Communicating in English

Credits: The Huffington Post

I have come this far and out of college or high school and have become what they say a job aspirant!  Popping a long tablet of aspirin is easier but communicating in English especially when it is not your native language becomes a tongue twisting vexation. There are so many books available to improve upon it and some come so cheap from the street vendors, you doubt their efficacy…

When I came out of high school, I could not communicate in English even though my medium of instruction at school was in English.  I thought I could make amends but the situation remained more or less the same when the same me came out of College and landed a job as an instructor. When I started giving instructions , it was then I came to know that I was a below average speaker and needed to bring the level of fluency to a level where my students didn’t  get frustrated or dozed off so much so, that they fell off their chairs.

To cut a long story short, here is my recipe for fluent communication in the English Language for those whom it is not the native language. It should work out for other languages too, but then English is a language which you hear often but have trouble speaking when the need arises…

1. You should have a good reading base.

If you never had any affinity for reading, this is the right time to catch up with whatever time you have lost in the bygone years. A strong vocabulary will come to your rescue when you started speaking in sentences, otherwise you could never frame a sentence without a lot of conjunctions in between. The poorer your choice of words or the scarcity of the right word, you would start sprinkling if’s and buts & and’s more than the amount of pepper in a soup. I don’t have to tell you where you would land..

2. What should you read?

Read the newspaper or pick up any book on any subject that might interest you. It could be on the Arts, pure science, religion or even Humanity. I am sure there would be one or a couple of subjects that might interest you..

Is there any rule to read a book so that my communication improves?

Yes there is. You are not going to read the book or the newspaper at least in this context to memorise it. You are going to read the book fast, slow and loud (not necessarily in that order) so that your articulation of words and training your tongue on how to pronounce words becomes easier. Loud reading is a must for you to be a good communicator. Read some paragraphs of the book loudly as if you are reading to a small crowd that has gathered to see what is wrong with you. Silent reading for an hour is also important as that helps the brain to store them somewhere up there.

3. Why can’t I learn new words and improve upon my vocabulary rather than reading a book?

Good question but honestly reading a book helps you not only to understand the meaning of most of the words automatically based on the context in which they were used and  fitted, but also to reproduce them the same way whenever such contexts arise in your communication. How does this work you might ask? Don’t worry, your brain takes care of it, you need to just do the reading part. Sometimes you switch to a fast gear of reading some paragraphs, so that you can talk fast when you are in a situation where you might get only a minute to explain what happened in an incident ( or an accident) before you pass out. Also check up on those words that acted as speed breakers, this means you are not confident on them, hearing it for the first time or do not understand their meaning. An online dictionary helps with their meaning and how they should be pronounced.

4. Ok the reading part is going on, what next?

The reading part has to be a continuous exercise like the one you do at the Gymnasium in case you want to remain fit in communication.  The next step, jokes apart, you have to start communicating now…

5. Who is going to be my audience? And what Topic should I select?

Ok let us put it this way. There is a small dummy invisible group of people who have assembled in your bedroom wanting and waiting to hear from you on the book you have just read. You do not have to blurt out everything you have read, but can tell them a summary on what the book was all about. Wait a minute. If this sounds scaling or climbing the Himalayas, let us make a small note of it on paper. Go through the main points and once you are confident, it is time to face the group. If you can give some 5 to 10 speeches to such an invisible audience, then you are ready to face your close friends who would like to listen how you have improved on your communication levels.

6. When you start speaking, always know that it would turn out to be interactive.

Which also means that the sort of preparation that you did for your dummy audiences won’t help. It has to be more of a dynamic talk with your friends. Ask them to be a bit patient with you in your trials of surmounting your hurdles. Instead of using your native language for day to day talk, supplement your talk using English.

7. Start listening too…

Switch on your Television and let news channels in English take at least half an hour of your siesta at home. It would be good to listen to the BBC or the CNN or any such native channels in English, so that you know and learn how to pronounce words correctly as you hear them right from the horses mouth as they say…

8. When I start speaking, to whom can you speak?

Start speaking to yourself first silently. For example, narrate to yourself the entire events of yesterday at work or at home and see where you stumble in your silent talk. Imagine yourself being the expert commentator of a cricket or a football match and let go of what ever emotions you think of the rascals on the ground making mockery of the game and the nation they represent..

9. Changing your notes.

Once you have gained ground on your silent speaking, you can switch to a more resonant audible note, yet not strong enough to attract attention. It can be a murmur which you can practise while travelling or commuting as they say or while you are just standing for that idiot friend of yours  for the past one hour with still no sign or sight of  him or her …

10. Summary

I understand that all this won’t happen in a day. It may take at least a few months before you are confident of yourself to be a good communicator and once you are confident enough having practiced all that has been written above, please let me know by Email so that I can send a certificate to you 🙂

Just to list some of the hurdles below that keep you from communicating in English. My humble suggestion would be to kick all of these to the nearest bin and out of your mind.

1. My Grammar is poor.

2. What would others think of me when they hear me out?

Let others think of you or have perceptions based on when they hear you. Let them see your progress and then commend or comment. Be steady, calm and sustained in your efforts to get there.

Your grammar should improve faster once you start communicating because somewhere at the back of your mind and based on the amount of pages that you have read so far (especially if the books had been well written), your brain immediately tries to correct you as you speak, first slowly and then On Demand as you gain in confidence…

44 thoughts on “Communicating in English

  1. Sunith, as a former professor I think your command of English is superb – Personally I am astounded. This list is possibly the most comprehensive and helpful information I have ever come across. I can only speak English and I make plenty of mistakes when writing as you must have noticed from my blog. – and this is my so called Native language! Hurrah for Sunith who not only speaks English well but helps others to do so too!

  2. Like your article very much. And of course thank you for sharing
    It’s exactly how I learned it at school. The teacher always said to keep at it until it becomes a second nature. I have always liked reading ever since I was small.

    1. Thank you Jackie and am glad my post appealed to you, and confirms the pattern of learning to speak in this way. am expecting more posts from you on your floral site 🙂

  3. Reading books is a must…… at one time when I used to a few of my friend’s kids, I found out they didn’t read books at all….. their essays etc.were not upto Mark at all…… while speaking also grammatically also v.bad….. Finally, out of frustration ,I started presenting them with books….. & asked them to discuss the books with me after reading…….. Now they are all grown up ladies, and am happy to say, very good in English….. & they all love reading books.

    1. Gifting a book to somebody is the best helping feature that one can provide to put a person on the path of reading. I am happy you did that and they are on the right path.

  4. Excellent pointers, Sir, though I find it hard to believe that you could be weak in your language skills. Still, if one trusts your humble admission, I must say you’ve done very, very well in overcoming your language hurdles. You write so well, no one would be able to say that you were once weak in it. As for the pointers, they are ‘the most important’ parts of this learning experience. I’ve never been a good orator. But I found that if I read the newspaper out loud like how they read the news on the TV, it used to help my diction and speed of speech. Speaking constantly in English too helped. But my number one advice for my own students had always ben exactly what you have pointed out – READ!

    1. Trust me, it is my reading and these pointers that I used to help me and others. Yes, as you rightly stressed, reading is the most important step to effective communication just as breathing is to sustain life 🙂

  5. Well that is not an easy task, having grown up in an English speaking society even I had difficulties learning all the twists and turns in the English language, so for someone of another native tongue it is like climbing the Himalayas!! Especially since many words are spelled the same and are pronounced differently. For example, I read (past tense, pronounced red) that book, or I would like to read (present tense, pronounced reed) that book! Why? Why? Why? You’ve done a wonderful job in your steps to learn it and I send good luck to all who dare to try!! 😉

    1. Thank you Deb. Once you surmount these difficulties as you rightly mentioned them, one can sit back and enjoy the fruits of having learnt a jolly good language and the benefits that acrue from it.

  6. Reading your work ( and many others) it is difficult to imagine that you had a problem articulating instructions. I totally agree that reading can open to doors to infinite possibilities, learning the language included. You have summarized the points very well, Sunith.

    1. Thank you Pranitha. Initially for me retelling something about real life incidents was difficult, as I used to bring day to day life examples while explaining 🙂

      1. ok, i was looking up sowmya manoj’s marriage video and saw that you are a mutual friend. Manoj is a dear friend and former colleague

  7. Thank you for writing so elaborately on how to improve communication skills. I’m an avid reader of books. However, I didn’t know how to communicate the need to read books to my students and blog followers.

    If you permit, can I share a shorter form of this article on my website I’ll give a reference as well as a link to your page at the top.

      1. Hi Sunith, I am doing well at the moment and am busy trying to keep up with watering with temps in mid – 90’s every single day – too hot for me! An you? I don’t see as many posts and I miss them.

      2. I was on vacation for 3 weeks back home in India to catch up with my family and enjoy the rains of the monsoon & came back to the middle east last monday where the summer is at its peak 40 degree centigrade in the shade….

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