3 easy tips to communicate confidently in a foreign language
Does your position require you to communicate in a foreign language?
Do you collaborate with companies in different countries and communicate with your collaborators in a language other than your mother tongue?
It’s often very difficult. It’s not just a question of knowing the language. Most blockages actually come from yourself and the most important thing is to understand these blockages and to find the confidence to communicate in a language that you do not necessarily master completely.
Of course, it is more likely to use incorrect words or phrases in a foreign language, potentially leading to more misunderstandings. But it’s not just words. Behind the language there is also a whole gesture and a culture. The same gesture will not necessarily mean the same thing for a Frenchman and an Italian. Another example is the different gesture to signify two in France and Great Britain.
Not communicating properly goes beyond anecdotal situations. This will lead to delays, lost sales and abandoned projects due to misunderstandings that could easily be avoided.
Here are some tips you can follow to help you:
1 – Ask for feedback (1)
It is easy to think that you are not up to par when you have to communicate in a foreign language. The first thing to know is what people think. The important thing is that your message comes across, that your interlocutors understand correctly what you want to say.
So ask for feedback on your communication. Choose people who will be honest. Choose specific questions on specific points, such as your accent, your tone or your gestures. Receive this feedback in a constructive way. It is a tool for you to understand more objectively your current level. You will know what aspects you can work on and where your strengths are.
Having feedback is very important. For example, I remember a conversation I had with a British consultant a few years ago. As he presented his vision, I punctuated the discussion with positive head movements and regular “yes” to encourage him to continue and confirm my attention. Once my turn came to answer he was very surprised when I put forward different ideas because he understood my “yes” as a sign that I agreed with him on everything.
2 – Increase your knowledge of the language (2)
Increasing your knowledge of the language itself can reassure you if you think your level is inadequate.
a) If it helps you, take classes. Progressing, learning more vocabulary will help you but that will not improve your general ability to communicate.
b) Get exposure to the language you will use: watch videos, movies on the Internet. Watch and listen to as much as you can in the original language to accustom your ear.
c) Practice: find people with whom you can practice conversations in the language you need to use.
3 – Increase your confidence with a communication coach
The tips in the previous sections are helpful but in the end, they will not change your attitude when you communicate. To implement the necessary and lasting changes, a communication coach will help you improve your overall communication. Here’s what a coach can do with you:
a) Offer a confidential space, without judgment, in which you can prepare calmly. Choose a coach who speaks the foreign language you will use if possible. For example, I am bilingual French / English and I live in an English speaking country. I can therefore help you especially to communicate in these languages.
b) Highlight, explore and overcome your blockages. Communicating in a professional environment is not easy, even in your native language. It gets even more complicated in another language. Often trust in yourself, fear of making mistakes, being judged will prevent you from communicating at your maximum potential. A coach will help you understand how to achieve your best performance.
c) A coach who works with intercultural topics will help you to identify, understand and use the cultural orientations of your interlocutors as well as recognise your own orientations to improve your communication with foreign interlocutors (3).
d) Celebrate your progress. A coach will hold you accountable for your progress in a positive way. A coach will listen to you, support you in difficult moments and celebrate with you your successes.
The result? You will be more serene and confident when you communicate. This will not only apply when you are talking in a foreign language but in a general way.
You will understand your blockages, assets and built a strategy to communicate better you can use whatever the circumstances. You will also be better able to adapt your language to your interlocutors.