Speaking tips for foreigners

Speaking can be full of liabilities. Voice should be a straightforward medium to help and support us to communicate but it is, consciously or not, hiding or revealing our fears as human beings. I think sometimes that it would be much easier to be an animal but hey, did we have a choice in that matter?

Last year I worked for Olympus Medical Device Manufacturing and trained some of their staff, incidentally foreigners,in language skills. Actually I did not teach them anything, I made them come to terms with the fact they speak differently and enabled them to speak in a way so that they can be easily understood. I don’t consider this to be about language, but about our confidence and our ability to adapt, or not, to a different environment. At the end of the day, if we want to learn and improve, we can, and what is interesting is that if you believe that you have a message to offer to the world, you will find a way to express it in whatever language or other communication medium you will find. If you have ever watched deaf people talking to each other, you will know what I mean!

sign language

I have noticed through my teaching and coaching that foreigners will drop their voices when they do not know how to pronounce a word properly, which makes it even harder for everyone to understand. I think our unconscious brain activates one of our fear buttons and starts putting us in a situation of self-sabotage. We end up dropping the words we need for effective communication.

I remember taking singing lessons during my first year in England. The teacher noticed that I spoke English at a much higher tone and pitch than my own mother tone, as if I needed unconsciously to strain my throat and maybe to find a way to express myself and thus making it even harder for me to sustain such a long conversation!

woman singer with microphone on white


I also noticed that for years, when tired, my french accent would come up in force, as if being tired meant I could not be “so English” anymore, and I had to find a way of expressing myself which was alien to me.

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What is your experience? Have you noticed how you speak and how you sound and how you might have to adjust depending of what, where and who you are with?. Next time you are in a group, notice your tone of voice and your intonation when reacting to others.

I would be interested in hearing from native and non-native English speakers about their relationships with expressing themselves in one context or another… Have you had a time when you felt so inadequate? When were your times of success? And the times of ridicule?

With thanks Helene

Surrender or getting angry, what choice are you going to make today?

Surrender or getting angry: choose the best solution, a story to help come to terms with not getting your own way.

I went to do a day’s supply yesterday in a school.  I still teach and I run my own business and I have two children, I sometimes wonder why I’m tired! Anyhow, I was in the classroom with year one, they are 5 to 6 years old, and I’d been with them over an hour and break was coming up.  I got them ready for break and as they were lining up, I was sent a message that it was wet play, which meant they had to stay in the classroom.

This was my second day in this school and I was quite tired, it was Friday, the end of the week.   And I just had one moment of complete anger, thinking ‘what am I supposed to do now?’ And I did call to another teacher, I could see one bringing students back from the playground. I asked ‘What am I supposed to do?  What’s happening to break?’

businesswoman in anger

I had two choices there, the first one was to make my own life a misery, and I was getting quite tense with the kids, because I needed a break.  Then I thought, ‘Well, actually if I had a break that would be great, but I haven’t got a break, so I may as well be easy on myself  and enjoy being with the students.

They all took their coats off, I told them they could play, they took   some toys out and started playing and I sat there and started playing with them too.  Making faces, laughing, talking to them.  And you know what?  Once I had decided there was nothing I could do and I needed just to surrender, just to calm myself and just go with the flow I relaxed and I wasn’t half as tired, I didn’t need my drink now.  I would have been pleased to have a drink then because you get thirsty when you teach, but I could wait.

happy girl in yellow dress

By the time break was over I was ready to start again, then suddenly someone turned up and said ‘I’m here to relieve you so you can have a break.’  I thanked her, gave her some work for the children and left for 10 minutes.  But what was amazing was that if I’d been annoyed with the kids, carried on wanting my break, pushing and getting annoyed, I would possibly have shouted at the children, made myself feel bad, upset the children, and it wasn’t their fault, and by the time someone had turned up I would have been really, really wound up.  But I chose the easiest solution.  Just to surrender.  To think ‘Ok, let’s all have a break together, let’s make the most of it.  Just enjoy being together’.

The kids were having a good time, they weren’t misbehaving, they were lovely and I even gave them a few more minutes play.  So they were happy.  And I think that’s quite important when you want to think about expressing yourself. If you find the wrong time to say what you feel, I could have been really angry, and get really annoyed with the kids and the school.   But because I decided not to and I decided I was going to relax my whole body started to relax.  I didn’t feel as tired and although obviously I needed a break, it was less urgent.  And it is something that’s quite important when you start speaking or when you’re in front of other people and you have to speak.

3d imagen Attitude issues concept word cloud background

Often, it’s better not to worry and just take one thing at a time.   Hold the faith, think that it’s going to be OK.  It’s going to be alright. And realise that if you push too much you are going to make everything miserable, you and the others around you.   Also, what do other people need?  The children needed a break, but it didn’t really matter where it was.  They wanted to play and that is what we did.   Because they were allowed to play and because I relaxed, they were happy.

I think this is a really quite important lesson to learn.  To just relax and surrender.  To just think ‘OK, I can’t have it all my way, and does it really matter?  As long as we, as a group we are making progress.’   That’s what counts.

So, I just want you to think today about the analogy between that situation in the classroom and times when you might have talked to your team, you want them to do this and that,  you just barked orders at them instead of trying to see what else they need. “Are they ready to listen to me? Is it the right time for them?  How can I engage them?  How can I treat them so that they respond? Can I really control the whole thing? Shall I forget to try to get my own way?

If you like this blog, please comment below. Thank you

Helene is a dreamer, a poet, a trainer,  a coach, a mother, a daughter.  She is passionate about helping others to find their voices through her training. Get in touch with her helenemusso.com. If you want to book a discovery call with her, please get in touch on 07875627485 or email beconfident@helenemusso.com.