It’s a rare business that doesn’t require any understanding of languages, and for most businesses, English has become their go-to option for international business communication. However, no one wants to fumble over words or make mistakes.
What if I leave a bad impression? What if I say something wrong? What if I use the wrong term by mistake? What if I forget the specific word at the worst possible moment?
Thoughts like these are common, especially among those of us who have been taught English with a heavy focus on grammar and little emphasis on actual talking.
However, here are five reasons why these mistakes shouldn’t stop you from speaking English:
1. Everyone makes mistakes
Yes, everyone – even native speakers make mistakes. Think about it! Haven’t you ever said something silly or convoluted in your own language, perhaps a word that doesn’t exist? Exactly! Even when we are in our comfort zone, like for example discussing our primary field of expertise, sometimes we just “lose” the right word and must search for it.
So, shouldn’t it be completely normal that it happens when you are speaking in a foreign language too?
2. You’re not being rated on your grammar
Whether you are doing business with native speakers or people who speak English as their second language – no one is going to judge you for making a mistake. It’s a good bet that your business partner is focused on listening to you, not rating you on your grammatical accuracy. After all, there’s business to be done!
Don’t get too focused on avoiding mistakes. Focus on being understood!
3. Even the wrong word can work
Usually, the mistakes you make are fairly minor in nature – so minor actually, that your business partner can easily fill in the gaps or figure out what you were intending to say. If they can’t and the issue is vital for the conversation, most likely they’ll ask you to clarify, which allows you to have another try at explaining the matter.
However, sometimes you just get stuck.
You’re reaching for a specific word, an exact term or industry-specific jargon but you can’t recall it, no matter how you try. The awkward pause in the conversation is getting longer, and you know it would be easier to say it in your own language.
Why wouldn’t you?
By verbalizing the thought, the word you’re looking for rises into a better focus and becomes easier to explain in other words. Better, when you bring your partner into your thought process, the conversation continues without awkwardness, stammering or long, uncomfortable pauses, and your message get across just fine.
4. Everyone has an accent – for some, it’s simply more pronounced
What about accents and difficulties in pronunciation?
English is pretty different to Finnish and sometimes, no matter how carefully you try to enunciate, your message gets lost in translation.
If the trouble is minor, explaining the issue in other words often brings clarity.
But sometimes you encounter people who speak English with such a heavy accent that if feels like an entirely different language. This happens to most of us at some point. For example, one afternoon I found myself having a phone call with a business partner from Northern Ireland, and no matter how I tried, I couldn’t make head or tail of what they were saying. I repeated myself several times, tried to explain the issue in simpler terms, but there was a little coherence to be found between us.
When this happens, there’s rarely anything else you can do but either try to get your message through using as simple terms as possible, or, in the very worst case, bow out of the conversation as gracefully as you can and return to the subject later, for example in an email.
However, as difficult and frustrating as the experience may be, it’s no reason to become discouraged about learning English! All of us carry a piece of home with us, and often it shows in our speech. The only way to improve your spoken clarity is to keep practicing!
Remember, a master has failed far more times than a novice has even tried!
5. Good discussions foster confidence
The key to becoming more fluent in spoken English is to get those good discussions under your belt to bolster your confidence. The more you use English (or any foreign language, for that matter), the easier it becomes.
However, if you don’t have a readily available conversation partner, or you don’t want to jump in at the deep end right away, you can get an excellent head start on improving your English skills with our language coaching services.
Our professional language trainers consider your needs and skill level and will work with you in your space – which will help you to overcome the typical obstacles and significantly lower the barriers for you to start a discussion with your foreign business partners.
Check out our Language Coaching services, or download our eBook: