Stop Whining and Start Changing
‘Sorry for my English! ‘
A few weeks ago, one student in an in-company course came to me after class and apologised for his English. I asked him why he thought he had to be sorry for his English. I’ve had this situation quite often, when students express their apologies for their English because they consider it to be bad. I never understood why they apologised. After all, if they were already perfect, they wouldn’t be in the course, would they?
So, why do you apologise for your English?
Here are just a few reasons I’ve heard:
‘My grammar is terrible, I always mix up the tenses.’
‘I use the same and simple vocabulary.’
‘My pronunciation is influenced by my accent.’
‘My English sounds so Denglish.’
Most people I teach are German and they have to deal with English speakers from all over the world be it by email or during a conference call. What shocked me was when during a lesson someone suggested to a colleague to just apologise in the email for her English. As that always works for her. The whole class turned to me when they heard my cry ‘What do you do? Why?‘
She told the whole class when she apologises for her English:
- Situation 1: You have to write a longer email to a contact explaining a procedure and you start or end with the sentence ‘I hope you can understand what I mean, sorry, my English isn’t that good.‘
- Situation 2: You are attending a conference call with six members of an international team and you begin your introduction with ‘I have to tell you, my English is bad, that’s why I won’t say that much, sorry!‘
- Situation 3: You have just finished your presentation in English and a supplier in your audience asks a question you don’t understand. You react with ‘I’m so sorry, please excuse my poor English. Could you say that again?’
Do any of these situations sound familiar? Do you do the same?
Hearing the above-mentioned situations and reasons, I still asked ‘Why? Why do you apologise?’
Is it because you think when you apologise your listeners will …
- ignore your mistakes?
- not judge you?
- be soft on you?
- have empathy with you?
Really? Do you really believe that?
Honestly, I am not apologising for breaking the truth to you now.
Turn the situation around, someone else and not you is continually apologising for his or her bad English.
Which impressions do you have about that person? ‘The person seems unconfident and weak.‘
What are you concentrating on now? ‘The mistakes.’
How do you feel about hearing these apologies? ‘Annoyed and wishing the person would finally take action to improve instead of whining.‘
These are the replies I got from the course members, who were slightly embarrassed by their views. You all want to fit in and be admired by apologising for your mistakes and you hope you will still be liked. However, you don’t realise that you are digging your own grave. You start to concentrate on your mistakes as well and thus prevent your English from flowing. It’s crucial that you break the cycle.
Do not apologise for your English!
What can you do then?
- purchase grammar exercise books and courses
- learn all commonly used phrases for emailing, telephoning, presenting, negotiating and meetings
- watch and listen to English programmes
Well, depending on the language level you are at and what you actually want to achieve, these measures can help some learners of English because you’ll feel more confident when you’ve done something to improve. It’s like when you watch a workout video on YouTube, you feel like you’ve been active yourself. You’ve guessed it, these measures alone will not change the way you communicate.
Your communication in English is what you have to focus on.
Forget about using sophisticated vocabulary and complex grammar structures. Use language your listeners will understand instead. Your words will be remembered because your audience understood them immediately and didn’t have to look them up. Believe me, they will love you for it. For some reason we tend to overcomplicate many things in life. Especially our communication. Possibly, because we believe it has to sound like legal code to be taken seriously. That’s not true and that’s the reason why many people apologise and do not improve.
Do you want to connect with your audience and leave a positive impact?
In that case, follow these steps:
- focus on your goal, on what you want to achieve
- structure your ideas by putting them into an order, which will be easy for your listeners to follow
- think of your listener’s why and what you’d like them to do
- listen actively
- watch the people around you carefully and see what you can learn from them
- stop whining and looking for excuses
- change your attitude
- stay open-minded
- work on your mindset
- stop looking for shortcuts, which don’t exist
Do you want help to implement these steps?
Your best option is to schedule a free 20 minute call. At the end of the call, you will find out how we will work together on improving your English communication skills. Yvette, my business partner, and I have helped many other learners of English get their point across. Let us help you do the same and bring your English communication skills to the next level.