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It's likely true that everyone who has ever learnt a new language has had the desire to speak that language as fluently and clearly as the locals.
We want to sound the way everyone else sounds. We want to get the sentence structure right, use appropriate vocabulary and basically not make people laugh at us. We don’t want to sound like a child, and we don’t want our accents to draw more attention to ourselves than we may feel comfortable with.
Would you agree?
But here’s the thing about that . . .
By sounding just like the locals, are we erasing a part of our personality?
I’ve been listening to this great podcast lately, “The Earful Tower” (ie. The Eiffel Tower for your ears, being a podcast).
It's a wonderful jaunt through life in Paris through the eyes of Australian, Oliver Gee, occasionally co-hosted by his Swedish wife, Lina Nordin Gee.
This particular episode was a casual interview with polyglot, Nathaniel Drew. Recorded while strolling along a Parisian street, Oliver and Nathaniel chatted about the emotions and practicalities of a learning new language. I just loved the conversation that followed Oliver’s comment that . . .
“the fear of making mistakes petrifies people into not wanting to talk”.
I can totally relate to that! Can you?
But wouldn’t it be nice if it was easier to get past that feeling, to be okay with messing up and have the courage to actually speak to people?
To help us achieve this aim, here are three perspectives that I gleaned from this enjoyable interview.
Seeing your efforts from this point of view may help lift you out of your fear and remind you just how amazing you are to even try to speak a new language.
Three perspectives to elevate your confidence as you navigate a new language:
1. Making mistakes creates great stories.
While Oliver Gee admits that being a journalist/author might make this easier for him, the idea of welcoming your language mess-ups as potential fuel for entertaining dinner stories is a great one. Imagine cheering for yourself each time you make a funny mistake by saying to yourself, “Yessss, another fun story to retell”. It feels good, no? Better than feeling embarrassed, that’s for sure.
I’m definitely going to try this one
2. Being prepared to sound like a toddler really grows you as a person.
Nathaniel’s philosophical take on new-language-mistakes is that it teaches us to be humble. As a perfectionist, he admits that he feels frustrated when he makes mistakes in any of his four languages but has learnt to see it as a great tool for personal growth.
“You have to be ok with sounding like a dummy,” he remarks.
There’s a lot of self-acceptance in that. And a great sense of freedom.
Just writing the words allows me to feel lighter, and anything that feels lighter is a positive for me.
3. Your accent is a special charm.
Oliver points out that trying to erase our accents is a bit like erasing a part of our personality. And why would we want to do that? Why sound like everyone else when we’re not everyone else? “I’m Australian,” says Oliver. “I don’t want to hide that fact by sounding completely French.”
It’s something that I always encourage when I’m coaching; don’t apologise for your accent. Love your accent, delight with your accent, charm and enchant with your accent. It represents all the qualities you have developed throughout your brave adventure to create a life in a new country.
It makes you interesting, because you are interesting, and you have your own fascinating story.
So, what do you think?
Might these perspectives increase your confidence and enjoyment in speaking a new language?
I think we can do this.
Of course we can do this!
Because it’s part of our chic makeover, and as chic immigrants, we style ourselves and our lives for joy. So let’s create more joy around trying to express ourselves in new ways.
PS. If you'd like to see all the cool things happening at The Earful Tower, click here. (I'm not affiliated, I just really enjoy the podcast!)