When English is Your Second Language

Growing up in Chile

I remember when I was a kid, being at school I’ve always loved been chosen to read in front of my class. Never had a fear of it. On the contrary, it was a kind of exciting every time I had the opportunity to display my reading and presentation skills. It didn’t take long to be asked to read or perform in front of my entire school at any general assembly.

My mentors

I have to thank my parents, especially my mother who was always encouraging me to develop good reading habits. Every time I didn’t know a word, instead of giving me the meaning, she commanded me to look it up into a dictionary. That was key helping me to grow my vocabulary.

At University, the story wasn’t different. Quickly I became known as a good presenter and frequently chosen to lead the presentation of diverse projects and assignments given on different subjects.

Through my professional career, this skill was very useful and developed into a powerful tool to sell and convince clients to hire my company’s services (Marketing and Merchandise). Soon enough some of my clients started asking me for help and guidance on how to build powerful presentations and communicate effectively with their clients; so I started coaching businesses on effective presentation skills.

Moving to the UK

When I moved with my family to the UK, I thought that one of the activities that could help me to generate an income it could be coaching businesses in the art of communication and presentation skills. However, I needed to face a big opposition… myself.

English is my second language. I am from Chile, so my native language is Spanish. My belief system had been struck by that nagging voice of self-doubt and disbelief filling my head with thoughts that I would not be able to do it.

“How on earth are you going to set up a business on communication and presentation skills, your level of English is not good enough!!!”

“Who do you think is going to hire you, when your vocabulary is not wide enough when your pronunciation is not good enough…” and on and on and on.

Somehow that little voice was right, I was not prepared to help or coach any business, I was not ready, I didn’t feel prepared.

So I decided to start from scratch.

I needed to build up my confidence in speaking with people. So I got a job as a restaurant manager. This role that pushed me to communicate clearly and effectively with customers, staff and suppliers. Being in the front line of customer service was a great challenge and helped me a lot to improve my English. However, I was not satisfied enough, and as a perfectionist, I need it to push myself to perform at a higher level.

After a year and a half, I decided to move into education. If being able to clearly communicate and teach, I’m getting a bit closer to the level of proficiency that I am looking for.

Talking in front of people had never been an issue, knowing the subject matter, having all the vocabulary at my disposition to find the right word that will help to communicate clearly and purposely.

But public speaking in my second language is a different game.

Are they going to understand what am I saying?

It is my accent so strong that is not pleasant to hear it?

Would I be able to find the right words to transmit clearly what I want to communicate?

Would my point get lost in translation?

All these questions were in my head. I knew that I needed to do something else.  I started Googling and found a group that was gathering 2 times a month very close to my home in Tunbridge Wells. It was a public speaking club affiliated to Toastmasters International.

My first experiences of Tunbridge Wells Speakers Club

I visited the club a couple of times as a guest and felt that I had found the perfect place to push myself forward on my quest to became a proficient speaker in a second language.

In June 2019, I joined the club. Tunbridge Wells Speakers Club is a friendly and safe place where you can learn, grow, collaborate and the most important, speak, speak, speak.

It is scary? Yes, it is! But as Susan Jeffers recommends on her book, “Feel the fear and do it anyway!!”

It is absolutely worth doing it; not just feeling it, I would say smell it, taste it, see it, embrace your fear with all your senses, and take that leap of faith moving forward to your desired goal.

I have done already a couple of speeches and the experience has been amazing! (I’m still alive!!). The best part is that you get loads of friendly feedback that helps you improve on those areas that you need to polish to excel at this art, and for me taking me several steps closer towards my goal.

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash


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