English in case they don’t understand me. I don’t mind repeating or rephrasing. Secondly, I listen carefully, making sure that I have comprehended correctly. Even if I don’t understand something the first time, I’ve realized the best thing to do is to ask for clarification and to not be afraid to raise questions as many time it is necessary. Watching people speak also help me to add new words, expressions or entire phrases to my vocabulary. In addition, to be a better English speaker, I have exposed myself to the local culture, and in my case, every night I watch short videos, news or movies.
However, my big fear is public speaking. I don’t feel confident in conversation, and, to add to that, I have a natural nervousness being on the stage. I might not be the right person to give advice on public speaking, but I’ve found that being calm and paying attention to your respiration while speak slowly and getting plenty of practice are good tips. Another strategy that works for me is what I am doing right now–writing down what I want to speak. This is good because I already have some words and sentences in my mind, instead of improvising during the presentation. I received this method from a colleague who is a native English speaker.
All this is a lot of effort, but it doesn’t avoid criticism from others. It doesn’t stop questionings faces, laughs, and misunderstandings. Do not let these challenges push you down. Observe your small success. For example, I noticed that I usually pay more attention to my few hard times than I do to the countless successful communications I had through the day.
Finally, speaking a new idiom will make a difference in your personal and professional life. It will help you to connect with people from different nationalities, share your experiences, learn from others, be friendly and secure more professional opportunities.