Even if you don’t always know the perfect word or the right syntax, you can still have a great conversation with a native English speaker. Let me explain how:
Tip #1: When you introduce yourself, say your name slowly and clearly.
If you have an unusual name, say it twice and even consider spelling it out. Some people prefer to choose a more common English name and use that name when speaking with native speakers. Also, keep in mind, that it’s OK to ask the other person to repeat his or her name. Everyone has a little anxiety when meeting someone new, and remembering names is difficult for everyone. You are not alone!
Tip #2: Smile, engage in direct eye contact, and practice good posture.
In most English speaking countries, these things communicate confidence. Try to do these even if you are not exactly feeling overly confident. I have found through my travels that people are eager to help someone when they are making the effort to communicate in the local language.
Tip #3: Speak slowly and clearly.
One common frustration for non-native speakers is having people ask you to repeat what you said. If the other person asks you to repeat a word, repeat it again, slowly and clearly. If they still don’t understand you, instead of repeating again, it’s often better to choose other words to describe the word they are having trouble understanding.
For example, if you say the word “tree” and they don’t understand, you could say, “It’s something that grows outside, its tall, has leaves and gives shade.” Enhance your message with facial expressions and gestures. And speaking of gestures..Tip #4: Use facial expressions and gestures to communicate.
I believe that body language is the universal language. Sometimes it’s all you need to communicate with someone. I’ve traveled extensively to countries where I didn’t speak the language and I was able to get by simply with smiles, pointing, and many creative gestures. At times, I even drew pictures. The point is this: It is possible to communicate without words so take advantage of our ability to communicate non-verbally when necessary.
Tip #5: Listen to yourself when you speak.
Often it just takes effort to think through the proper pronunciation. Sometimes, it might help to ask yourself, “How would a native speaker say that?” “How would a singer in English pronounce that word?” Even if it sounds funny to you in your head, try it anyway. Sometimes by singing or imitating your pronunciation will improve.
Tip #6: There’s more than one way to say something.
Similarly to what we discuss din Tip #3, if you don’t know a word, just choose words that you do know to describe the word you do not know. It will require you to use more words, but you will be able to communicate your thought better. Again, remember to enhance your message with hand gestures and facial expressions.
Tip #7: Practice as much as possible.
Communicating in a second language is all about learning. You are going to make mistakes. In fact, the more mistakes you make, the faster you are going to learn. The best way to improve your fluency is to get out there and interact.
Tip #8: Try to think in your second language.
It is tempting to speak to yourself in your first language, but as you go about your day, identify objects you see and say those words in your mind. Talk to yourself in complete sentences (in your mind), then when the time comes to interact with another person, you’ll be ready.
Tip #9: Don’t worry about not being able to understand some slang terms or idioms.
This comes with time, so just focus on getting across what you are thinking and requesting. If you don’t understand a phrase, repeat it and ask the other person to help you understand it. You may learn a new joke, and you may be able to share a similar slang term in your native language.
Tip #10: Use translation tools as an aid.
Carry around a translation book, or use an application on your smartphone to help you quickly reference and navigate the English language. That way, if there's something you want to communicate and aren't sure how, you can easily reference it.
Communicating in a second language can be tiring and overwhelming, but it can also be very rewarding. Enjoy meeting new people while practicing these tips as much as you can!
If you need more help, be sure to sign up for a trial lesson with me. Good luck!