No, of course not. This is a weird question.
Does this situation happen to you?
You are scared to open your mouth to speak in public for fear of being judged, as you cannot speak confidently in English.
Although you consider yourself proficient in English, i.e., you can read and write in English well. But when it comes to speaking, your English proficiency goes for a toss. The proper English words do not come to your mind at the right time. It often leads to an awkward silence or a useless mumble and jumble coming out of your mouth.
Both these situations make you more miserable, and it feels like keeping your mouth tightly shut would have been a better option in the first place.
Some years back, a friend told me the reason for this brain shutdown while speaking in a non-native language. She mentioned that in such situations, our brain stresses out, as we think in our native language, but we need to speak in a non-native language.Hence the brain also needs to translate the thoughts along with information processing.
Furthermore, all this needs to be real-time as you also need to engage with the other person /group continuously. This overload for the brain can sometimes lead to a blackout causing either an awkward silence or useless blabbering.
This Logic is convincing, but how to train your mind to think in a foreign language and that too only for specific situations at work or in a social gathering.
I always used to think that people with work-related requirements to speak in English, like call centers or customer support staff, should worry more about this problem.
I recently met a person who is also facing a similar challenge in his work life and is not working in the customer support industry.
Manoj is teaching the subject of Math to classes of 9th standard and above. He told me he is considered a knowledgeable teacher and popular for his teaching style. His students and peers respect him for his hold on this subject. He also mentioned that since math is a technical subject, he need not worry about speaking correct English while teaching this subject
I got confused by this statement. Why is Manoj in this forum to improve his English speaking skills when he does not need it in his work
Manoj further clarified that he does not need to speak in English during class. But in a parents’ teacher meeting (PTM), when a parent initiates a conversation with him in English, he must also respond in English.
Two kind of fears engulf him in such a situation. First, if he does not respond in English, the parent will assume that the teacher does not know English. The second fear is if he replies in incorrect English, the parent will know that the teacher’s English is poor
In both cases, i.e., not knowing or speaking poor English will lose his credibility as a good Math teacher.
This Logic seems weird to me. How can a Math teacher be judged on his English-speaking skills?
Although it looks bizarre, these usually are our pre-conditioned minds’ reactions.
We judge books by their covers all the time, even if we know we shouldn’t. People, in general, tend to underestimate people who have bad pronunciation and overestimate people who have good pronunciation
Now there are two ways to handle this situation.
One, you can frown upon these judgmental people and show your expertise in your subject (which is not English). Then, finally, one day, they will understand that they were wrong to judge you by your knowledge of English rather than by the subject you teach their kids.
The second way to handle this is to improve upon this weakness area. Although English is not directly related to the subject you teach, if this is an improvement area for which people are unfairly judging you, then why not try to make changes to make it your strength?
‘❝One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way.❞’ — Frank Smith
Manoj chose the second option. He joined a public speaking forum called Toastmasters Club (www.toastmasters.org). This is where I met him at our local Toastmasters club meeting.
Besides this, you can also take help from software apps that provide you with online lessons to improve your spoken English. Some apps also listen to your audio, provide feedback on your spoken English, and share the correct usage of English words.
I am impressed by Manoj’s zeal to learn to speak better English, to put off his teacher’s hat and wear a student’s hat, and to try to reduce the communication gap not only with his students but also with his student’s parents.
By doing this, he is not letting people judge him. They will no longer doubt his expertise in teaching the Math subject based on his English-speaking capability.
I salute his spirit of ever-learning and ever-evolving himself. Manoj has understood that soft skills are as critical as hard skills.
If you also face a similar situation at work or any social gathering, it is time to turn the wheel of change and upskill yourself.