I was lucky enough to grow up with several languages and to be quite proficient in 4 languages by the end of my school career. Before you are impressed: I live in Luxembourg and no one here is impressed by that. Speaking 4 languages is literally the norm, many people speak 5-6 languages. Nevertheless speaking in a foreign language is always a challenge, and speaking it in front of a camera or audience can be even more intimidating. For many people, the idea of taking on that challenge fills them with anxiety and fear. But don’t worry - there are concrete steps you can take to help make the process easier.
Here, we’ll explore what it means to speak in languages that are not your own, how to overcome the challenges presented by different cultural contexts, as well as tips for successful public speaking. With this information, you can approach foreign language speaking confidently, no matter what setting life puts you in.
The picture I've chosen for this blog is the "Gelle Fra", the "Golden Lady", one of the most iconic views in Luxembourg and a war memorial "dedicated to the thousands of Luxembourgers who volunteered for service in the armed forces of the Allied Powers during both World Wars and the Korean War" (more info). I feel that it's quite symbolic for the multicultural country where multi lingualism is part of it's daily life.
Let's dive into the challenge of speaking in a foreign language!
What it means to speak in languages that are not your own
Speaking in a language that is not your own can at times feel like an impossible task. After all, you may have spent months or even years studying the language, but it’s still not your native tongue. Additionally, different cultures and contexts can present their own unique challenges in terms of understanding dialect and regional expressions. Despite this though - there are many people who excel at speaking foreign languages fluently and confidently. So how do they do it?
At the heart of it all is a matter of confidence: believing that you can speak in another language with clarity and conviction. When speaking in a foreign language, it's essential to trust yourself. Believe that you have the skills and knowledge to communicate effectively, no matter how unfamiliar the language or context may be. Once you build up this confidence, you'll find that foreign language speaking becomes much easier - allowing you to take on more complex conversations and situations.
Don't strive for perfection
Unless you are extremely gifted (or purely lucky) you will never reach the level of a native speaker. But does that really matter? Not really.
It's important to note that mastering a foreign language is not about striving for perfection, but rather working towards fluency and confidence in speaking. Don't be discouraged if you make mistakes or forget certain words - it's part of the learning process! Instead, focus on forming connections with people who speak the language and practice your speaking skills every day. This will help you become more comfortable and confident in speaking a foreign language.
And don't be afraid to speak in front of an audience, they won't judge you on your language skills. Instead, focus on the content of what you are saying and remember that a little bit of nerves is natural.
Compare yourself to others
You will see that very often people with other language background will not hesitate to speak in public. They don’t fear the mistakes and keep pushing until they find their own confident way of expressing themselves.
It is very important to remember that even native speakers make mistakes from time to time and we all have our own level of language proficiency. And after all: what do you have to lose? As ice-hockey legend Wayne Gretzky said: “You miss 100% of the shots you don't take”.
Leveraging different cultural contexts
Each language reflects a culture. Therefore when we speak a foreign language we will inevitably adapt to the culture of the language: its values, beliefs, and customs. As such, it's important to understand the cultural context of a language in order to better communicate in it.
This means doing research on different cultural contexts: their history, culture, norms and customs - all of which will help you to better understand how people speak and behave differently in different parts of the world. With this knowledge, you can then apply it to your foreign language speaking skills. This could include studying local expressions or mastering regional accents – making sure that your pronunciation is precise and accurate.
Speaking in a foreign language can be intimidating and challenging, but it's something that anyone can do with enough practice and dedication. Learning to speak confidently in different languages is an invaluable skill - as it gives you access to other cultures and opens up new doors for communication. By getting comfortable with different cultural contexts, believing in your abilities, and not striving for perfection – you'll find yourself speaking a foreign language fluently before you know it!
So don’t be afraid to take up this challenge - the rewards are plentiful! Good luck conquering the art of speaking a foreign language in front of an audience!