Moving to a new country and needing to communicate in a second language are two of the most difficult and most stressful things anyone could ever do, and of course doing them together just compounds the stress. Most newcomers here in the U.S. learned to speak English in their home countries and were taught by other non-native English speakers, so they never learned “American-style English”. Consequently, when they arrive here, they were devastated when no one could understand them.  I’ve come up with a few tips to help you, not just survive, but thrive in the U.S. while speaking a second language.

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

It can be tempting to spend all your time with people who speak your native language, but that’s not going to help you learn to express yourself intelligibly in the language of your new home. Instead, you need to be intentional about spending time with people who don’t speak your native language. Listen to and speak English with Americans because that will force you to converse in the language of your new country, which is the only way to become at ease and proficient.

Immerse Yourself in the Culture

Language and culture are intertwined – you can’t have one without the other – and living in a country isn’t enough to fully experience either the culture or the language if you aren’t intentional about doing so. You need to make a conscious effort to go out and explore every facet of your new home, from the food and music to the sports and favored board games/card games. What do your neighbors do in their spare time? What are the popular movies, TV shows, and theatrical performances people are watching?

When you fully immerse yourself in the culture, the language of your new home will start to make more sense and come to you naturally as you come to understand the origins and meanings of some of the language’s common sayings and turns of phrase. Before you know it, you’ll be using the everyday language and casual conversation like one of the natives!

Ask for Help

Speaking a second language is one of the most difficult things anyone could undertake, so never be ashamed to ask for help. Spending time with people who don’t speak your language is also a great way to improve your English. When you need help, just get creative in asking for it. Get good at charades, drawing, asking questions or find other methods of communication that work for you.

Go Easy on Yourself

As we mentioned above, learning a new language is complicated and challenging, so don’t beat yourself up when you make a mistake – just learn from it and move on. When you get frustrated, take some time out to just be with yourself or with people who do speak your native language so you can take a breather. Don’t spend all your time with them or they’ll become a crutch that prevents you from speaking the language of your new home, but you can spend some time with them to make the learning process go more smoothly.

Once you’re accustomed to expressing yourself in English, and want to continue to improve, that’s where I come in. I coach second language users on how to pronounce English clearly to avoid being misunderstood. We will never attempt to eliminate an accent – it’s part of your unique personal, cultural, and linguistic identity. Instead, you’ll learn to communicate clearly and confidently, with an accent.  As your speaking skills improve, so will your confidence whether speaking one- to-one or in front of an audience.  This is your next challenge so reach out now if you’re ready to get started. I’m ready when you are.

Do you want feedback on your speech patterns and areas needing improvement?
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