21 Ways to Communicate Effectively if English is Your Second

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    21 Ways to Communicate Effectively if English is Your Second LanguageBy Philip Whitford In a difficult employment climate, it is always assumed that ESL speakers will be the last to get jobs. Yet there are always some who get jobs, no matter what their language level. How do they do it? Here are a few strategies that may work for you. If you have poor English, you are automatically at a disadvantage when the employer compares you to other job applicants. Even with the most tolerant, patient, and forgiving attitude, the employer can make a decision based only upon what he or she can understand about the potential employee. Yet ~ all know personally, or know stories of job-seekers with bad English who have been hired. What are their secrets? Their secrets are built around the idea of complete and effective communication, as opposed to the idea of attaining complete and accentless fluency in English. Complete, of course refers to the use of different avenues and media of communication; and effective means to make a change in the employer's knowledge or attitude. The following strategies are built around expanding the number of tools the ESL job-seeker has to communicate their value to the employer, and to making those tools more effective. 1. Model North American Body Language Nonverbal language is very important, and when your abilities in spoken English are low, it becomes even more significant. If you don't have the words and phrases in English to communicate your friendliness, desire for the job, self-confidence, consideration for the employer, and so on, your body must do the work. This means examining the habitual body language of your home culture and comparing it to North American expectations. Do you habitually stand too close, or too far away from North Americans? Are your hand and body gestures too large or too small? Are your facial expressions misinterpreted? Do you shake hands in the North American way? Do you move too quickly or too slowly? Since these are all comparative questions whose answers are different, depending upon your home culture, you must role-play with native-born Canadians and get clear feedback. This is more difficult than you might think, because the native-born will want to help you with your spoken English, and you will likely have to bring their attention back again and again to their reactions to how you stand, walk, and sit. HINTS: Handshakes are generally with one hand, firmly placed into the other person's palm, with a strong, not crushing grip, and no more than one or two shakes. Generally, North Americans are comfortable with a space of one-and-a-half arm's length between the two of you when ~ed, and about an arm's length or a bit less when standing. The person conducting the interview sets the rules. 2. Change the Tone of Your Voice Some studies have shown that up to eighty per cent of communication is through the tone of voice, not the words used. Regardless of your accent and your vocabulary, you can make your vocal tone pleasant, firm, interested,

    excited, warm, and friendly (aren't those wonderful "good employed' characteristics? - and all through vocal tone alone!). Along with tone go volume and speed. Ideally, you should vary your volume a bit Mile you talk, to show different degrees of interest and desire; bid if that is difficult for you, it is best to speak consistently just a bit louder than normal conversation. This is assertive and positive, and helps the listener past the barrier your accent may present. Speaking just a bit more slowly aids communication because it focuses the employees attention on your words, and presents a general air of confidence. It also allows you to think out your answers carefully. HINTS: Tape record yourself so you know what you sound like. Copy friends who have good speaking voices, or copy professional actors on television. Often Men you create a warm and friendly tone in your voice, your body language naturally changes for the better. 3. Appropriate Personal Dress and Presentation At the beginning of the interview the employer hears you say hello, feels your handshake - and of course sees and smells you. Your clothing need not be expensive, bid it must fit three criteria. First, it must be clean, clean, clean. Second, it must be appropriate for the workplace - suits for the office, more casual clothes for laboring jobs. Third, your clothes must be, if not Wish or current, not strange. Strange might apply to badly out-of-date styles, such as bell-bottom pants and folly shirts for men, and it might also apply to odd color combinations. And finally, it applies to odd or out-of-place fashion accessories, such as neck-scarves for men, or heavy men's shoes for women. Finally, be aware of the effect of your smell. I do not mean body odour, for it is a given that you go to a job interview freshly bathed and with your clothes recently laundered. 1 refer to perfumes, colognes, scented soaps, aftershave, and other aromatic make-up you might use. In a small space like an office, a sensitive person can literally become nauseated from a strong combination of scented aftershave, cologne, aromatic shampoo, and perfumed body powder. The objective at this point is to make yourself as UNobtrusive as possible. HINTS: Put together a couple of interview outfits and show them to some native-born and get their emotional reactions. Ask for honesty; many people don't want to embarrass you, and so may not tell you the truth about your clothing unless you insist. Go through the toiletries you commonly use, and smell each one of them individually. If you like smelling ~, choose one only to be your main scent, and use that one only before interviews. Now that you have walked in the door, shaken hands, said "hello" nicely, and sat down in your good interview clothes at the right distance... you have to speak that damn English! 4. Memorize Jargon in Your Field Employers don't need for you to speak and read enough English to talk about current events; they need you to have the English that is used in the particular job they are hiring for.

    Concentrate your English beaming on those technical words and phrases which are used most often in the job you want. Memorize the proper names of the machines, tools, software, books, and procedures you will use. Know the names of the products or services you will be selling; if you are a technician, know the appropriate technical language. Your mastery of the jargon in your field demonstrates your basic competence and skills to the employer, despite other difficulties you may be having with English. HINTS: Go to the library, or to a college and study a textbook in your particular field. Arrange an information interview with a native-born Canadian in the field, and go over these special words and phrases, until you can make yourself understood. If you can say "hello", "good-bye', and "his PC has a Pentium 11-300 Mhz motherboard with the new bus technology, 64MB RAM and an 8-Gig Hard Drive, for only $2,100.", you've almost got the job. Bring along a technical book or manual to the interview, and read from it or ask the employer to ask you a question from it. 5. Depend Upon Personal References If you cannot speak well for yourself, others must speak for you. Make sure that you have a complete set of references who can speak English fluently enough to make a good case for you to the employer. Native-born English speakers often do so veil in the interview that the employer does not need to call references. Since you cannot do that, you must depend on your references much more. You must make sure that they make points about you that you have difficulty making. Practice with your refere[1] [2] [3] [4] ÏÂÒ?Ò? 21 Ways to Communicate Effectively if English is Your Second Languagences the good things that they will say: they are your voice. HINTS: If your best friend or former employer cannot speak English well, you may have to get another friend or co-worker with better English to speak for them. You can also get them to have their comments translated and written down, in the form of recommendation letters. These are very good to bring along to the interview. 6. Identify Words, Phrases, Particular Idioms Which Cause You Trouble Every one of us has words, or phrases, or even particular sounds which cause us trouble to speak or to understand. The only way to get better is to practice. Much in the same way that you put your energies into beaming the jargon of your workplace, it is better to work on your chronic problems in English than to get just a little better overall. This is because it is natural for the employer to notice and to remember when you have a problem with a particular word or phrase. Make sure you know the appropriate, or proper use of a word or phrase, particularly if it is a colloquialism. Fifteen minutes of a good interview can be lost when you suddenly cannot pronounce the word "therapeutic', or if you use the phrase "Don't have a cow, man". HINTS: Use a tape recorder to record the words and phrases you have difficulty with, then tape record a native-born speaking them. Practice over and over. Record yourself once

    each week and compare that with the recording of good English, so you can hear how you are improving. 7. Practice Your Weak Areas with a Job Coach or Partner You only get better when you learn from someone who speaks better than you. Get a native English- speaker to become a member of your job-search team; their only role will be to listen to you and criticize you accurately and ruthlessly. HINTS. Community Colleges have Home Tutor programs. If you are on Social Assistance, you may qualify for free help. Community Centres and non-profit service groups often have English conversation groups where you can meet native-speakers who are willing to help you. 8. Always Ask for an Explanation, Simplification, or Expansion One of the worst mistakes ESL job-seekers make in interviews is to pretend they understand the employer when they do not. If the employer speaks too quickly, slurs the words, or uses language you do not understand, you must interrupt the interview (not the employer - always wait for them to finish speaking!) and ask for the interviewer to clarify. There are several kinds of clarification you may ask for; simply to repeat the statement a bit more slowly; or to use simpler words and phrases (English can be grammatically complex - asking the employer to use a simpler sentence is okay); or to define new words and phrases, that is, to expand on what the employer just said. The employer may indeed be slightly irritated with you for having to repeat or change their statement or question, bid they will also be pleased with your honesty, and will be reassured that you will not take any action on the job without understanding fully the orders or information your supervisor gives you. And besides, you will likely learn something. HINTS. Be polite when you ask the employer to repeat something, and be clear on exactly what kind of repetition or expansion you want. If the employer asks sharply whether or not you can answer, simply respond with the truth: that your English is a bit shaky on this one point, and that you wish to give the best and most accurate answer. If the employer gives a long and complicated explanation or expansion, or gives you many new words, ask permission to take notes, then do so. This shows your desire and ability to learn. 9. Define Your Effectiveness in the Four Skills of English Fluency in English is actually composed of four skills: speaking, understanding, reading, and writing. Many of us do one better than the others. It is a great help to the employer when you point out exactly how well you do each of these things, for the employer usually assumes that you understand, read, and write English only as well as you speak it. This is often untrue, as many immigrant professionals read and write English quite well, though they have not used oral English very much. HINTS. If you read English well, point out that you can learn from manuals and read safety instructions. If you understand English well, emphasize that you can take and respond to orders quickly. If you write English, emphasize your ability to make

    accurate notes and written reports to your employer. And if you speak English well, but don't read or write so well, describe how well you can interact with other employees in the woprkplace. 10. Bring Your English or Other Assessment with You Employers are sometimes justifiably skeptical about how good you say your English is. If you have taken any oral or written assessments of your English, bring them with you. This is useful, especially if you get nervous during the interview and you are having some difficulty speaking. You should also bring assessments and Canadian evaluations of your work skills. Many employers desperately want to hire you, but cannot, unless you can provide some kind of proof of your skills. Proof would include a videotape of you doing a job, or an evaluation from a Canadian expert in the field. HINTS. Bring these out only if you are having real trouble, or if the employer is extremely dubious about your claims of fluency and your claims of skill. 11. Volunteer to Take an English Test (formal or informal) If the employer is visibly hesitant, suggest a test of your English skills. Ask what workplace situation would be appropriate to test. Volunteer to take a walk through the workplace, talk to some of his employees, perhaps work for half-a-day for free. Offer to take a timed test. HINTS: Show your confidence by helping the employer devise a test for you. The longer you spend in the employe@s presence, showing your confidence, desire, and overall character, the closer you are to being hired. 12. Explain Your Education and/or Training in Detail 1 Employers are dubious about your skills because they don't know your education. You should be able to describe your education or training in detail; you should be able to describe the tools and machines you used, and the projects you completed. These facts are very powerful, and help demonstrate that your lack of English does not mean a lack of skills. HINTS: Don't spend much time describing how good your school or training institution was, or giving its name or city; just give the employer the names of the courses you took and describe in detail what you learned. 13. Demonstrate Your Knowledge of Canadian Workplace Practice Sometimes employers take an ignorance of English to mean an ignorance of Canadian workplace expectations. In Canada, worker safety is usually paramount, and the ability to get along with other employees often takes precedence over high skill level. Be sure you have a good idea before you go into the interview what kind of workplace the employer is offering. Is the workplace hot or cold, crowded, or does everyone work alone? Is the pace very fast, or slow and careful? HINTS. Get information interviews with employers or workers in the field you are applying to, so you can ask [3] [4] ÏÂÒ?Ò? 21 Ways to

    Communicate Effectively if English is Your Second Language about working conditions. Read the B.C. Employment Standards Act, so that you know your rights. 14. Avoid Showing Bitterness or Sharing Problems

    Beyond acknowledging, "Yes, I have had some problems", your difficulties aren't the employees business. When you talk about the obstacles you have run into over your English, you usually hurt your chances. First, you introduce a negative feeling to the interview. Second, you are talking about your weaknesses, not your strengths. Third, you are weakening your case to the employer, by showing him that other Canadian employers will not hire you. Fourth, you are showing to the employer that you care more about your problems than about his. Fifth, you are showing that you have a negative attitude, and that you focus on problems, rather than solutions. HINTS: Remember to speak about your strengths, and always show a positive face. If the employer insists upon knowing your difficulties with getting hired, don't get specific; remain general, and bring up your strengths again. 15. Share Your Vision of the Future Do tell the employer where you expect to be working 3 or 5 years in the future. Tell him or her how much you expect to improve your English, your income, and your social standing. Share, if you can, success stories of other immigrants who worked their way to success. HINTS: Emphasize how much you expect to improve your English once you are working regularly. 16. Acknowledge your Need for Improvement or Demonstrate Your Current Effectiveness in English Don't pretend to be better in English than you are. If you need to improve, acknowledge this, but be specific. "I know my accent is pretty strong, but 1 am working on that ... .. 1 speak well, and 1 am working on increasing my vocabulary, particularly in this field." "Once my speaking is as good as my reading, 1 know I'll be doing really And if you know your English ;.s good enough for you to be productive, do not accept any put-downs from the employer. If the employer insists that your English is inadequate for the position, allow him or her to challenge you vath a project or a test. HINTS: Don't apologize for your not-perfect English if you know you can do the job well. 17. Request an Evaluation of Your English Skills Ask the employer how good your English is. Ask where you need to improve in the four skills (Speaking, Understanding, Reading, Writing). HINTS: Appeal to the employer's human side: point out that s/he is the expert on exactly what level of English is required in her/his workplace. 18. Share Your Plans and Activities to Improve Your English As well as a vision of your general work future, you must tell the employer exactly how and when you are improving your English. Do you have a Home tujtor? Are you preparing for the TOEFL exam? How many hours a week do you spend studying English? HINTS: Mention some officially recognized program or education institution, and give a definite timeline for improving your English. 19. Confront the Issue If you feel unsure about the employees attitude towards your English, ask. "is my level of English going to cause some difficulty in your workplace?" Get the employer to "I out the problem. Usually, it is something small

    and specific, such as not being able to read safety regulations, or not being able to understand customers over the telephone. HINTS: Ask the employer to be very clear about the difficulty s/he anticipates. If you can, bring it down to one single work situation; then you can work on convincing the employer that you can handle the situation. You might do a role-play, or you might volunteer a day or tm. 20. Show Previous Occasions You Have Worked Effectively in a Second language Many immigrants have experience in multiple languages. If you can describe for the employer other workplace situations where you had to use a new and unfamiliar language, that can convince the employer you will be able to handle the English-language workplace. It is also effective to describe how you have handled other English-language workplaces, even if they were not in your field - say, your first couple of jobs in Canada. HINTS: Tell the employer the specific tactics you used to cope with an unfamiliar language. Did you use sign language? Notes? Did you get someone to translate for you? Did you simply learn quickly'? 21. Follow-up the Interview Once the interview is over, you are very relieved, and you don't want to think about it, or to return - except to start the job, of course. Unfortunately, those who get hired are those who contact the employer after the interview, or follow-up, as it's called. For the ESL speaker, this may be more important, as after this interview you may remember questions you wished you'd asked, words you didn't know the meaning of, and answers you should have given. HINTS. If you contact the employer again about a possible misunderstanding, or to give new information, always be sure to thank them for the interview. There you have it. How to communicate effectively, though English is your second (or third, or fourth) language. Note that the tactics are equally split between different modes of communication - body language, dress, tone of voice - substitute communication, such as persons who will speak for you (references), recommendation letters, and tests, proofs of character and the traits of a good worker, and concrete proofs of skills. Remember the four different modes of communication; a substitute communication or communicator; proof of character, and proof of skills. Philip Whitford is a professional trainer in Career Development IN SUMMARY... 1. Model North American Body Language 2. Change the Tone of Your Voice 3. Appropriate Personal Dress and Presentation 4. Memorize Jargon in Your Field 5. Depend Upon Personal References 6. Practice Your Weak areas with a Job Coach 7. Identify Words/Phrases/Particular Idioms Which Cause You Trouble 8. Always Ask for Explanation/Simplification/Expansion 9. Define Your Effectiveness in the Four Skills 10. Bring Your English or Other Assessment With You 11. Volunteer to Take an English Test (formal or informal) 12. Explain Your Education Background in Detail 13. Demonstrate Your Knowledge of Canadian workplace Practices 14. Avoid

    Showing Bitterness/sharing Problems [3] [4] ÏÂÒ?Ò? 21 Ways to Communicate Effectively if English is Your Second Language15. Share Your Vision of the Future 16. Acknowledge Your Need for Improvement or Demonstrate Your Current Effectiveness in English 17. Request an Evaluation of Your English Skills 18. Share Your Plans & Activities to Improve Your English 19. Confront the Issue 20. Show Previous Occasions You have Worked Effectively in a Second Language 21. Follow-up the Interview [3] [4]

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