“How can I improve my English?” is a question that ESL students from all over the world frequently ask. If you’re a non-native English speaker working in the corporate sector, being able to convey your ideas clearly in English at meetings and interviews is a must. Even the best ideas can sound average and poorly thought-out when expressed incorrectly, and the worst ideas can be made to look polished and sophisticated when presented properly.
Here are some ideas to assist a non-native English speaker to communicate more easily in English, at meetings and interviews.
Learn a few phrases that will help you fill in the blanks in the conversation
When you’re running a fast-paced, dynamic session, you’ll need to master certain “clarification” terms. You won’t understand everything mentioned throughout the discussion, but you should be able to clarify anything with terms like:
“Excuse me, just so we are on the same page, can we go through point A again?” – When you’re not sure you understand what was said and want to hear it again.
“Sorry, but could you outline the main points again so that I get my notes complete?” – When you’re trying to remember what was said at a meeting session.
“I’m not sure I follow your point about…” – If you are unsure about something and were unable to follow the conversation
“Just to make sure I’m on the right track” – to end the conversation by telling them what you heard.
Bonus point: This is a fantastic article on how to use American idioms to improve your English. Remember that idiomatic terms are quite common in organizations in the United States.
Place yourself in the best possible position
Location, as they say in the rental market, is everything. If you are not a native English speaker and know that the dialogues will take place in English, make sure you sit where you can see (and be seen by) the chairman and other participants. When people speak, strive to look them in the eyes and maintain good eye contact. When you can’t see the person speaking, it’s much more difficult to understand what they’re saying. You will be better able to interpret the speaker’s body language and follow the conversation and respond if necessary if you can see them.
Obtain a copy of the meeting agenda ahead of time
Preparing to fail is the same as failing to prepare. When you know a meeting is going to happen, make sure you acquire the agenda well ahead of time so you can prepare. You can’t just show up without making necessary preparations, especially if you’re a non-native English speaker attending an English-language meeting. As a non-native English speaker, you have the added disadvantage of having to communicate in a language that is not your native tongue. The best strategy to minimize this is to gather your thoughts ahead of time and prepare your talking points. This will help you express yourself more confidently and persuasively.