If English is not your mother tongue, you may wonder, ‘Why do I have to learn to communicate in English?’ Well, English is a universal language and the most used language in the corporate world. Roughly 1.5 billion people speak English, and some countries now teach it as a second language.
This article will discuss the importance of professional English communication and the barriers non-natives face when learning the language. We will also highlight obvious and less apparent tools that can facilitate learning while reducing time and costs.
The Importance of Professional English Communication
Your ability to communicate professionally in English offers many benefits. Excellent verbal communication can:
Favorably Position You Before Recruiters
These days, companies expect you to have a good command of the English language. And it doesn’t matter whether you received education in a different language.
Being able to speak fluently and write in English is an added advantage. This skill places you as an asset before recruiters, especially those who conduct business with a diverse audience.
Improve Relationships with Colleagues and Superiors
You have to communicate with your colleagues and bosses when you work in an office environment. You will attend virtual stand-up meetings even if you work from home.
And if you do not know how to speak correctly, people will have difficulty understanding what you are saying. You may have to say your words slowly or use gestures, which is time-consuming and embarrassing.
They may misunderstand you entirely or ask you to find another means of communicating your ideas, reducing your chances of showing your bosses that you are a valuable team member.
Speaking proper English helps in interpersonal communication. Without this skill, you can’t network with the right people who will recommend you for a raise or a promotion.
Attract More International Clients
Many multinational companies accept English as a lingua franca because they serve customers from different parts of the world. So, if you stick to just your local dialect, what happens when you land a client who is not from your locality?
Imagine trying to sign a business deal with a client, and both parties can’t understand each other.
Trust is essential in business, which can play out positively if you can communicate clearly. When a client trusts you, it could translate into a long-lasting business relationship. You may even get recommendations to work with other international companies.
Professional English communication is essential in meetings and when preparing business documents, sending and receiving emails from clients, and writing reports.
Common Barriers to Learning English As a Second Language
Learning another language is difficult. When it comes to English, several rules may even confuse a native English speaker. These rules include subject-verb agreement, correct use of punctuation, using an ‘i’ before ‘e’, pronouncing the past tense of ‘read’ as ‘red’, and so on.
Some of the challenges you may face when learning English as a second language are:
Lack of Opportunity to Practice
The challenge many learners face is that they return to family and friends who interact with them in their first language after learning. If you learn English in class and then switch to speaking your native language at home or in the office, you may spend a long time building your speaking skills.
While your native language is essential, you must create time to practice English as a second language through conscious interaction with native English speakers at home, in social gatherings, in online communities, or in class.
You can also practice in your room by speaking the language out loud. Record your voice and listen to the sounds you produce to boost your confidence when speaking in public.
Lack of Time
Most English as a Second Language (ESL) students do not have enough time to learn. However, this boils down to why they want to learn the language.
If your goal is to make new friends with English speakers, you may not have enough motivation to learn. On the flip side, if you want to learn English to increase your career opportunities, it’s a long-term goal worth pursuing.
To get started, dedicate 15 to 30 minutes to practice each day. You can attach some rewards to this plan. For instance, give yourself a treat when you complete seven classes in a row. It makes it easy for you to commit to learning the language.
Mother Tongue Interference
Every language is unique and could result in either a negative or positive language transfer.
It is believed that if you are proficient in your mother tongue, you can quickly transfer the grammar to the second language. But this is not always true, as some mother tongues lack certain vowels and consonants.
For instance, French and Italians do not pronounce /h/. Some languages pronounce <th> as /t/ if it is voiceless or as /d/ if it is voiced. Also, not many languages incorporate the glottal stop.
Therefore, if English is not your mother tongue, you are more likely to pronounce English words with your native pronunciations. And this is a significant problem as native speakers will read a different meaning to what you are speaking.
If an Indonesian pronounces bird as /birt/, a native English speaker may think they are referring to bet.
Tools to Improve English Pronunciation
Picking a perfect pronunciation is about making people understand you, which is essential for professional communication in the workplace. It’s not necessarily about accent reduction unless you really want to sound like a native speaker.
The goal is to obtain clarity. If a Vietnamese Doctor has unclear English, won’t that be dangerous for their patients and colleagues?
There are simple steps if you are ready to improve your English pronunciation. They include the following:
Step 1: Watching YouTube Tutorials
YouTube is a video-sharing platform that doubles as a huge search engine. It offers tons of information on various subjects, just like Google. It gives you access to free content such as music, sports, movies, and educational videos.
Additionally, you can access video tutorials from English pronunciation experts. The good thing about YouTube is that it makes learning easy and fun by providing sounds, letters, and images at the same time. You can also take lessons from the comfort of your home without feeling stressed or pressured to get it right immediately.
The amount of YouTube content on English pronunciations may overwhelm you. So, where should you start?
- Find out the areas you need to improve: Vowels, consonants, mouth shape, or word stress.
- Choose a tutor: This depends on your preferred teaching style. Some tutors are conversational, others like to go straight into the lesson, and that’s it. Whichever style you choose, ensure the tutor gives clear examples.
You can check out these YouTube channels to learn English at home:
Step 2: Watching English Videos
Videos offer an opportunity for you to see how native speakers speak. If you can’t access the internet all the time, you can learn from English movies or television programs.
Some sing-alongs can help your intonation. Some popular songs to learn English are:
- Row, Row, Row Your Boat
- London Bridge is Falling Down
- ‘All of Me’, John Legend
- ‘The Bare Necessities’, The Jungle Book, Terry Gilkyson (1967)
Step 3: Hiring a Coach
Despite the available information on the internet, some persons require some hand holding to become better at speech, elocution, or accent. It is not because the free contents are misleading but because you are a practical person. So, you need a coach to assist you.
Step 4: Joining a Study Group
If you would like to learn in a group, online communities pair learners in small groups to make learning effective. This method offers an opportunity for others to listen to your sounds and give feedback. You can learn quickly and without much pressure.
Less Obvious Tools to Improve English Pronunciation
In addition to the steps discussed above, less obvious tools can help you improve your English pronunciation.
Call or Meeting Transcription
Transcribing is one of the best practice methods. It involves listening and writing just like old-fashioned but highly effective dictation. All you need to do is listen to a recording and then write down what you heard. Next, record your version of what you wrote. Repeat the process until you’ve mastered the speech.
A stress-free method of transcribing meeting notes is using transcribing software. You can check out the following transcribing software:
It captures both virtual and in-person conversations between multiple people. It also integrates Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams. At the end of a meeting, you can access the notes and use them to practice.
Otter has a basic free version, but if you want more features, you can opt for the pro version. It costs $8.33 per month.
This software records conversations from web conferences and transcribes them. You can also upload an audio file and listen to it later.
Fireflies.ai pricing starts at $10 per month for individuals. It offers 8,000 minutes of storage per meeting. However, you can subscribe to the free version, offering 800 minutes per meeting.
Trint transcribes live content and audio and video files. The platform is secure, so you don’t have to worry about losing your uploaded files. As an added advantage, Trint transcribes content in over 30 languages.
The tool costs €55 per month for 1 - 3 users, but you can only transcribe 7 files monthly. There is a 7-day free trial so that you can check out whether the tool is suitable for you or not.
Noise reduces our focus in communication, but you can block off unwanted sounds in audio recordings using noise cancellation software. One of the few tools that can help you to block off the noise in real-time is krisp.ai.
The tool does not just cancel noise but also gives helpful insights on meeting duration, your talking time, and whether you sounded clear or not. This information can help to improve your communication skills. You can start using krisp.ai for free or upgrade to the pro plan at $8/month
Want to Speak American English With Confidence?
Whether you are a native or non-native English speaker, the American accent is popular, updated, and easy to understand. With Pronounce App, you can achieve your desired communication level by raising awareness of your current communication level and following suggestions for consistent practice.
Pronounce App Features
Pronounce is an AI speech assistant that helps to track your pronunciations and speech quality. Below are some of its features.
When you highlight a text, Pronounce reads it aloud with a natural accent. You can select your preferred gender and voice accent.
Pronounce records your conversations so you can have a feel of how you sound. You can use this feature directly on Pronounce website or install it as an extension on a chrome browser.
You can easily practice sounds and words without a coach, as Pronounce provides cues while you speak.
Pronounce offers a free speech checker. It is easy to use and gives quick feedback on your speech. It also tracks your progress so you can know how you are faring.
How to Use Pronounce App
- Signup for Pronounce
- Record yourself reading aloud, speaking in a meeting, or practicing a speech
- Get feedback and cues on how to improve your pronunciation and reduce accent
Pronounce Chrome Browser Extension
- Install the Chrome extension
- Highlight the text you want to read or hear
- Click on the app icon at the top right of your toolbar
- The app records the text, which you can listen to afterward
- You can right-click on the highlighted text and select the context menu to get the correct pronunciation
You are not alone if you are trying to learn English as a second language. The process might be tedious as you try to get the proper pronunciations and interact with people. However, you can leverage tools such as YouTube, Otter.ai, Krisp.ai, and Pronounce App to work on your sounds, words and sentences. With consistent practice, you will become an effective communicator in no time.